Today’s wireless tech peripheral market belongs to two ways to transmit data wirelessly: Bluetooth and Radio Frequency, or RF. But which is better? The answer really depends on your specific wireless uses and how much you are willing to spend. The main differences only matter when you consider your inter-brand needs and the distances your wireless toys need to cover and still communicate without disruption.
The most widely used wireless devices available with RF and Bluetooth options are the keyboard, mouse, headphones, and headset.
Radio Frequency (RF)
Radio frequency (RF) is based on electromagnetic radio waves for the transmission of data wirelessly. RF technology can have a signal range of up to 30 yards, which lends itself to a great number of applications.
RF does not require to be in line-of-sight to function, so it can “go through” walls. There is no need to point the remote to the device for it to function, such as with television remote controls.
RF wireless devices running on the same frequency will interfere with each other’s proper function. This is most often seen with radio control cars and trucks, which is why the manufacturers make frequency plain on the outside of the box.
RF wireless headsets use frequencies from 900MHz to 3.2GHz. You may get interference with the 900MHz headsets or headphones and some cordless phones, and also, WiFi connections may interfere with 2.4GHz headsets. But for the most part, if you are just using the headset with an office phone, for instance, the connections are clear and may allow ranges of up to 300 feet.
Most peripherals come with a dongle, a UBS-A plug-and-play connector that makes the transmission wireless. (Think of it as an adapter.) Once plugged in, these devices usually set themselves up and begin functioning within a few seconds.
RF technology is great if you don’t have a smart TV, as you can connect them to any device that has RCA inputs.
Is RF Technology Safe?
Radiofrequency is a form of electromagnetic radiation, so how safe it is to use RF is often questioned, especially because these items will be in your ears and on your head for extended periods of time.
The important thing to know is whether the RF from the devices contains ionizing or non-ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation carries a large amount of energy than can affect DNA, It is the same type of radiation used in X-ray machines, and also is created in nuclear explosions, and exists in the sun’s rays.
RF Devices and their Price Ranges
You can get a keyboard or a mouse individually, and there are also many keyboard and mouse combos that use one dongle to connect both. Keyboards range in price from $15 to $60. A wireless mouse can cost between $6 and $80 for the long-range, high-end models.
Combo kits start at around $25.
RF headphones start at around $25 and can get into the $500 range. Similarly, headsets start at around $25 and get up to the $380 range.
Bluetooth is named for Harald Bluetooth Gormsen, a Viking and King of Denmark who was well-known for aiding people with communication. He became known as Bluetooth because of his love of blueberries, which stained his teeth blue. He also united Norway and Denmark. His manner inspired the name for Bluetooth, as it makes communication between people easier by making communication between devices easier.
Bluetooth enables many types of electronic equipment from different manufacturers to communicate with each other wirelessly. Today, many wireless peripherals use Bluetooth technology for data transmission. Wireless headphones and speakers, hands-free headsets for phones often use Bluetooth technology.
Bluetooth is a form of open wireless RF technology mostly utilized for short range data transmission. It operates on a specific frequency, 2.4GHz, for data transmission from one device to another. Class 2 Bluetooth, which is what most Bluetooth devices are, transmits up to 33. feet and, like RF, connected technology does not need to have line of sight. There are class 1 Bluetooth headphones and headsets made for connection to professional devices that have greater range.
Bluetooth is more secure than RF. Bluetooth uses radio signals 1000 times weaker than the other wireless technologies mobile phones use. Unlike RF, no one can listen in once a connection has been made. Also, unlike RF, there is no interference between Bluetooth devices either.
Bluetooth headphones generally charge quickly but they also need charging often. Most Bluetooth headphones need to be charged after a few hours of use.
Setting up your Bluetooth device may require multiple steps, sometimes making it more complicated than RF but this not a certainty. At the very least, connecting or pairing requires you to open your settings menu with the Bluetooth peripheral turned on and clicking or selecting the item when it populates on the list of available devices.
What is Latency
Bluetooth converts the analog RF information transmitted into digital information. An undesired effect of this process is known as latency, which is a slight delay in transmission. If you’re listening to music, you probably wouldn’t know it is happening. But if using Bluetooth headphones while watching TV, latency will cause the audio to be out of synch with the video, causing what is generally known as the lip-synch effect.
Latency is not a constant or consistent problem, but it does occur and can be annoying while watching tv, especially when multiple characters are involved in a conversation and keeping up with who is saying what becomes difficult.
Bluetooth Devices and their Price Ranges
Bluetooth keyboards are available for phones and tablets. They average at around $50. Keyboards for PCs average at $100 — $60 for gaming keyboards and $150+ for higher functioning application keyboards. A Bluetooth mouse starts at as little as $13 and reaches the $160 range. Combo kits start at around $50.
Bluetooth headphones can cost as little as $20 for the simplest ones and can reach the $500 for the most advanced pair. Headsets can be a little as $13 and as much as $50 for the hands-free smartphone devices commonly seen, and headsets geared toward office or home hands-free applications can cost from $25 – $150.