capsule review

LG Electronics Solar Car Kit HFB-500 Bluetooth Speakerphone

At a Glance
  • LG Electronics Solar Car Kit HFB-500

    PCWorld Rating

    LG's speakerphone delivers great-sounding calls, most of the time. But its solar-powered features that make it stand out.

Like the Iqua Vizor Sun, the $100 (as of 3/27/09) LG Electronics Solar Car Kit HFB-500 can get all the juice it needs from sunlight--provided that you can expose the unit to a lot of rays. Following the HFB-500's initial charge, I did not need to use the in-car charging cable again during my testing period.

This Bluetooth car kit sits in its own transparent plastic casing, which mounts on the windshield with the included super-duper suction cups. (I was surprised at how well the HFB-500 clamped against the glass.) I positioned the device on the far-left side of the windshield. The solar-panel side, of course, faces outward to soak up the sun's rays, and the underside, facing the driver, has one large call button (which also acts as the voice-dial button), a dedicated power button, and the volume-up and -down controls. A minor quibble: The casing's edges jut down over the volume buttons, getting in the way somewhat, so I had to fumble a bit to adjust the volume.

Note: If you live in a state where it's against the law to mount anything to your windshield, you can place the HFB-500 on your dashboard instead. That did not work so well for me in my car--my dashboard had no one good spot to accommodate the device, nor did I have a way to attach the unit there (the company provides two sets of suction cups, which stuck only to the windshield in my case). For charging purposes, you can leave the product sitting flat on your dash to soak up the sunlight, but a better option would be to bring the device with you and allow it to recharge on, say, a window sill in direct sunlight. That way, you're not leaving something in your car, which might attract unwanted attention.

In tests, callers' voices came through loud and clear on my end. To recipients' ears, my voice sounded slightly robotic--one party described it as "metallic"--but people could hear me fine almost all of the time. Call quality was spotty during one conversation only--a caller picked up on some word distortion mixed in with background interference.

I had a great hit rate with the voice-dialing feature. It picked up on the contacts' names I uttered and dialed accordingly. At first I had some trouble getting the last-number redial feature to work consistently; if I didn't hold down the HFB-500's call button long enough, it would go into the voice-dialing option instead of redialing. Also, whenever I removed the unit from the windshield, one of my fingers would inevitably brush against the hard-to-avoid call button, activating the voice-dial feature.

If a solar-powered Bluetooth speakerphone is what you're after, and you don't mind the lack of dedicated controls, the dependable LG HFB-500 is a great way to go. The unit sports a red flashing light, though, which bugged me at night--perhaps you're better at ignoring such things.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    LG's speakerphone delivers great-sounding calls, most of the time. But its solar-powered features that make it stand out.

    Pros

    • Solar power delivers unlimited talk time
    • Attaches securely to the windshield

    Cons

    • Volume buttons can be tricky to access
    • Flashing lights can be distracting at night
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