Finally – Competition for the Jawbone: Nokia BH-804 Review

Mobile Device ReviewsDevin Balentina

Touted as their “smallest Bluetooth headset to date”, they really weren’t kidding when they called the BH-804 Nokia’s smallest. As I found out, it could also be Nokia’s most complete Bluetooth headset to date. It doesn’t hurt neither that the BH-804 scores high on the style-factor, with high-quality materials and presentation that would make the BH-804 feel right at home next to Nokia’s luxury 8800 line of mobile phones. With just two buttons, it’s simplicity at its best. Through the use of a single piece of Aluminium, build quality is extremely good, the best we’ve seen so far. While audio performance could have been excellent, ultimately we could only rate it as “above average” due to the fact that the supplied ear tips don’t get the best audio quality possible out of the BH-804. Wireless performance for such a compact unit was good, while battery can be considered pretty good, considering the compact dimensions of the unit. What we ended up liking less was the charger adapter, which lacks a locking mechanism, although you can always skip it and use the desktop charger. Overall rating 9.2 out of 10.

Specifications

Physical features and interface

Dimensions

42 x 13.6 x 6 mm
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Weight

7.2g

Operating keys

Answer/end/power
Volume up/down

Connectors

microUSB charging connector

Operating temperature

-15?C to +55?C

Operating range (maximum)

10 m

Available colours

Aluminium grey and black

Power

Operating time (maximum)

4 h

Standby time (maximum)

150 h

Charging time (maximum)

1 h

Compatible Nokia chargers

Nokia Travel Charger AC-6
Nokia Mobile Charger DC-6

Connectivity

Bluetooth versions
Bluetooth 2.0 specification with EDR

Bluetooth profiles

Hands-Free (HFP) Profile 1.5 and Headset (HSP) Profile 1.1

Sales package contents

  • Nokia Bluetooth Headset BH-804
  • 2x Charger Adapter AD-68
  • Carrying Strap
  • Desk Stand
  • User Guide

Package and Presentation

Probably one of the first things that stand out is the packaging. Instead of going for the plain box route, Nokia decided to use a “hidden treasure”theme with matching key, lock, map and treasure box! All of this came in a plain white box designed to protect the real treasure chest package inside, which I doubt could have survived the carnage that is the mail service. A simple map with various sections is used to explain the idea behind the BH-804. Going through the different sections on the map eventually leads to an area where the key is hidden. It is this key that opens the lock on the chest. With such attention to detail, Nokia scores extremely high on presentation. What’s more impressive is that all of this is done without going all out on high-end materials like those used for Nokia’s 8800 series of mobile phones. For example, the box is a just a plain cardboard box with a faux metal look. Simply put, the package is a good example of how things should be done: a lot of attention to detail and presentation without adding too much to the overall price. Opening the chest reveals the BH-804 prominently displayed, with the rest of the accessories nicely hidden away underneath another layer of packaging. Next generation Nseries, Eseries as well as other Nokia devices should take a few hints from the BH-804’s package when it comes to the overall presentation. As a gift, such a package would do just fine without gift wrapping.

The standard sales package of the BH-804 is filled with goodies and contains:

  • Nokia Bluetooth Headset BH-804
  • DT-26 Desk charger
  • 2x Charger Adapter AD-68
  • Carrying Strap
  • AC-6U microUSB charger Adapter
  • 3 ear tip sizes
  • Earloop

We really liked the fact that Nokia included several charging options: both the desk stand and charger adapter, as having lots of options is ideal. Especially the desk stand sets the BH-804 apart from other lower priced Nokia headsets and adds a very nice touch. But it’s a shame that they didn’t include a Nokia Connectivity Cable CA-101, especially considering the fact that BH-804 is able to charge directly from any USB port and that such an option wouldn’t add much to the overall price.

