Parrot's Minikit Chic Bluetooth speakerphone sure looks purty with its silver and gray, flowery design. The $119.00 device, which is about the same size as an iPod Classic, comes with a built-in clip, so it's ready to slip onto your car's sun visor. When I tried it, however, the clip felt a bit chintzy and failed to pry open very wide. I had to mash it onto my visor to ensure that it stayed in place.
In addition to letting you make and receive calls in your car, the Chic goes a step further than most other Bluetooth car kits by absorbing your contacts list. The feature, which worked great in my tests, lets you store up to 1000 contacts per phone (you max out at 2500, if you have the Chic paired to more than one phone). This helps if your contact list contains hard-to-pronounce names, since you don't have to waste time trying to have your voice understood ("Call Thérèse Home"); instead you can use the device's controls to navigate to your contact's name by letter and select it.
I liked the prominent knob atop the unit--a breeze to find while keeping my eyes on the road. You turn the knob to cycle through menu options, which let you adjust the volume, locate contacts by first letter, and then initiate a call.
Immediately to the left of the knob is an area lit by a red light, which you push to reject an incoming call or hang up. And to the right is an area with a green light to accept a call, to redial (by holding it down for a couple of seconds), and to start dialling by voice. Again, these controls are easy to find by feel alone.
The Chic comes with its own voice-prompt interface, which made me feel as if I had my own virtual butler in the car at all times. For example, when you push the green-lit area, a British-sounding robotic female voice pipes up, asking, "Who do you want to call?" I would respond by stating a name from my phone book, and in my tests it understood me well, initiating calls to the right folks. "Scott cellular, call in progress," it would say, for instance. Similarly, when calls came in and the Chic's memory contained the number, it would announce the name of the caller--a huge benefit when driving.
As with all the Bluetooth speakerphones I tested, the call quality was not perfect. Overall, call recipients thought I sounded far away and muffled; occasionally my voice would fade in and out. Nevertheless, they could hear what I was saying, no problem. The level of interference was up and down, as sometimes it was barely discernible while other times call recipients could pick up a churning sound. I could hear callers' voices just fine, with practically no distortion.
The Chic does not have an indicator to let you know whether the device is on or off. This annoyed me a few times--and, of course, I ended up switching it off when I thought I was turning it on (and vice versa).
If you are looking for a hands-free way to use your cell phone in your car, the Chic lets you drive and talk without having to glance down at your handset. (You'd never do that while driving anyway, right?) So as long as your phone supports automatic transfer of your contacts--look for the automatic synchronisation feature in your phone's specs list--this device will be a big hit. If your phone doesn't support automatic synchronisation, you can use your handset's Object Push feature to send contacts from your cell phone to the Chic. (Your phone's user guide should provide specific instructions on how to send contacts this way via Bluetooth.)
Finally, if the floral look isn't your thing, Parrot also offers the plain-black Minikit Slim--the same $119 product, only without the design.
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