Tech review: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 5100 offers clear calls but falls flat for music

An accompanying app allows you to pair the headphones with devices, update firmware, assign an earbud to be the primary one, and enable its smart sensors.
An accompanying app allows you to pair the headphones with devices, update firmware, assign an earbud to be the primary one, and enable its smart sensors.PHOTO: POLY

Another day, another pair of true wireless in-ear headphones. It is becoming a trend that no headphone maker can ignore. And the BackBeat Pro 5100 is the first such headphones in Plantronics' (PLT) BackBeat Pro line-up.

The Pro 5100 is all black - from charging case to earbuds and silicone ear tips.

You will definitely not draw attention wearing them, unlike with the Apple AirPods Pro, for instance.

Its charging case is shaped like a dental floss case, with smooth curved edges and the PLT logo engraved on top. Push the small button in front of the case to open the lid.

On each earbud is a circular, clickable surface. Three pairs of differently-sized ear tips are provided.

An accompanying app - called BackBeat (available on Android and iOS) - allows you to pair the headphones with devices, update firmware, assign an earbud to be the primary one, and enable its smart sensors.

The smart sensors detect your usage and intelligently make decisions based on your current activity. For example, if you are listening to music, taking one earbud out would stop the music.

By default, the right earbud is the primary earbud. Clicking on it answers or ends a call, while clicking and holding it activates your smartphone's voice assistant, like Siri or Google Assistant.

To increase volume, tap on the left earbud. To decrease volume, tap and hold it. Using the app, you can change these taps to perform custom functions such as checking battery status or telling the time.

 
 

The app does not allow you to customise the equaliser settings though. This is a bummer because the bass lacks punch, while the mids and highs both sound pretty flat. Even for a non-audiophile like myself, it lacks the oomph factor.

There is also no active noise cancellation, though it has four noise-cancelling microphones which tune out wind and background noise during calls.

And in this aspect, the Pro 5100 really excels. During a call I made while walking along a noisy stretch of Orchard Road, I was told my voice sounded clear at the other end.

Its water-resistance rating of IPX4 means that it is resistant to water splashes, drizzle and sweat. Just do not take it into the shower or swim with it.

The 6.5-hour battery life is better than the typical norm of four hours. The charging case adds another 13 hours of listening time.

On the downside, the charging case uses a microUSB port for charging, which is slower than a USB-C port.

But on the upside, it is relatively affordable compared with the AirPods Pro and Sony WF-1000XM3. Its value proposition is even better if clear call quality is important to you.

FOR

- Affordable

- Lightweight and comfortable

- Good battery life

- Great call quality

AGAINST

- No active noise cancellation

- Flat audio quality

- Charger does not support wireless charging

TECH SPECS

PRICE: $269

DRIVERS: 5.8mm

CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth

WEIGHT: 5.8g (each earbud), 38.6g (charging case without earbuds)

RATING

FEATURES: 3.5/5

DESIGN: 3.5/5

PERFORMANCE: 3.5/5

BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

VALUE FOR MONEY: 3.5/5

OVERALL: 3.5/5