While Nokia does included 3 standard ear tip sleeve sizes , which is ok for most uses, we would have also like to see several other types of sleeves. Specifically triple flange and soft flex sleeves would have not only gotten the best audio quality possible out of the headset, but would have also taken away the need for the ear loop. In-ear sleeves naturally create an air-tight seal which helps in keeping the BH-804 in place and improve overall audio quality and volume.

The BH-804

Bluetooth headsets can be divided in two categories. The first are the more musically-inclined stereo Bluetooth headsets, basically head/earphones with wireless Bluetooth connectivity and built-in microphone. There’s also the more traditional single-ear type focused on hands free communication: the BH-804 falls firmly in this last category and comes from Nokia’s line of premium design-centric BH-800 series of Bluetooth headsets. This model is just a step up from the previous BH-803 model. The 800 series has always been all about style and simplicity, looking more like a fashion accessory than a piece of technology, which is very evident from the overall design of the unit. Just like other models from the 800 series, the BH-804 has the included trademark Nokia neck strap; as a result, when not in use the user is expected to “wear” the headset like a fashion accessory rather than keeping it in the ear like other models. Because of their fashion-first design, models of this series don’t necessarily skimp on features, but instead it takes a backseat to design and ease of use. Because of this, models from the 800 series are dramatically smaller than for example Nokia’s flagship 900 line, which emphasize features and performance.

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The BH-804 has now dropped the 803’s shiny black fingerprint-prone look for a matte Aluminum finish. While we can’t say that the BH-804 is a step up or down when it comes to the design, I would just call it “different”. There’s no denying however that the B-804 looks extremely nice, almost every person we asked seemed to agree that it looks good in an understated sort of way. While the BH-804 is just as stylish as the BH-803, the matte finish is definitely a step up. After several weeks of use, there’s not a single finger print or scratch to be found on the casing, despite 2 drops and its usual home in my tech bag. This bag is notorious when it comes scratching other gadgets, yet the BH-804 survived without a single scratch. The same durable material also makes the unit extremely light, something I’ve come to appreciate after those very long talks, in some cases I even forgot that I had the BH-804 in my ear. One interesting observation regarding the Aluminum used, is that its quiet susceptible to the ambient temperature, in many cases feeling cold to the touch. Where the BH-804 really shines is in the overall build quality: due to the use of single pieces of Aluminum, weak spots are virtually eliminated, leaving just the two buttons as the only movable parts. Even here, a lot of work seems to have been done to get the feel of these buttons just right: no unwanted side to side movements or squeeks, jut a simple elegant controlled movement with a slight audible confirmation that the button was pressed.

A two-tone color scheme consisting of black and grey is used for the headset. The upper black part connects directly with the black earpiece, creating one flowing part. Upon closer inspection however, this part doesn’t seem to be made of Aluminum like the rest of the headset. The fact that this doesn’t get as cold as the rest of the unit seems to support this thought.

A tiny indicator light is placed at the top part of the BH-804: Nokia made a wise decision in using a tiny discrete light, as many manufacturers make the mistake of using big bright lights that attract a lot of attention to the headset.

There’s a slot at the base of the earpiece where the earloop holder can be inserted. In turn the earloop is inserted into the loop holder. The area where the loop is inserted can turn, allowing the loop to be adjusted. Due to the black color used, the unit doesn’t look incomplete without the loop and earloop holder, which is a small, but nice design detail. In fact, when trying to find the slot, I didn’t look in the manual and I let’s just say that it took a while for me to find it. The earloop and earloop holder work just fine, but I’m sure they could have come up with a more elegant solution as small pieces like the earloop holder can be easily lost. The use of in-ear sleeves would naturally create an air-tight seal which helps in keeping the BH-804 in place (without the need for an earloop) and improve overall audio quality and volume.

At the bottom of the headset they used a charging contact that’s divided in three parts. Interestingly the microphone is hidden near the middle charging contact. The overall design can be characterized as simple, easy and elegant without compromising usability. Other than the two buttons, the overall design is pretty clean. Add the textured Aluminum and you get a design that’s almost Apple-like in nature, which is something we liked.

