European countries lead the way in the use of Bluetooth. And the automotive use of this wireless technology makes sense when you consider that more countries (and even some states in the US) are banning the use of mobile phones while driving.
For instance, since December 2003 is an offence to drive and talk on the mobile phone in the United Kingdom, including some hefty fines for drivers that infringe the rules.
Wireless technologies not only help drivers abide by the law but also add convenience of use to mobile phones. We have three Bluetooth car handsfree devices from Freetop, each with a different functionality set, so you can choose one that best fits your needs.
The first model we look at is the SuperTooth. This is not a light headset, but a handsfree speakerphone solution, that can be even used at home as a handsfree for a computer system for example. The SuperTooth comes in a box, with a car charger, a wall charger, printed manual and a metal clip for use in vehicles.
The device dimensions are 150 x 60 x 25mm, and weight is 130g. Not a light device but it's intended to be used as a portable handsfree. It's sure full of resources. You can charge its internal battery from the wall or from a cigarrette lighter in the car. Each full charge promisses an astonishing 600 hours standy and 15 hours of talk time. It supports both the Headset and the Handsfree profiles making it very flexible in terms of mobile devices it can be used with.
The big 50mm built-in speaker associated with a DSP (Digital Signal Processor) that eliminates background noise and allows full duplex handsfree communication provides the caller with clear and loud sound.
The "user interface" is very simple. There's an on/off button, a volume knob, an Answer and a Hung Up buttons. To start pairing with a mobile phone simply turn it on while keeping the Answer button depressed. After a few seconds it'll beep and blink the Bluetooth LED indicator blue and red. It's not ready to pair using the Handsfree profile. Press the Answer button once more and it's ready to pair using the Headset profile.
Once paired you can answer a call by pressing the Answer button and use the Hung Up to terminate the call. Of course if your mobile supports auto answer on incoming call then the SuperTooth will be automatically connected.
SuperTooth: simple interface
Positioned in the sun visor
It supports the Voice Dial feature in Bluetooth phones. You can record the name tags using the mobile phone, and whenever you want to place a call press the Answer button. A voice path is established with the phone and you can they say the name, initiating the call.
To use it in the car fix the metal clip in the sun visor and attach the SuperTooth to it. The magnetic buttons in the device are very strong and will hold it in place securely. You can easily remove it to charge or to use at home as a handsfree for your mobile. According to the manufacturer's web site you can also buy an optional stand (similar to handheld's cradles) to use the handsfree at home, while charging.
To personalise the SuperTooth you can replace its faceplate with the choice of five different colours, available separately.
The next device is a hybrid handset and handsfree. The MultiTooth can be used as a handsfree while in the car, and you can remove the tiny headset from its cradle and walk away with it, keeping the conversation going. The headset is very light, at only 15g, and the handsfree device is used as a cradle for it while in the car, charging the headset at the same time.
After pairing the mobile phone and the headset calls can be answered by pressing a button on the side. This is also used to initiated a voice activated call. The button glows a blue light when the power is on, so it's easy to find it while driving at night. Again, the user can configure the mobile phone (if available) to automatically answer incoming calls.
The handsfree attaches to the cigarrette lighter plug in the car to charge the headset and power it while in use. One interesting feature of the headset is the timeout: it will turn itself off after a few minutes if the paired mobile phone is not in range. You can turn it on again by pressing the on/off button in the headset itself, or by starting the car while the handsfree is plugged.
Volume can be controlled from the handsfree or from the headset itself, and in the back of the handsfree we find three switches, to control tone, echo cancelling and microphone automatic gain. The handsfree has a 8 watts loudspeaker.
MultiTooth connected to a cigarrette lighter
The headset out of its cradle
The tiny headset
The unit I have for review comes with the cigarrette lighter charging option only, but there are packing options including a travel charger that allows the user to charge the headset alone, directly from the wall.
The handsfree uses a wireless microphone that you clip in the sun visor. The microphone is powered with two AA batteries, but the power is controlled from the handsfree. The microphone goes into a stand by mode after use, preserving power. According to the specifications it can work up to five months with one set of batteries.
The last of these devices I had for test is a handsfree unit only. It's similar in form factor to the MultiTooh, except that there's no removable headset. The CarTooth is for exclusive use in the car and most of its features are listed under the MultiTooth review. Like the MultiTooth it also uses an external wireless microphone, positioned in the sun visor.
Comparison: CarTooth and the MultiTooth
Tone control, echo cancelling and microphone automatic gain switches
I've used each one of these devices for a while and I'm divided between the SuperTooth and the MultiTooth . The SuperTooth is great, and no doubt it has more resources than the other ones. But sometimes you need more privacy and a headset will give you this. The SuperTooth gives the option of connecting a corded headset, and I see this as useful if using the device at home or in the office, so you don't need to hold your mobile phone while having a conversation. But the MultiTooth is very functional and can be used as a headset when away from the car.
As I wrote in the begin of this article it really comes to personal preferences, but these devices are worth investigating .