Accessory review: Jabra Clipper Bluetooth stereo adapter
After making my prototype Tasker voice control bracelet, I went searching for a commercial solution to the same problem. Since I also wanted a new A2DP (stereo Bluetooth audio) adapter, I narrowed the hunt down to a couple of devices I knew about. After comparing the sizes of a few at a local store, the choice fell on the two year old Jabra Clipper. Read on the for the review.
In the box
The Clipper comes in a plastic/cardbox box bundled with the usual array of accessories. A pair of IEMs meant to be used with the Clipper, a microUSB AC charger, spare tips for those IEMs, and various paper. Considering the size of the Clipper, I wouldn’t have said no to an armband for it, as the Clipper works pretty well when clipped to an armband. Because of the battery life, which is a side effect of the small size, I also wish that it came with a more elegant charging solution than just a microUSB AC charger. Many small Bluetooth devices come with tiny cradles that you just drop the devices into, and since the only real difference between such a cradle and a charger is plastic, I think it could be added without adding to the cost too much.
The Clipper has one of the most awesome design’s I’ve ever seen, which is also part of the reason why I bought it. The entire thing is a clip, putting half the device on either side of a metal clip “frame.” The device stretches around this frame, putting the microUSB port and the audio jack right on the spine. The front has the microphone and the three buttons, and the entire thing is covered by a silicone/rubber shell that both gives it a great texture and hopefully makes it durable. While it might look like it, the Clipper is however not water proof. The rubber housing sort of hints at that, but there are openings all over the place.
The design is part of the reason why the Clipper seems so small. Many other Bluetooth adapters, like the Nokia BH-111, essentially adopt the iPod Shuffle style with a clip on the back of a small device. That puts the entire mass of the device on one side of the clip, whereas the Clipper splits this between the two sides of whatever it’s clipped to. That combined with a smaller overall size makes this a ridiculously compact Bluetooth adapter that I can actually sleep with while it’s clipped to my collar. The reason I would do something like that is that I managed to program it to trigger some Tasker tasks at night, making it a tiny remote control for light and spoken time – though that’s not really relevant to this review.
The Clipper supports both A2DP, AVRCP, and normal Bluetooth headset profile. That means it can receive stereo audio, control the music player of the transmitting device, and be used for calls. It does however not support apt-X, a relatively rare – but far superior – Bluetooth audio codec. As such, the sound quality is that of your typical normal A2DP adapter. That means reasonable sound quality for everyday use, but very far from the sound quality of a wired connection. Bass in particular has a tendency to be distorted, and I would recommend keeping the sound settings as neutral as possible.
The Clipper only has three buttons, which is kinda unusual. You have a middle play/pause/on/off/everything button, as well as two buttons that control volume and track skipping, depending on whether you click them or hold them down. That system works, even if I find the button layout a bit weird compared to a five button layout. The rubber housing has raised controls which form an outer ring with a button in the middle, so you kinda expect there to be four buttons on that outer ring. In practice though, it doesn’t really matter.
Range seems pretty average. It’s rated at 10 meters, but that will drop based on what’s in the way, and what the signals can bump off of. It occasionally loses the connection for a split second while in use outside, which is pretty typical for such adapters, but for the most part it stays connected just fine.
Battery life is the Clipper’s biggest weakness. It’s rated to last up to 6 hours, which I think is optimistic from what I’ve seen. The Clipper’s size is no doubt responsible for the poor battery life, so you have to decide if size is important enough to reach for the charger more often. For me it is, so I was prepared for what was coming.
As for call quality, I can’t comment on that, because I don’t make calls. It’s an A2DP adapter, so it’s for media streams first and foremost.
The Jabra Clipper is a great little device, with one of the best designs I’ve seen on any product. The size is its big strength, with the inevitable drop in battery life being its weakness. I wish Jabra had accounted for the need to charge it more often with a cradle solution that would make it easier to give the headset a permanent spot on a table, but unfortunately not.