Bluetooth Car Kit Review: Griffin SmartTalk Solar Bluetooth Speaker Review
Reviewed by Tong Zhang
Editor's Rating (1-5): 3.5
What's hot: Easy to use, good features, includes solar charging option.
What's not: Voice quality isn't stellar, volume is a bit low when working with some phones.
The SmartTalk Solar Bluetooth Speaker is a part of the Griffin's DriveSafe line of products that focus on making it easier and safer to use your mobile devices while driving. The Griffin SmartTalk Solar is a Bluetooth car kit that comes with a solar charging panel and a plastic cradle to attach the speaker to your windshield. It comes with an in-car charger when you can't get sunlight. The SmartTalk Solar Bluetooth Speaker has built-in Bluetooth 2.1 and works with any smartphone with Hands-Free profile support.
The Griffin SmartTalk Solar Bluetooth Speaker is very light and compact. It measures 4.0 x 2.0 x 0.5 inches and weighs only 2.2 oz. with the cradle. The Bluetooth car kit has a simple design that makes it easy to use. The front of the car kit has three large control buttons: multifunction button for pairing/calling/power on or off, and two volume buttons. The speakerphone takes up the rest of the space on the front.There are also two separate red and blue LED lights, one above each of the volume buttons. They indicate pairing status, incoming calls, battery status and charging status.
The car kit has a micro USB charging port on the side to use with the included DC charger and a short USB cable. There is also a Mode button that handles in-call mute and unmute functions.
Pairing and Features
The Griffin SmartTalk Solar Bluetooth Speaker has Bluetooth 2.1 with multiPoint-pairing and auto-connect features. Bluetooth Pairing is painless. Just press and hold the large multi-function button, when the car kit is powered off, until the LEDs flash red and blue with an audible prompt, use your phone to search and connect with the SmartTalk Solar. You can pair the car kit with multiple devices, but it will connect with the last paired device until you reconnect to a different one. We tested the SmartTalk Solar Bluetooth Speaker with several smartphones including the iPhone 4S, the Droid RAZR MAXX, the HTC One X and more, it paired with all easily. The Bluetooth speaker has a built-in motion sensor, when you leave your car, the car kit will turn off after about 2 minutes. And when you get back into the car, it will sense the movement, wake up automatically and re-connect with the last phone it has connected with. The waking up and reconnect process doesn't take long, and if you get a call right after you get into the car, just press the multi-function button to wake it up manually.
The SmartTalk Solar Bluetooth Speaker supports Hands-free profile phones and offers popular HFP features such as last number redialing, call waiting and more. You can use the car kit for most of these call controls: press the multi-function button to take incoming calls, press it once to initiate voice dialing on most phones, double press for redialing last number, and double press during a call to pick up the second call. The controls are easy to remember and the large button makes operating the car kit in the car very easily. The dedicated mute and unmute button (Mode) comes in very handy during a call since you don't have to fiddle with the volume buttons as with many other Bluetooth car kits.
Audio Quality and Range
The audio quality is good on the SmartTalk Solar but not exceptional. The incoming voice is good with clarity and nice volume but outgoing voice is less clear when working with most phones. The DSP is a bit on the weak side with noticeable road noise and wind noise coming through the call. You can hold a smooth conversation without repeating, but your call recipients can tell you are on a Bluetooth car kit or headset thanks to the digitally processed voice via DSP. The volume is loud enough to overcome the road noise even on a highway.
We tested the Griffin SmartTalk Solar with several smarthones. The incoming call on the iPhone 4 was quite good, clear and loud, but outgoing voice was a little distorted. The incoming call on the Droid Razr Maxx had low volume even when the car kit volume was turned to max, and outgoing voice has more distortion also when compared to the iPhone 4.
The SmartTalk Solar has good range. We got about 20 feet before the voice quality starts to degrades, though since you will likely install the car kit in a set location that's close to you, the range of the car kit should work in most locations inside of a car.
The Griffin SmartTalk Solar Bluetooth speaker comes with a built-in rechargeable battery. Griffin doesn't disclose the capacity, but it's not a very large battery. You can charge it via either the included DC in-car charger or a computer via USB cable, or the small solar charging panel on the back of the speaker. It takes about an hour charging via the car charger or via a computer but takes about 9 hours to fully charge via the solar panel. Battery life isn't stellar with the SmartTalk Solar perhaps due to the small capacity. Talk time is about 2 hours and standby is about 5 days. The Bluetooth car kit has a motion sensor that turns on the unit when you get into the car and turns it off after a couple of minutes' inactivity. The ideal set up for the car kit is to install it on your windshield with the included cradle and suction cups, especially if you live and work in a mostly sunny place, letting the solar panel absorb sunlight for power throughout the day, and supplement by using the DC charger or your computer if your car doesn't see much sunlight.
If you are looking for a thin and light car kit with decent voice quality and constant charging, the SmartTalk Solar provides that. The built-in solar panel can charge your car kit while your car is parked outside and exposed to sunlight, or you can charge it with other power sources. The car kit is very easy to pair and connect, and large buttons are easy to operate while driving. The voice quality is good but not great when working with most phones, but volume is good in general.
-Griffin SmartTalk Solar Bluetooth Car Kit -DC charger and a short USB cable -A cradle with suction cups -Additional suction cups -Quick start manual