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Lifewire / Jason Schneider
Excellent call quality
Resilient build quality
If you’ve saved up your money for a premium Bluetooth headset (and you can find the right-fitting ear tips) then this headset is a great choice.
The Plantronics Voyager 5200 isn’t exactly like the Bluetooth earpieces of a decade ago. It has a look that sits somewhere between a behind-the-ear exercise earbud and the slab-style earpieces that made Bluetooth headsets popular.
With intuitive controls using a very limited set of physical buttons (we were surprised at just how useful that one red multi-function button was), a supremely clear call quality, and moisture resistance, it almost makes you forget that the fit is just a little loose and awkward. In fact, this was our only real drawback to the headset, but it’s definitely a big one.
It’s clear that the design and feature set of the 5200 series are intended to place it in the on-the-go space. Without a solid fit, however, we find it hard to believe you could easily take this out and about.
The 5200 is probably the most striking headset available in the this single-ear Bluetooth headset space. The black and silver color scheme on the 5200 is accented by dramatic pops of red both under the silicon ear tip and on the metallic multi-function button. But, the shininess of the boom mic is probably the most eye-catching. If you’re looking to be inconspicuous, color-wise, this isn’t the headset for you.
The boom mic component measures just under three inches, while the diameter of the housing for the earpiece driver is about half-an-inch. This is mostly in line with the other earpieces in the space, but we found that the flashy color scheme made the boom mic appear longer than it actually is.
The real issue with the design is with the back housing where the battery and most of the components are. Just like the Voyager Legend series, there’s a super-thick (about half-an-inch) behind-the-ear part that is bulky and heavy. If your ear is big enough, it won’t be that noticeable as it’s tucked behind, but it is a clunky design component to keep in mind.
Oddly, very few Bluetooth headsets in this category provide any great promises of IP-level ratings (this one is only IPX4). We’re not sure why this is the case, especially when these headsets are meant to be worn for long periods of time, and the 5200 seems designed for outdoor use. But, Plantronics does offer a nano P2i coating that will make it lightly resistant to air moisture and sweat.
You definitely should avoid dropping these into standing water, or running them under a faucet, but light precipitation will be mostly fine. We found that the construction otherwise was actually really good. The boom make is made of thick, solid plastic, and the rest of the unit has a good amount of resilient flex to it. The malleable nature of the materials is important because it seems like it will last a good while and should withstand the repeated wear and tear of being taken off and put back on.
As we mentioned, one of the biggest drawbacks for the 5200 series is that its design, like a couple other Plantronics counterparts, isn’t as tight and solid as we’d expect. Because of the flashy design and the water resistance, we expected this to be a tight fit—capable of being worn on a jog. We found that because the silicon earpad is harder and less flexible than foam-style eartips, it didn’t conform to our ear and left uncomfortable pressure points in certain angles.
On top of this, the wing that goes behind the ear—normally the component that is meant to pin a headset to your ear—is bulky and heavy, so it sort of just hangs back there, rather than serving as a stabilizing function. These two factors left us constantly readjusting the earpiece in our ear. It’s important to note that this is a subjective matter, and there are multiple sizes of silicon pads, so it’s likely you’ll find a fit that works for you and feels comfortable. But if you are going to be working out, this headset might be an issue.
Plantronics touts their multi-function buttons that act as both call answer buttons and toggles to cue up your smart assistant.
When we went into this review, we didn’t expect the controls and interactive functionality to be a standout feature of any Bluetooth headset, but we were pleasantly surprised to find this to be the case for the 5200.
Plantronics touts their multi-function buttons that act as both call answer buttons and toggles to cue up your smart assistant (it worked with Siri in our tests). Additionally, when you press the button while you’re on a call, it will mute the microphone for quick asides. What’s also cool about this is that there’s a dynamic mute alert that tells you if you try to talk and you forgot to unmute the mic, which is a really smart addition.
