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Bluetrek Surface Sound Compact - Bluetrek Surface Sound Compact
Perhaps the most interesting thing here, though, is the bit that enables this hands-free kit to be so slim – its speaker technology. Instead of the usual cone-based driver, a large, flat-panel speaker dominates the front of the Surface Sound Compact. It's not quite as elegant as the vibrating panel 'speaker' used by the Parrot Minikit Slim. It's surrounded with ugly black rubber trim, has a dull grey, textured surface, and it's a larger device in terms of its overall surface area.
But in terms of sound quality this flat-panel speaker delivers. It goes very loud and even in a very noisy cockpit, with the windows open, I found I could hear the person on the other end of the line quite clearly. The microphone, too, which features echo cancellation, works well - delivering your voice in a clear manner to the person you're speaking to, though inevitably it's not quite like using a phone clamped to your ear. Phone call recipients reported a slightly boxy sound quality.
The Surface Sound can't quite match the Parrot on innovation. It doesn't have its own text-to-speech and speech recognition engine, for instance. But since many modern smartphones come with their own voice command and recognition software, for a lot of users that won't be an issue. I tested it with a couple of Windows Mobile smartphones that used Voice Commander software, and dialling contacts by voice worked very smoothly indeed.
Nevertheless, it does have the basics covered. Battery life from the integrated rechargeable lithium polymer unit is respectable at 15 hours talk-time and up to 22 days standby. And the box has all the extras you need. There's a 12v car charger - a modular one, usefully, so you could use it to charge other non mini-USB mobile devices when you're not topping up your Compact. Plus there's a mono earbud for connecting to the device's 3.5mm audio output if you want a bit of privacy.
Exciting is not a word I'd ever use to describe a Bluetooth hands-free kit, but the Surface Sound Compact is more interesting than most, and it's well-put together to boot. It's unobtrusive, sensibly designed and the quality of the speaker and microphone, most importantly, is fine.
It may not be the prettiest thing in the world, but its price - at £30 it's a considerable £26 cheaper than the Parrot - does make it attractive in another, more practical, way.
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