Parrot, a Paris based company, specializes
in voice-enabled mobile devices and accessories. Its latest offering,
the DriveBlue Bluetooth car kit can turn your Bluetooth enable
cell phone into a hands-free and headset free handset with either
the push of a button or with voice features. The DriveBlue car
kit cuts the cable clutter in your car and does not require any
charging. On top of that, it doesn’t cost you a penny in
the installation department.
Not much bigger than the Sony Ericsson P800 handset,
the DriveBlue car kit comes in a stylish and compact form. It’s
made of black hard plastic with a silver face cover, and a cigarette-lighter
jack extends out at a ~45-degree angle. There is a large speaker
grill on the front face of the car kit, along with a small LED,
two large buttons for answering and ending calls and a smaller
grill for the mic. There is a volume rocker on one side of the
kit and an external mic connector on the other. DriveBlue does
not need to be charged: all you need to do is to plug it into
your cigarette lighter, start your car engine and it’s
ready to go.
The DriveBlue card kit supports both Handsfree
and Headset audio profiles, and provides various features that
are enabled on specific phone models. Pairing via Bluetooth is
fairly easy and quite similar on all the phones we’ve tested.
When you plug the car kit in for the first time, it will tell
you when it’s ready to pair. Once the pairing is successful,
you are ready to use the DriveBlue.
There are two ways you can take an incoming call
or make an outgoing call: use the green and red buttons on the
DriveBlue and dial numbers on your phone, or use voice dialing
and voice command features if your phone comes with these features.
To initiate a call with the buttons on the DriveBlue, you will
need to enter the phone number on your cell phone first, then
hit the green button. To take an incoming call, all you need
to do is to hit the green button and hit the red button to end
a call. The green buttons also works as redialing (hold it down
for 2 seconds to redial the last number), call waiting and transferring
calls to the handset.
Voice dialing works flawlessly on all phones with
the existing voice tags without training through DriveBlue’s
voice recognition software. If your phone is set to answer automatically
through headset or hands-free mode, the DriveBlue will pick up
the phone automatically when there is an incoming call. Depending
on the handset models you have, you can even use voice commands
such as Answer, Dial, Hang up to initiate, end or answer phone
calls without touching the phone or the car kit. If you have
certain models of Sony Ericsson mobile phones such as the T610,
you can sync with the DriveBlue, access the DriveBlue menu on
your phone and turn on features like Caller ID.
The voice quality through the speaker is amazingly
loud and clear. Use the volume control on your phone and on the
car kit to adjust the speaker volume. The voice quality coming
through the mic is pretty good as well, thanks to the Digital
Signal Processor that cancels echo and reduces noise. Just in
case you need better sound quality than what the built-in mic
provides, Parrot bundles an external microphone with a long cord
so that you can position this mic anywhere in your car. In our
test, the sound quality incoming and outgoing was plenty good
enough without the external mic. The only imperfection it has
seems to be overzealous noise reduction: if the caller on the
other end talks at the same time you are talking, the DriveBlue
mutes the caller to give you the sound advantage.
Above, the DriveBlue next to
the Sony Ericsson P800.
Below, the unit plugged into a car's cigarette lighter.
Parrot not only builds the DriveBlue, but also develops
the chipset and software updates. Since the car kit works with the feature
sets in each Bluetooth cell phone, this is a very good news for users
who might upgrade their phones. There is a long list of tested Bluetooth
mobile phones on Parrot’s
web site, which includes most of the cell phones you can buy on the
Pro: For Bluetooth mobile phone
owners who don’t want to get a professionally installed Bluetooth
hands-free solution for their car or don’t want to pay the price,
Parrot DriveBlue is a much cheaper and very useable alternative. If you
change cars often or have multiple cars, this plug-and-play solution
might just be the ideal set up. The Bluetooth pairing is easy and operations
are simple. The voice recognition software really shines through voice
dialing and voice command. The voice quality on the speaker phone is
loud and clear. The voice quality through the mic is decent, and you
have the option to use an external mic. Con: It
doesn’t have a visual display, but for the price and no professional
installation, this is the only set up you can get. The cigarette-light
jack is at an angle that might not work conveniently for all cars depending
on how much space you have in front of your cigarette lighter plug. The
noise reduction seems to be over tuned to the point of considering the
caller on the speaker as noise if you are talking at the same time.
The Parrot DriveBlue Bluetooth Car Kit is sold in electronic
and wireless stores such as Best Buy, CompUSA, AT&T wireless stores,
and soon will be sold at Fry’s and Magnolia Hi-Fi. Check DriveBlue
web site for local retailers in your State.