capsule review

Parrot Minikit Smart Bluetooth Speakerphone Falls Short in Call Quality

At a Glance
  • Parrot Minikit Smart

    PCWorld Rating

    This cradle device and speakerphone holds your phone in the car, making it ideal for GPS duties. Too bad its audio quality isn’t up to snuff.

Parrot Minikit Smart Bluetooth speakerphone
If you live in a state where it's legal to mount technology devices, such as a GPS unit, on your windshield, here's an innovative Bluetooth car accessory to ponder. The Parrot Minikit Smart ($130 as of March 1, 2011) takes on a number of roles: The cradlelike design lets you attach your phone (horizontally) to the Minikit, which acts as a charging holder and serves as a GPS unit and Bluetooth speakerphone.

If you live in a state where windshield-mounted devices are prohibited, you can try sticking the Minikit to the dash with Parrot's accessories. (I didn't have much luck with that method, though; my car's interior didn't lend itself well to attachments.)

The combined weight of the bulky Minikit and my Motorola Droid X phone proved to be cumbersome to deal with. First you press the suction cup to the windshield, locking it in place with a lever. Then you attach the Minikit to the suction cup (the company includes an Allen wrench for further locking). You can extract the Minikit's microphone from the unit by pulling on the mic's cord and attaching it to the visor using the clips. Tedious.

Even though the Parrot Minikit Smart is awkward to set up, it did a good job of clamping my phone into place--my handset didn't move an inch during testing. The bottom of the unit houses a big scrollwheel that juts out nicely, with two recessed button areas to press on either side. I found these controls easy to access while keeping my eyes on the road and one hand on the wheel.

I liked how the Minikit automatically synced with my phone contacts after pairing (your phone needs to support this feature) so that I could use the voice-recognition function to initiate calls. Otherwise, making a call manually is a pain: You must push the scrollwheel, select the Phonebook voice prompt, and then cycle through the wheel's menu to find the first letter of the person's name. Then, at that letter, you scroll down to the individual you want to reach. I shied away from all of this while driving.

To receive a call, you press the green-lighted area to the left of the wheel; to end a call, you push the red-lighted area on the right. I appreciated hearing the Minikit declare the names of my callers (when recognized from the phone book) as my phone rang.

However, I was not impressed with the quality of calls through the Minikit. Even though I could understand what I was hearing, voices coming into the car sounded splotchy and uneven. Plus, the speaker is at the back of the Minikit, so it routes voices toward the windshield glass.

On the other end, callers griped about my voice sounding far away, with background noise in the mix. One tester said that on a couple of calls I sounded as if I were talking from inside a dryer at a laundromat, with the annoying noise of whirring machines pervading the call.

One final note: If you're anything like me, you probably ensure that you leave nothing on view in your car when it's parked--and that means removing a Bluetooth speakerphone, too. In the case of the Minikit, I found its installation approach to be inconvenient; it takes longer than I'd like to detach and reinstall every time. Novel as the Minikit is in theory, I recommend moving on and considering a regular portable Bluetooth car speakerphone.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This cradle device and speakerphone holds your phone in the car, making it ideal for GPS duties. Too bad its audio quality isn’t up to snuff.

    Pros

    • Car kit automatically transfers phone’s contact information
    • Large scrollwheel is easy to access while you're driving

    Cons

    • Disappointing call quality
    • Cumbersome to carry around
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