As for the chargers, we really liked the future-proof design that uses microUSB instead of the usual 2.5mm Nokia pin charger. Even though the BH-804 was announced last year, it was designed with microUSB in mind, which goes perfect with the new microUSB-compatible smartphones that are now becoming available in 2009 like the N97, which also uses the microUSB standard. While we liked the inclusion of microUSB charging, we can’t deny the fact that for the most part, currently available Nokias will still be using the standard 2.5mm pin charger. Including an adapter to use those earlier chargers would have been a welcome addition, as carrying one less chargers, especially for traveling, is always welcome.

The same black and silver design used on the BH-804 is used on the desktop charger and neckstrap, adding to the overall uniform look of the entire set. In contrast to the BH-804, the desktop charger has rounded angles, with a nice grippy rubber material on top and at the bottom that makes sure it doesn’t slip. The desktop charger is pretty simple straightforward. It has a nice heft to it to and there’s a connection on the back for the microUSB, but other than that there’s not much more to say about the charger other than that it looks pretty elegant and it works.

Sadly the same can’t be said about the Charger Adapter AD-68. It almost feels like it was an afterthought, looking a bit out of place compared to the other parts. The idea was that instead of taking the larger desktop charger, you would use a more compact method. This charger is indeed more compact, but like we said, there’s no way for the headset to firmly attach to the charge adapter, causing it to sometimes disconnect from the adapter.

Daily Usage
Nokia designers chose a multi-color indicator light: it lights up Red when the battery is low or when charging and Green when the battery is fully charged. When you turn on the headset it briefly lights up either Green or Red to indicate the battery status. The color Blue is used with everything that has to do with the Bluetooth connection. When pairing, the same light starts to quickly flash Blue, while a more slowly pulsating Blue means that it’s paired and connected to let’s say your phone. The system is pretty simple and in practice works pretty well, especially since universally known colors like Red for low battery and Green for fully charged are used. A quick look in the manual might be necessary to get accustomed to this multi-color light, but it’s safe to say that you’ll get used to this in minutes.

One thing that definitely stands out is how fast the BH-804 can be charged. When completely empty, it took about 30 minutes for the red light to turn green indicating that the battery is full, which is pretty fast. At first I thought something was wrong, but after my initial charge it became clear that the BH-804 is pretty fast when it comes to charging, something I’ve come to expect from my Nokia smartphones in general. Using the desktop charger is easy and elegant, but the same can’t be said about the Charger Adapter AD-68. The BH-804 doesn’t sit tightly in the Charger Adapter, allowing it in some cases to lose a connection and stop charging. I made it a habit to make sure the Red light was on, before I left it charging, because initially I would just connect the charger and leave the room, only to come back and find out that it wasn’t charging. In some cases it would start to charge, shift position and loose the connection. I found that if it sits vertically the chances this happening is pretty slim. Nokia should simply change the design of this adapter and include some kind of locking mechanism.

Pairing is pretty straightforward: first time you turn it on it will automatically go into paring mode, but if you want to pair it again you’ll need to make sure that the headset is switched off, and you press and hold the multifunction key for about 4 seconds until the Blue indicator light starts to flash quickly. In the case of the N97 it automatically connected to the BH-804 without needing a passkey, although it did ask me if I wanted to always connect automatically to the BH-804. When the headset is connected to your device and is ready for use, the Blue indicator light flashes slowly.

As for calls, the BH-804 supports voice dialing and last number redialing, although your mileage will vary depending on your device. On our test Nokia N97, it all worked flawlessly. The voice dialing works by pressing and holding the multifunction key for about 2 seconds until the mobile device starts voice dialing mode, while redialing works by simply pressing the multifunction key twice. Calls can be answered or ended with a simple push of the multifunction key. To reject calls, you can press the multifunction key twice or use in this case the Red end call button of the N97.

