Review: Jabra Speak 510, The Perfect Personal Speakerphone
Review: Jabra Speak 510
Jabra Speak 510
Daniel W. Rasmus
At $149 the Jabra Speak 510 offers well-implemented features in a compact design that is ready to serve up first-class conferencing experiences for individuals or small groups via Bluetooth or USB.
The Jabra Speak 510 has transformed a weekly ritual. Since the beginning of the pandemic lock-in, my family has connected every Saturday night with my sister-in-law and her family in Southern California for dinner. I use an Apple 12.9 inch iPad Pro mounted into an iKlip stand (a no longer shipping standalone version) as the base station. Until recently, my wife always asked: “is that as loud as it goes?” as she strained to hear the sometimes IP-garbled dialog emanating from the iPad. We tried various Bluetooth speaker options, but iPad OS doesn’t know how to split input and output sources well, so the speakers never connected during our FaceTime-powered family gatherings.
That was before the Jabra Speak 510 arrived.
Jabra Speak 510: What we like
As a Bluetooth speaker phone the Jabra Speak sits in the middle of those around our table. Not only does it greatly improve the listening experience, it also improves voice capture. We now hear we sound “so much better” by those on the other end of the call.
Jabra did an excellent job of designing the Jabra Speak 510 for function. The round, mostly speaker grill device, puts all of the controls up top: power, answer, and hang-up, adjust volume and mute—along with the charge, Smart Button, and Bluetooth indicators. The Smart Button either connects to the device’s assistant (Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant) or works with the Jabra Direct app to enable speed dialing.
The device offers USB connectivity via a permanent USB-A cable for charging and connecting to PCs and Macs. There is a noticeable improvement in sound when connected via USB. Any wired over wireless experience avoids Bluetooth’s audio compression. The USB cable wraps around the speaker for stowage.
The Speak 510 needs no special set-up coddling. Following a standard Bluetooth discovery it just works. The speakerphone will connect to more than one device, and implements one tap movement between devices.
Perhaps the best feature of the Speak 510 comes from a nearly hidden hardware feature: its omnidirectional microphone that picks up sound from around the device, not just from a single point. The device’s firmware includes echo cancelation–a great feature for those who live on video conferences.
With 15 hours of charge, the Speak 510 will work through a day with little worry about it running out of audio steam. A tap on the battery icon provides insight into the battery’s level. It takes about 2 hours to charge. With its auto-power down feature, the 510 will remain viable in standby mode for 200 or so days.
The Jabra Speak 510 also comes with a nice case to keep it protected during travel.
What could be improved
The Jabra Speak 510 misses the modern touch of offering USB-C as a connection option. The company should consider a USB-C port on the device with a default cable, and then the ability for owners to replace with a USB-C to A adapter if necessary.
While the USB-A port connects easily to any PC with a USB-A port, and the device works flawlessly, for those using Bluetooth the cable is superfluous except when charging. A USB-C port for charging and connection with a couple of cables would make for a more elegant and flexible design. Some may argue that taking away the cable reduces the overall integrated experience. That may be true, but moving forward, most will prefer a Bluetooth experience with the cord used only for charging. Charging ports will increasingly come in the form of USB-C.
A port-only solution would also allow for longer cables to improve reach for either connection or charging.
Since Jabra makes headsets and earbuds, the Speak 510 will also connect to a Bluetooth headset for privacy. It isn’t clear why one would connect to the speakerphone rather than directly to a device. This question appears in the “could be improved” section because it doesn’t really make sense as a feature. There may be PC-centric calls that require some privacy, but most would likely hold those conversations on the phone rather than over a speakerphone in a public space.
It would also be nice to have a version of the Jabra Connect software, for configurations and firmware updates, that worked from mobile devices for those who have committed to tablets or phones as their primary work device. Currently, Jabra Connect only runs on PCs and Macs.
It would also be great to see Jabra upgrade the chipset to Bluetooth 5.0. The current device only supports Bluetooth 3.0.
Observations for business use
While the Jabra Speak 510 certainly improves the connection experience during Covid isolation, it was not designed for that. It was designed as a portable mini-conference room speaker. And it does that well.
Unfortunately, unlike corporate settings, most homes don’t feature good soundproof or distance isolated conference rooms. In our home, three family members with three different jobs often talk at the same time to different people. The solution for that is headphones, not speakerphones (luckily for Jabra they make both).
Even after things open up and people visit coffee shops again for meetings, keep speakerphone etiquette in mind. The Speak 510 isn’t designed for loud venues or intimate ones with multiple people. Don’t turn it on in a coffee shop unless you rent an available conference room. It isn’t that the Speak 510 won’t work in the environment–it’s more about not noise polluting—and for most workers, not sharing customer or company information with the public.
The Jabra Speak 510 Bottom line
The Jabra Speak 510 does its job and it does it well. If I were currently popping between conference rooms like a usually do, or making calls from my hotel room, it would make a worthy travel companion (at a little less than 7 ounces). Compact and uncomplicated. It works well now in small groups and for individuals without sound constraints. As the world re-evaluates shared work environments post Covid-19 lockdowns, new use cases may emerge.
For those working from home alone, we absolutely recommend the Jabra Speak 510. For those working from home with more that one family member and a need to keep crosstalk out of Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other calls and video chats to a minimum, the Speak 510 is probably not the ideal device. Use headphones instead. But as noted above, the Jabra Speak 510 isn’t just for work. All those shared virtual family events need a good speakerphone solution, and for most, the Jabra Speak 510 fits both need and price.
For those looking for full conference room experiences, Jabra also offers the more expensive Speak 710, 750, and 810 speakerphones.
The Jabra Speak 510 was provided by Jabra for review purposes. Images courtesy of Jabra.
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Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.