Plantronics BackBeat Pro 5100 (2019) review

A lighter touch

Plantronics BackBeat Pro 5100
  • Plantronics BackBeat Pro 5100
  • Plantronics BackBeat Pro 5100
  • Expert Rating

    3.75 / 5

Pros

  • Snappy design
  • Good battery life
  • Competitive price

Cons

  • Not very isolating
  • Plastic feel

Bottom Line

Even if they don’t reach the same heights that some of the more premium entries in the category do, I get the sense that the BackBeat 5100 are probably going to sound good enough for most people.

Would you buy this?

  • Price

    $ 299.00 (AUD)

Should I buy the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 5100?

If you want something that’s a little more inconspicuous than the AirPods, the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 5100 are going to fit the bill nicely. They’re not fitness-friendly enough that I’d recommend taking them to the gym, nor do they offer the advanced noise-cancelling capabilities found in some of the other options. Still, they are charmingly lightweight and cheap enough to recommend. 

The Plantronics BackBeat Pro 5100 are true wireless earbuds interested in getting the job done than they are looking pretty - and that’s going to resonate with some consumers more than others.  

Price when reviewed

In Australia, the BackBeat Pro 5100 are priced at AU$299.

Plantronics BackBeat Pro 5100 full review

The Plantronics BackBeat Pro 5100 are  pretty much the inverse of last year's BackBeat Fit 3100.

Rather than opt for a workout-friendly feature set, the new Plantronics BackBeat Pro 5100 are pitched as a lighter, cheaper and longer-lasting alternative to Jabra's true wireless options. 

Accordingly, the call-sheet for this one hits all the notes you’d expect. The BackBeat Pro 5100 feature a super lightweight form-factor, noise-cancelling microphones (for phone calls) and six and a half hours of playback per charge. There's another thirteen hours of usage contained on the charger case, bringing the total usage time to just shy of 20 hours. 

Credit: Plantronics

Even if they don’t reach the same heights that some of the more premium entries in the category do, I get the sense that the BackBeat 5100 are probably going to sound good enough for most people. 

Price

In Australia, you can buy the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 5100 for a recommended retail price of AU$299. You can buy them through:

Design & Build

In terms of look and feel, the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 5100 come across as a discrete break from everything the company was looking to achieve with the the BackBeat Fit 3100 - or, at the very least, a response to it.

Plantronics’ debut effort in the true wireless space was one driven by particular use-case. 

A lot of true wireless earbuds get used for fitness. To that end, Plantronics opted for a conspicuous ear-hook, sweat-proof materials and - most importantly - a non-occlusive fit. This last part meant that the BackBeat Fit 3100 simply couldn’t offer the same kind of sound quality that other true-wireless earbuds could. 

Credit: Plantronics

The BackBeat Pro 5100 tries to rectify this. It swings hard in the opposite direction and as name might lead you to believe, the 5100 are pitched more towards office-like settings and everyday commutes. To that end, they throw out a lot of the design choices that made the 3100 stand out from the crowd. Still, where a lot of the competition is trying to be everything for everyone, it was a little refreshing to see something a little more focused.

The BackBeat Pro 5100 are a little more generic - but that’s not necessarily going to be a bad thing for everyone. In terms of design, they’re little more than earbuds. They're not quite premium but they lean further in that direction than the BackBeat Fit 3100 did. I’d even go so far as to say they’re more minimalist than the Jabra Elite earbuds they’re inevitably going to be compared to. What’s more, even if they’re not recommended for the gym, they do include basic sweat-proofing and IPX4 water resistance. 

The only real feature worth noting here is the set of Dual MEMS microphones that dot the outside the earbuds themselves. These mics feature “WindSmart” noise-cancellation tech that allows for clearer hands-free phone calls than you would otherwise get with these kinds of earbuds.

As you might expect, the BackBeat Pro 5100 rely on a charger case. Like the earbuds themselves, this thing is super-compact. I was genuinely surprised to find that squeezing it into my jeans pockets alongside a wallet or phone was as easy as it was. That being said, most of the time, I’d prefer to store the Plantronics BackBeat 5100 in my jacket pocket.

