Pros / This headset is an excellent value and has a unique charging strap.
Cons / It doesn’t have caller ID.
Verdict / The Plantronics Explorer 500 is a nice mid-tier headset with fantastic battery life and a comfortable fit.
The Plantronics Explorer 500 is the best budget Bluetooth earpiece you can buy. It’s sleek, comes in black or white, and is about the size of a stick of Orbit gum. In addition, it weighs just a fourth of an ounce and has three buttons that are strategically placed. The main call button has a texturized rubber strip so your finger can easily find it. The volume rocker is on the headset’s edge, and the power switch sits on the device’s underside.
The headset fits tight in your ear, and it remains stable and secure thanks to a plastic hook that hugs your outer ear. The included eargels are comfortable and keep a seal. We ran up a flight of stairs and shook our heads vigorously without the headset falling out.
We were extremely impressed with the Explorer 500’s performance in out battery test. The manufacturer claims the headset lasts for seven hours of talk time, and we were actually able to get even more than that – 7.33 hours. When the battery does die, it takes two hours to recharge, which is about as long as it takes other headsets.
We really appreciated Plantronics’ design approach for this Bluetooth earpiece’s charging cable. It’s extremely thin and long, and it attaches end to end with a magnet. The magnet forms a loop you can attach to your rear view mirror, backpack or purse strap. This makes it easy to access for a quick power up, and you can even attach the headset to the loop when you aren’t using it.
One feature this headset is missing is caller ID. When your phone rings, most Bluetooth headsets audibly announce the name of the person calling. This one can only read off the phone number. Nowadays, the only numbers most people remember are childhood home phone numbers and maybe one for a favorite pizza joint. Still, the Explorer 500 gives you easy access to Siri and Google Assistant. The microphone picked up our voice effectively and without errors.
During our audio quality performance test, callers said background noise was apparent but not distracting. The headset even did a fine job blocking out wind sounds. We also tested the device’s maximum volume and found that it is actually the quietest on our lineup, only reaching a volume of 41 dB. On average, headsets in our review reached 50 dB. This isn’t a deal breaker though, in our opinion. The headset is plenty loud, even for listening to music.
- Voice Quality
- Talk Time
- Charge Time
When you factor in its affordable price, voice quality and fit, it’s easy to see the Plantronics Explorer 500 is a good option. It isn’t the best Bluetooth earpiece, but it definitely gives you great bang for your buck.