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12/15/2006
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Review: GN Netcom's Dual Connectivity Headset

The GN 9350 wireless headset lets you work with your landline phone and VoIP at the same time.

A friend of mine is a pacer. In other words, whenever he's talking on the phone, he paces his office -- at least as far as the phone will let him. Wireless headsets such as GN Netcom's GN 9350 were made for people like him.



GN Netcom GN 9350
In its literature, the GN 9350 claims "full convergence between traditional and PC-based IP telephony" -- in other words, if you're connected via both landline and VoIP, this should enable you to keep in contact both ways without having to switch phones. out on the market. For this purpose, the unit uses DECT 6.0 wireless technology at a WiFi frequency of 1.9 GHz.

It's snazzy-looking, certainly. The base is a round silver and black affair, with ports for the power cord, a USB connection, and an RJ-11 phone connection along one edge; and indicator lights along the other. The earpiece, headset, or neckset (the unit comes with three interchangeable pieces) slips into a vertical rest that emerges out of the base.

Like many good-looking machines, the GN 9350 can be a bit difficult to configure. The base has a silver cover which hides a control that adjusts for dial-tone clarity, and an LCD (which, not being backlit, was not easy to read) that offers options such as basic volume and audio bass.

The indicator lights at the base of the unit include four green LEDs that let you know the power status of your battery; a red light indicates whether you've got the mute active or not. On either side of the earpiece rest are two large buttons that let you opt for either your computer-based phone or your landline phone. Which is which is indicated by two small LEDs and two very small icons -- something a little more obvious might have helped avoid confusion. For example, at one point I had the unit set to my landline phone, and when the VoIP rang, I accidentally disconnected the caller.

One presumes that, after some practice, it would become much easier to distinguish between the two. In fact, you can even switch in mid-call from one to the other, if you need to.

Working Over Land And Air
An important note: If you're going to use the GN 9350 with your landline, you should probably call the company first to make sure that your phone is compatible with the unit. For example, the GN 9350 is not compatible with phones where the handset is not wired to the base or where the keypad is on the handset (rather than the base) -- a fact that prevented me from using it with my telephone.

The process is also a bit awkward. In order to make a call via your landline telephone, you have to first enable the headset (by pressing the talk button located on the earpiece), then lift your phone's headset and dial. You also have to lift your phone's headset if answering a call.

On the other hand, the GN 9350 works very nicely with VoIP. When I plugged in the USB cable, it installed immediately via plug-and-play, and I was able to use it with my existing VoIP system. The sound quality through the earpiece was clear and crisp, and I was able to wander about 50 feet away without any perceptible loss in quality (the company claims up to 300 feet). Sound quality at the other end of the call was not quite as good -- even at highest volume and using the headset (as opposed to the ear piece), voices were clear but a bit distant.

As of this writing, Web support for the product is less than optimum; the support page for the GN 9350 (which could only be found when I typed in the URL directly) offered the Quick Setup Guide (which came with the product), a product brochure and comparison chart. However, I only had to wait a minute or two for an over-the-phone support tech.

The GN 9350 is a useful product for those who have the appropriate phone equipment and who use both traditional landline and VoIP phones. At a list price of $349, however, it would probably be wise to invest in a less-expensive model if you're concentrating on one type of communications system or the other.


GN 9350
GN Netcom, Inc.
www.gnnetcom.com
Price: $349

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