For better or worse, the charger case for the BackBeat Pro 5100 does use Micro-USB. I’d have preferred it use USB Type-C but that’s obviously not a serious dealbreaker. 

Credit: Plantronics

There’s also a physical button you have to press in order to release the latch on the inside of the case, which helps keep the earbuds secure in the event that you drop. It’s nothing revolutionary but it is an appreciated inclusion.  

Speaking of controls, the BackBeat 5100 mostly opts for physical buttons rather than any sort of haptics (though it does let you use those too). This approach sometimes runs into the usual issues - it’s never fun to blindly poke at your ears - but it does feel a little more reliable than the alternative. The haptic shortcuts here are pretty limited. You can gently scroll your finger in a clockwise motion on the left earbuds in order to modify the volume but that's about it. 

In action, I found the BackBeat Pro 5100 to be relatively comfortable to wear. At 11.7g, these might just be the lightest true wireless earbuds on the market. They certainly feel like it. Nevertheless, I was somewhat-disappointed to find that the seal they created allowed for a more than noticeable amount of external noise to pollute my listening experience. 

Features & Sound Quality

Putting the aforementioned improvements to mic quality, battery life and wearability to the side, there are a few other tricks that the BackBeat Pro 5100 bring to the table. They rely on slightly more recent (and advanced) Qualcomm hardware than the 3100 did - which means they’re able to deliver the more-reliable connectivity that Bluetooth 5.0 allows for. 

Using the BackBeat Pro 5100 in outdoor settings I encountered blissfully few, if any, of the dropout issues that plague many other true wireless earbuds. Unfortunately, in these sorts of environments, external noise proved a real issue. 

Still, in quieter situations, the 5.8mm drivers inside the Plantronics BackBeat 5100 sounded good - or at least good enough. I mostly used these earbuds to listen to podcasts but fare like Barn’s Courtney’s “99” and “Boy Like Me” sounded crisp enough that I wouldn’t ordinarily think to complain. 

Credit: Plantronics

As with the BackBeat 3100, a lot of the extra customizability here is enabled via the BackBeat app. Available on both Android and iOS, this application allows you to configure what the physical buttons on the BackBeat Pro 5100 do, see a real-time estimate for how much battery life remains on your headphones, change which earbud is the primary one and enable/disable HD voice. 

In functionality, this isn’t that different from most of the other apps out there but I do still find that the Plantronics BackBeat app is among the best in terms of immediate and intuitive usability. The one conspicuous omission here is any sort of equaliser - which is a bit of a shame.

Examined in isolation, I get the sense that the BackBeat 5100 are probably going to sound good enough for most people - even if they don’t reach the same heights that some of the more premium entries in the category do. For more on those, be sure the check out our round-up of the Best True Wireless Earbuds

Battery Life

As far as battery life goes, the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 5100 deliver six and a half hours of playback per charge. There is another 13 hours of usage contained on the charger case, bringing the total usage time to just shy of 20 hours. 

At 20 hours, the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 5100 don’t offer the highest battery life we’ve seen in the category. Those seeking that would be better served by fare like the Beats PowerBeats Pro or Anker’s SoundCore range.  

Nevertheless, the BackBeat Pro 5100 still deliver more than enough battery life for the everyday use they’re intended for and represent a significant improvement over the previous BackBeat 3100s. 

The Bottom Line

Even if they lack premium flourish, the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 5100 hit a lot of the same notes as the best true wireless earbuds do. They’re effortlessly compact, reliable in the right circumstances and offer more than enough battery life that you’re free to stop worrying about them going dead on you. Unless you’re looking for the best, what else can you realistically expect from them?

The one catch here is that the BackBeat Pro 5100 are a little more expensive than I’d like. As it stands, they’re an intriguing alternative to those who want a little more battery life than the Jabra 65ts offer. However, in a world where they were another $50 or so bucks cheaper, it’s not hard to imagine them being much more that.

The Plantronics BackBeat Pro 5100 sound good but it’s not hard to imagine how they could sound great.

Credit: Plantronics

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