One very interesting observation is when I first got the BH-804, I could hear what almost sounded like a MIDI version of the Nokia Tune, coming from the BH-804. This was when using the Nokia E75. With the N97, I just hear the regular ring tone through the BH-804. No matter what I did, even resetting the headset, I was unable to get the same result. Not sure if this was glitch or not, but whether it is or not, I found it an extremely cool feature. Even cooler would have been if you can hear the Nokia startup tune when you power on the BH-804. That would have been a nice touch.

Another thing worth mentioning is that sometimes when trying to initiate a call, the BH-804 becomes unusable and I can hear a loud buzzing sound. Turning it off and on again is the only way to stop this. This isn’t something that happens often, but once it does it can be annoying, especially when you’re trying to make a quick call. I suspect this is an issue with the latest firmware V.12 on the Nokia N97 itself and not the BH-804. Nokia has a habit of fixing compatibility issues with some Bluetooth headset, which can be seen in the change log of many firmware versions. Chances are this should be fixed with the upcoming firmware version 20 for the Nokia N97.

One of the things that I simply loved about the BH-804 is the neckstrap. When not using the headset, you can “wear” the BH-804 using this included neckstrap. It might be something simple, but I’m not the type that likes to walk around with my Bluetooth headset in my ear when I’m not using it. I always found it kind of strange how some people walk around all day with their headsets in their ear when not using it. Typically you can store it in some pocket or purse where you might forget or where it might fall out and get lost. In this case you wear it around your neck and it looks pretty good and the understated design meant that I looked good with whatever I was wearing. Family members and friends never guessed that it was a headset, thinking thought that it was some necklace made from a metal material. Another plus comes from the fact that the BH-804 sits very secure in the neckstrap, yet it’s easy to quickly remove it from the neckstrap to answer a call. This neckstrap idea is simply genious!

What about the voice quality? Driving at high speeds with the windows open, our caller reported that they could hear us fairly well. In other noisy conditions the DSP did a fairly good job in making sure the voice quality was right up there with some of the best Bluetooth headsets of this size, as reported by our caller. From our side, the caller sounded very good despite standing on a crowded street. Although bigger units like those from Nokia BH-900 series do sound a bit better, which is expected. The BH-804 is able to go pretty loud, which is always welcome. In the end the BH-804 sounded good, but the included ear tips don’t create a tight seal, making them unable to get the best possible performance from the BH-804. Swapping the included eartips for in-ear types from another manufacturer proved this point: the BH-804 suddenly sounded louder, had a fuller mid-range and a deeper base. Nokia should consider including other types of ear tips or you could always swap these with those of your choice. In any case the BH-804 should prove to have enough performance to back them up.

Bluetooth devices like these have a range of about 10 meters, in the case of the BH-804 it was more like 7-8 meters in the real world and in a room full of metal doors it quickly dropped to about 3 meters which is more than enough. In an open space, with no WiFi devices I was actually getting about 15 meters, which again is expected but nowhere near a real-world scenario. Nokia says that the BH-804 is able to work for about 4 hours. In our continuous test that consisted of listening uninterrupted to Podcasts, the BH-804 lasted about 4 hours and 20 minutes.

Pros

Understated, elegant design
Solid Aluminum build
Easy to use
Convenient neckstrap
Aluminum build is scratch resistant
DSP maintains clean sound
Great package and presentation
Desktop charger is a nice extra
Future-proof design with microUSB charging

Cons

Charger Adapter lacks locking mechanism
Inluded eartips don’t get the most out of the BH-804.
Nokia Connectivity Cable CA-101 not included
Issues with the Nokia N97 v.12 firmware

Written by Devin

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One thought on “Finally – Competition for the Jawbone: Nokia BH-804 Review

  • By fx15 -

    Hmmm, this is great post.