Quick Review: Nokia BH-221 Bluetooth Stereo Headset
The Nokia BH-221 is one of the latest in a long line of Nokia Bluetooth audio accessories, and while it isn’t quite as high-end as the Nokia Essence with built-in active noise cancellation, it distinguishes itself by coming in bright colours and having a built-in OLED display. Having lost my a-JAYS some time ago, I’ve been looking for a new pair of earphones, and I was drawn to the BH-221 because of its relatively reasonable price (I paid S$100 for it, which works out to Rs. 4.4K) and the fact that it comes in magenta. Of course, there are other colour options available – you can choose between magenta, white, cyan, green and black – but it was a no-brainer to pick up the magenta variant since I own a magenta Nokia N9. Indeed, the BH-221 and N9 are so similar in terms of colour and design cues that the BH-221 looks like it could have come out of the N9′s box (I wish!).
I’ve had the BH-221 for a couple of days now and it has been a pretty solid purchase. I managed to shoot a short video review that you can watch below:
Overall, the BH-221 is a very elegantly-designed stereo Bluetooth headset. The OLED display is virtually invisible when off, the rotating clip on the rear is very handy and the front is made of a durable, rubbery material that seems to be able to withstand some level of abuse and prevents accidental presses of the buttons on the front face. About the only drawback of the BH-221 in terms of hardware design is the black, scratch-prone glossy plastic surrounding the sides and back of the module. I found the bundled earphones to be satisfactory as well. They definitely aren’t the best-sounding earphones around, but unless your ears have become accustomed to higher-end audio equipment, it’s hard to find fault with the sound that the BH-221 puts out. The headset also has a dedicated bass and treble boost, so it is possible to tweak the sound quality if you so desire.
While one might ask what the point of switching to a wireless headset is if the earphones themselves are still wired, I suppose the fact that my phone does not have to be tethered to my earphones means that the earphone cable can be relatively short and the chances of the cable getting caught in something on a crowded train are vastly reduced. Besides, having one-touch access to volume and playback controls without having to get the phone out of your pocket is really quite convenient; the inclusion of NFC pairing makes for an even easier experience since you don’t have to manually switch Bluetooth on on your smartphone; you can simply switch on the BH-221 and tap your device on the front face to get connected. Your mileage may vary on this feature though; my Nokia N9 and the Lumia 820 pair up with the BH-221 without issues via NFC, but my Xperia S was unable to do it even though I’ve heard that NFC pairing works just fine with the Samsung Galaxy S3.
Another feature of the BH-221 that isn’t quite so well-implemented is the headset’s ability to display the time, as well as song and artist names on the OLED display while you’re listening to music. Basically, that feature requires a Symbian device; I’ve used the BH-221 with my Xperia S, Nokia N9 and Lumia 820 and none of these devices are equipped with the Bluetooth profile that allows song and artist names to be shown on any Bluetooth audio accessory that has a display built-in. That is a little disappointing as being able to see what song you are currently listening to is one of the main advantages of having an OLED display on the BH-221, but the vast majority of people likely to buy this Bluetooth headset won’t ever see that in action.
I’ve subjected the BH-221 to rather heavy use over the past 2 days and the battery meter still shows 2 out of 3 bars even though I’ve only charged it once, which makes me confident that this Bluetooth headset can go the distance. In a brilliant stroke of irony, owners of Nokia’s Symbian devices like the 701 and 808 PureView are actually the only ones able to make the most of this device, but I think the BH-221 has been a good purchase overall and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for an eye-catching and easy to use wireless headset, especially if you already own other Nokia gear.