Using the Parrot was easy. When I turned it on, my K800i just picked it up and entered headset mode. One disadvantage of a speakerphone is that others in the vicinity can hear your call. If that’s a problem you just press in the green button during the call and the Minikit says the word ‘Discreet mode’ and switches the call back to the phone. Press it again and it returns to the Minikit.
However, to achieve the extensive standby times, the Minikit shuts itself down when not in active use, so if you go out of range and then return, you have to turn it on again. The range of 10 metres is more solid that most devices that claim this. In fact, this caused problems as on occasion if I found myself too close to the car the call would be picked up by the Minikit and I’d have to divert it to the phone to talk.
Parrot has designed into the Minikit features that let you keep your hands off the phone while driving as much as possible. For example, you may need to enter numbers to select menu options, say in Voicemail or in if you phone a company. By pressing and then turning the dial during a call the Minikit reads out numbers, which you can just about hear in the background. Press the dial to accept and it sends thee DTMFs (Dual-Tome Multi Frequency) instructions to the phone. It’s a good feature but I’m not sure it’s actually any safer than pressing the keypad on the phone if it’s properly mounted in a car kit.
Another cool feature is how the Parrot deals with voice control. Firstly, you have to get the Minikit to recognise your commands by setting up generic commands for Home, Work and Mobile. However, though it says Mobile in the manual, the word you’re asked to repeat is actually Cellular – A US term not used in the UK. Once you’ve set up these commands you have to beam the contact from your phone to the Minikit via Bluetooth. It can store up to 150 of these Voice Tags. To get the Minikit to ask you to state a name you press the green button once, then speak – and it then repeats it back to you. Setting up is a bit of a laborious process but it’s worth it for frequently dialled numbers and I found it worked flawlessly.
As for voice quality, Parrot claims that it uses complex signal processing algorithms to provide echo cancellation to ensure that your voice can be heard clearly by callers. In fact, the blurb states that these are the result of three years' development work by Parrot's design office. I wasn’t aware of this factoid while testing but fortunately, I could always be heard clearly by the other party, even while driving. The 2W speaker is pretty loud and though it could have been a touch more precise I never had a problem making anybody out.
The Parrot Minikit did everything it claimed and efficiently. It’s not the world's most stylish bit of kit, but it’s practical, effective and reasonably priced and for that it earns a recommended award.