Beyond this, there are smart sensors on the earpiece that automatically tell if it’s in your ear or not. In practice, this meant that if we put the headset down on a table, and received a call, our phone would let us answer the call on our smartphone itself, rather than defaulting to the headset. If the headset was brought up to our ear in the middle of our phone ringing, it let us answer the call with the headset.
The 5200 also boasts the Bluetooth 4.1 protocol with up to 98 feet of range, A2DP capabilities, and all the headset control functions you’d expect. We encountered very little interference in our real-world trials, and overall, you have a top-notch device as far as connectivity is concerned.
The call quality on this headset went toe-to-toe with the most expensive ones out there.
We’ve spent the last week or two testing Bluetooth headsets from multiple manufacturers, and prices range from $30 all the way to about $150. The 5200 sits somewhere in between those, but we found that the call quality on this headset went toe-to-toe with the most expensive ones out there. This sharp quality is due, in part, to the 4-mic array with DSP noise reduction. These mics seemed to be able to isolate background noise and work some magic to eliminate it on the other end, meaning these headphones should be great for walking and talking, even in our noisy testing areas on the streets of NYC.
There’s a 20-band EQ that’s optimized for voice calls, acoustic echo cancellation, and even what Plantronics calls a “sidetone” elimination, which to our ears isolates unpleasant resonance. One more important feature is Plantronics’s WindSmart technology, which, according to the manufacturer “delivers six layers of protection against wind noise from a combination of aerodynamic design elements and an adaptive proprietary algorithm.” We can’t vouch for the algorithm, but we can tell you that wind was not an issue during outdoor calls.
One closing point on call quality is that the speaker itself does not have a ton of definition outside of the voice call-friendly section of the frequency spectrum. This is due, in part, to the poor fit we discussed earlier, but is probably also due to the fact that the driver isn't designed specifically for music. This isn’t the biggest deal, because most users are looking for a phone peripheral, but it is good to note.
Plantronics puts the totals at 7 hours of talk time and 9 days of standby on a single charge. The standby time trended toward over a week so it checks out there, and we actually got about 7.5 hours of talk time. Your mileage could vary depending on how loud the volume is and if you’re in an area with a lot of other wireless devices around, but it’s really nice to see that the hours advertised hold up. It takes anywhere from 75–90 minutes to fully charge the headset, which isn’t industry-leading, but is in line with a lot of the competition.
One interesting fact here is that, even though Plantronics only lists micro USB on the specs list, our unit also had the proprietary pin-connection port that we found on the Voyager Legend series. While the 5200 didn’t come with the magnetic docking charger, if you have other Plantronics devices, you could theoretically use this connector to charge in addition to a micro-USB.
The Plantronics site puts the list price of the 5200 at $120, which is probably a fair price for the connectivity and features here. But on Amazon, the headset is closer to $80, and after really examining the market, this seems like the best deal available for the reliability. Some of the $40–60 options tend to lack some Bluetooth capabilities, and the $150 choices are just too expensive for a simple peripheral. This really is the sweet spot for the price.
The obvious competitor is the slightly cheaper Voyager Legend option from Plantronics. What you get with the 5200 is a more modern Bluetooth connection, a better mic array (for clearer calls), and a flashier design. On the other side of the Plantronics product offering, you’ll find the over-ear Voyager Focus. This is the cream of the crop for Plantronics, and it has a bloated price tag to match. If comfort and premium build is your focus, go for the Focus, but otherwise, the 5200 is a better value.
Jabra is one of the few brands that still have a mono headset like the Voyager series, and the Jabra Motion comes in right around the same price. The design is a bit curvier and you can customize the fit a bit better, so if comfort is your priority, take a look here.
Read more reviews of the best Bluetooth headsets available to purchase online.
The fit is a bit loose, but phone calls sound fantastic.
If you need a Bluetooth headset for everyday calling and prioritize a solid connection and call clarity, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option than the Plantronics Voyager 5200. Just be warned that it may not stay in your ear if you're going for a jog or hitting the gym.