Gifts Gadgets & Gizmos
Part 2 of 3
Last issue we reviewed 6 noise reducing Bluetooth headsets. This time we'll explore the wireless options a little further with a quick discussion of two additional alternatives; Bluetooth stereo headsets and speakerphones. So, to continue our imagery from last article we'll start with,
Stick it in Both Ears
Cell phones have increasingly become our phone, camera and MP3 player. It is now more popular and convenient to just carry your cell phone to hear your tunes while you jog, work out or just go about your daily activities than to cart around 2 separate devices and their appurtenant accessories.
In the last few months more and more manufacturers of Bluetooth headsets have started to produce wireless stereo headsets to accommodate this growing trend. It's nice to be able to listen to your music and automatically switch over to using the phone as needs dictate.
The folks at Sony Ericsson sent us their HBH-DS970 to take a look at along with their W580 phone.
The W580 is the complete package if you're looking for a Walkman/MP3 player that is coincidentally a fully loaded cell phone. It sports a slim, sleek slider design, quad band capability, crisp 2 inch screen and up to 9 hours of talk time. It also has calendar/organizer sync capability so it functions as a useful tool in between using its web browser, email, taking pictures on its 2 megapixel camera, and keeping you in shape with its pedometer and fitness applications.
To keep you humming through the day, the phone kit includes a 512MB memory stick with enough storage to store about 125 MP3's. That should hold you until lunch, but if not, memory can be bumped up to 2 GB. Did I mention the built in FM radio?
Now although the W580 comes packaged with a wired stereo handsfree headset, the fun truly begins when you pair it with the wireless HBH-DS970.
The HBH-DS970 as part of a new category of stereo Bluetooth headsets gives you all the benefits of a wired headset (without the wire) as well as some additional features. In the case of the HBH-DS970 one of our favorites was the built in LCD display with caller ID. I can't tell you how convenient it is to be able to see the caller ID information on the headset controls when you have your phone neatly tucked out of the way while operating handsfree.
The sound quality of the headset is very good due in large part to 3 technologies that Sony Ericsson has incorporated into this little package:
The HBH-DS970 is also multipoint capable so you can pair it with another device and switch over as appropriate. In phone mode when you're in between tunes, it will give you up to 6 hours of talk time and 300 hours of standby. The HBH-DS970 sells for about $149.00.
Unfortunately, time constraints didn't allow us to test more of the stereo Bluetooth headsets that are coming to market and we look forward to doing that in the future. In the meantime, you might also want to check out offerings from Plantronics and Jabra among others as these are becoming more popular every day.
Lend Me An Ear
If both your ears are busy, or you just don't like sticking things in them, you can always try another category of Bluetooth apparatus; the wireless speakerphone.
We had the opportunity to test 2 of these devices with good results.
At a light weight 6 oz. this little speakerphone from Jabra can be easily mounted on the windshield or hung from the sun visor (my preferred mode) with the included accessories. As with most offerings in this category, there is no installation necessary. Just pair it with your phone and you're good to go.
The SP500 has a swing down noise cancelling microphone that is helpful in keeping conversation clear. It also has a DSP circuit that adjusts the volume if things get to noisy.
We found this somewhat helpful, but our test vehicle is particularly noisy and we can't blame a small wireless device for not being able to pump out the megawatts of sound that would be needed in this environment. For normal use, however, the 2 watt amplifier is more than adequate.
We particularly liked the controls on the SP500 as they were simple and intuitive to use while driving. The package comes with both a wall and car charger to augment the impressive 20 hours of talk time and 480 hours of standby. The SP500 is under $100.00.
At first glance, the Parrot MINIKIT looks like a nicely designed speakerphone with its own particular look a feel. For most of its operations that would be a good assumption, the bonus comes from its voice recognition feature that we'll talk about in a moment.
The MINIKIT is a very light weight (3.5 oz.) speakerphone with some powerful features. It uses a 3 button interface with lighting LED's to assist in usage. Its omnidirectional microphone is sufficient for most uses and worked much better than we anticipated in a noisy car environment. The Parrot MINIKIT also employs DSP circuitry and a 2 watt amplifier, but what blew us away was the built in voice recognition software.
This voice recognition system is a completely internal system that is phone independent. Yes, you read that correctly. It doesn't matter if your phone has voice dialing capabilities or not. The MINIKIT loads your contacts from your phone, you spend a few minutes adding voice tags and voila, you can make voice actuated calls on the speakerphone while you are driving or even sitting in your Jacuzzi!
We tested this function with a Palm Treo 650 which does not come factory equipped with voice dialing capability and it worked flawlessly. I am a strong proponent of ‘hands on the wheel' driving and I can't begin to tell you how impressed I was with this built in feature.
The Parrot MINIKIT comes with both wall and car charger and will operate for 10 hours talk time and 275 hours standby between recharges. The MINIKIT sells for under $90.00.
That was an Earful
With all of the Bluetooth items we tested for these 2 articles, we didn't find a clinker in the bunch. All of them have great performance or feature characteristics and you really won't go wrong with any of them. The best advice is to tailor your choice to your particular requirements and shop around for the best price.