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LG HBM-700

Thu Nov 30, 2006 - 8:05 AM EST - By Jay Gross

Overview

The LG Style-i is the cutest, lightest, slimmest, most puzzling product in the headset pile. It’s promoted as both “Style-i” and “HBM-700,” but at this writing neither phrase is findable on the company’s website, either as a product or in the “support” section.

Too bad - it’s an interesting product in need of some support. Even an electronic (i.e., PDF) version of the manual would help, since the paper one that comes with the device is printed in microscopic type.

If the HBM-700 had a frequently asked question list, the first question would have to be: What is it?

First, it’s not a headset. Those have speakers or cuffs or some other contrivance to put sound into your ear. The HBM-700 does have a 2.5mm earphone jack – Treo friendly, nice – but the package doesn’t include an ear-bound accessory. You hold it up to your ear like a Lilliputian telephone. A tiny mic adorns one end, a teensy speaker at the other.

You can’t really call it a hands-free device, either. Those generally don’t have dial buttons, and don’t offer attention-demanding LED displays. Though arranged in twin rows, instead of the usual 3-wide array, LG’s odd Style-i offers dial buttons 1 through 0 and an attractive blue-LED display that ticks off incoming numbers as well as outgoing dial sequences. Cool. A Clear button works as a backspace for number entry. Thoughtful. The device will pair either as a hands-free unit or as a headset.

So, think of it as a remote controller for your Treo. Charge it up – doesn’t come with a car charger, only wall current – get it working with the Treo 700p, and be amazed. The featherweight Style-i - only an ounce – includes a pen clip, to secure it to your shirt or coat pocket. Who said pocket protector?

Stow your six-ounce Treo on your belt, on your desk, or wherever (within Bluetooth range), and you can take and make calls with the HBM-700, even perform 3-way calling, and other sophisticated functions that cell phone junkies crave. Add a wired earphone for comfort and privacy, even in a noisy environment.

The device displays incoming phone numbers, as well as offering a one-button repeat-last-call function.


Usability

I specified Treo 700p, because the HBM-700’s dial pad simply does not work with the 650, although its other features perform quite well. Indeed, Bluetooth pairing (headset mode) with the 650 is far more reliable, and neither the phone nor the device gets confused after a few minutes rest. The Style-i supports pairing with multiple devices, but switching among them is a job for the very patient. Still, it’s convenient to have a list of “trusted devices” in the Treo’s Bluetooth menu (Menu button > tap the Bluetooth icon > tap Setup Devices > tap Trusted Devices > pick HBM-700 from the list that appears).

For comfortable use of the Treo as a cell phone, LG’s HBM-700 blazes a new trail with its “remote control” features. On phones that support voice dialing, it does that, too. Native Treo 700p’s do not.

The company claims eight hours of talk time or 200 hours on standby, and from my experience those are good estimates. The device held its charge admirably.


Sound Quality

Earphone or not, the Style-i dishes out excellent sound. Its quality is superb, and there’s plenty of it, too – no shortage of volume, an engineering marvel for such a tiny device. Outgoing sound quality is also excellent, not the least bit tinny, and also volumetrically plentiful. I got zero complaints from callers. No one demanded that I speak up, and I had no trouble hearing them, especially when I hooked up my Palm Hybrid Headset/Headphones (Review | Buy).

For the price, a decent earbud should come with the product. All you get is a lanyard and a wall-current charger. Word to the wise: Be sure to use a one-ear headset, or leave one dangling, while driving.

LG’s lanyard is a curiosity, too. It stores its cord neatly on an internal reel, and comes with an instruction sheet that helpfully advises, "Keep the Lanyard out of children."


Dislikes

I found only one thing to dislike about the Style-i, but it’s a biggie. Blame Palm, though, not the Style-i, as the problem is really the 700p’s flaky Bluetooth implementation. The LG device won’t stay paired. It works just fine, impresses for sure, but in a few minutes when your call is completed it forgets its pairing and goes into an irreversible coma. Getting it to work on the next incoming call often results in a hangup.

Fortunately, people are so accustomed to cell phones cutting them off that they just call right back - at least, my callers did - and don’t even get mad. Even so, having to re-pair before every call is a prohibitive annoyance, one that you definitely don’t want to have to deal with while driving.

When the Treo forgets its pairing, the result on the Style-i can only be described as “crash!” The pretty blue LED display says “Out of Range,” even if it’s inches from the Treo, and the device won’t power down, much less take calls, dial out, or otherwise behave in a useful manner. Normally, after a few minutes of inactivity, the device turns itself off to save power. When it’s crashed, it just stays on. The only solution is to use the Style-i’s thoughtful “reset” feature. There’s a tiny hole in the back at the top where a stretched-out paperclip does the trick.



Next Page: Conclusion >>



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