Today we will give you two reviews bundled into one. The reason is that the Jabra Freeway and the Jabra Stone2 came out more or less together and serve the same function in bringing us hands-free capabilities for our phones. We have seldom been more impressed with any hands-free device than with these two from the House of Jabra!
We have made earlier references in previous reviews about the exquisite design of the Jabra products. This time around the designers have outdone themselves yet again. The looks of both products is stunning and upon unpacking the Freeway I could not help but admire how it looked and felt. The same with the Stone2 even though the design here was already pretty optimal with the original Stone.
I’ll let the pictures do the talking so that you can clearly see the sculpted designs. Often, when the emphasis is on design only, functionality might suffer. This is absolutely not the case with these units. One of the key elements in any hands-free device is call and sound quality. The Freeway uses three speakers which is pretty unheard of in a device this small, and they label it "virtual surround sound". That may be marketing hype and a bit unnecessary as well as the sound quality is absolutely top-notch. With the Stone2 sound is delivered straight into the ear and the two microphones in this tiny device, aided by arguably the best noise reduction systems around, deliver great call quality. One of my staff was driving around in his car with open windows whilst on the phone to me and it sounded like he made a call from the office. He is absolutely delighted with its ease of use and, being a multitasker, who’s on the phone all day, loves being able to have his hands now free for keyboarding or driving.
What is different from the original Stone?
We described the Stone extensively here. The black smooth Stone now is more textured with a leather-like look. Short battery life was quite an issue in the earlier model but is well and truly fixed in this latest edition. The new Stone2 has two hours of battery life in the headset itself, with a further 8 hours of charging time available from its base, the "Stone".
You can easily see how much battery charge is left in the Stone2 by having a look at the three green LEDs.
The Stone2 has the same fingertip sliding control for volume, which is better implemented than in the original. With A2DP you can now stream any music with much greater clarity.
The fit of these devices is excellent but just in case you have bigger or smaller ears there are some extra plugs in the package as well. The Stone2will sell for AUD $149 and is available now in Harvey Norman and Dick Smith Electronics stores- just to mention a couple of the main outlets here in Australia.
The Freeway is relatively different from any previous model Jabra brought out so let's describe it in detail.
There are six buttons on the front. They don't look like buttons just labels but click on them to start or end a conversation, increase, decrease or mute the volume and two buttons labelled FM and Voice. The FM switch is for the FM transmitter so that you can play any music from your phone via the Freeway to your car stereo. Initially that didn't sound too great with a lot of background noise but you can tune the frequency to any that does not give any interference. For me, one at the higher end of the frequency scale was perfect.
With features like dual microphones and DSP to cancel out background noise coupled with the three speakers, this 2.1 system can deliver 95db of very clear audio. It can also pair with two mobile phones simultaneously using “Advanced Multi-use” technology.
There is a power switch on the right-hand side along the now familiar micro USB charge port. One of the interesting features of the Freeway is that it will automatically connect as soon as you get into the car, provided the power is switched on. It connects pretty fast too. However, this automatic connection which uses motion sensors, can get you into trouble as well. How so? If you leave the car, sometimes connection is still maintained all the way through the Bluetooth range which can be up to 100 m. This means that if you get a phone call right when you exit the car, you may not hear anything because it is still connected to the Freeway speaker….
Also, my office is within the Bluetooth range of the Freeway when parked so I'm getting into the habit now of switching the device off physically when I get out of the car.
When you press the voice control button it replies with "Say Command" and if you say "battery" it will give you the battery life in hours and minutes. That's handy but when you say "Voice Command" you can then dial any of your contacts in your phone book. It helps if you have an American accent as mine isn't always successful when it comes to recognition. When it works well it will read out the names of your contacts when you get an incoming call. No need to look sideways at your phone when you're driving!
When it comes to endurance the official estimate is 14 hours talk time. I haven't checked this out yet, nor the 20 days standby time, but it is generous enough and the Freeway is easily recharged.
It's almost unavoidable to sound a bit "distant" been talking on a Bluetooth device and such is the case here too. If you have the Stone2 you might actually sound better when you use that one in the car as well. The Freeway has other functions and has its own place in a vehicle.
What Am I Missing?
In the US and Canada the Freeway comes with a free year’s service of Voice Assist, which lets drivers send emails and text messages or post updates on Facebook and Twitter through voice commands. It is a pity that it is not available in Australia. One of the best features would be the ability to read back text messages, which Voice Assist does very well.
The Jabra Freeway will be available for a recommended retail price of $149.
Let's briefly summarise these excellent Jabra devices.
The sound quality of the Freeway and Stone2 is absolutely top of the class for call quality and music playback. They are very easy to use, extremely stylish and cool looking. Both are well priced which is very important so that everyone can be legal and safe. I think I'll rather pay the price for one of these and enjoy its benefits every day rather than risk a traffic ticket for just about the same amount! But they are also safe as in preventing possible brain tumours with prolonged mobile phone use without headphones or hands-free devices.
With all that praise we have great pleasure to give the Jabra Freeway and the Jabra Stone2 our Editor's Choice Award!
Stay tuned to DigitalReviews.net as we will try to get a few of these units from Jabra to give away to our readers over the next few months….
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