The Plantronics K100 In-Car Bluetooth speakerphone was launched today and I have an exclusive first look / review. Ever wish your car had an in-built speakerphone with full Bluetooth integration with your mobile phone? Ever hop in a friend's or family member's Mercedes, BMW, or Audi and watch them make a full-duplex phone call over their car's stereo speakers? Now you too can have this capability without shelling out $30,000+ for a premium vehicle. No, you too can have this feature for just
I have seen other sunvisor Bluetooth speakerphones. The first time I saw one was in SkyMall magazine, an airline magazine, while I was flying to ITEXPO. I almost bought one, but many SkyMall gadgets seem a bit "cheesy", so I really didn't trust the audio quality of the product. Plantronics on the other hand is renowned for their audio quality. So I was psyched when I found out they were coming out with a Bluetooth speakerphone for cars.
The K100 is very easy to use and sports just 3 buttons on the device plus a volume circular dial. The button are: answer/reject call button (doubles as Power button), FM button, and a dedicated mute button. The K100 has dual microphones, designed so that one filters out background noise and the second microphone will pick up your voice, ensuring superb audio quality for the remote party talking to you.
I charged up the K100 for about 45 minutes and the LED light turned off indicating it was fully charged. Next, I turned it on by pressing and holding the center button which has a handset and power icon imprinted on it. The speaker said "Power on". Then I paired it with my iPhone (says PLT_K100 under Bluetooth devices) and the unit's female voice said "Connected". It also has other verbal cues, including "Mute on","Mute off", "FM on channel 88.3 (channel # varies - 5 total)", and "Cell Terminated".
First, I went into my car parked in my garage and made a test call from a cordless phone to my iPhone. When the iPhone rang, I simply pressed the center button to answer the call. At first I couldn't hear anything coming out of the K100 speaker. I figured the echo cancellation was detecting both phones (both audio sources) in the same location and was canceling out the sound. So then I gave the cordless phone to a friend who took it back into the house. Immediately, I was able to communicate with my friend with superb audio quality considering the small speaker in the K100. Once on the call I was able to press the FM button which then said "FM on channel 88.3". You can keep pressing the FM button (holding for a couple seconds) to switch FM frequencies. The other frequencies are 88.7, 89.1, 89.5, and 89.9. I tuned in my car stereo to that frequency and was able to use the much larger speakers to have a richer audio experience.
While I was on the call I was able to mute the speakerphone pretty easily with the button on the right. Adjusting the volume was pretty easy on the K100. There's a nice ridged circular dial that spins clockwise for volume up and counter clockwise for volume down. It worked pretty well, though I noticed it took like a quarter turn for it to register a volume up or down action, so if you want to reach max volume you have to spin it a few times. I'm guessing Plantronics was trying to not make it overly sensitive to users that quickly spin the dial. Don't want to blow your car speakers after all by accidentally quickly cranking the volume! Still, I wished I could adjust this to be more or less sensitive.
I was curious the frequency response range of the K100 so next I tried to play some audio leveraging AD2P support. I launched Pandora on the iPhone and started some music. The audio was decent, but definitely missing out on the low-end and high-end frequencies. It is a small speaker after all, so I didn't expect anything more. However, here's the beauty of the K100. I turned on the FM transmitter and used my car's speakers for playing the audio. The audio was very rich, deep, and with an excellent frequency range. With the AD2P support it also supports spoken GPS navigation commands. So your favorite mobile phone GPS app can send the audio to your speakers. Thus, with the K100, you can ditch your standalone iPhone/iPod touch FM transmitter for transmitting audio to your car's FM stereo and instead use the K100 for music audio and phone call audio, as well as GPS audio. Ditto for other mobile phones, like Android phones, that can store music, have audio + GPS apps, and have Bluetooth support.
• Bluetooth V2.1 + EDR
• Dual microphones with DSP, echo/noise reduction
• Soft touch material and large tactile buttons
• FM transmitter, car charger, headset, hands-free and A2DP profiles
• Easy setup, voice prompts
• Long talk and standby time 14 hours talk time and 15 days standby time
• FM Transmitter has 5 preset frequencies 88.3, 88.7, 89.1, 89.5, and 89.9.
• Micro-USB charging
Although I tested it with an iPhone, it works just fine with other Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones of course. Talk time was a whopping 14 hours and 15 days standby, so you almost don't even need the car charger to add to the car's gadget wires and clutter. You could bring simply bring it in the house or office once per week and use any standard Micro-USB cable to charge it via your PC.
All-in-all a very versatile Bluetooth speakerphone that is perfect for any vehicle. I would recommend this product to anyone who doesn't like wearing a Bluetooth headset for hands-free talking while driving - a requirement in some states. Though if you do like 'traditional' Bluetooth headsets or view them as complimentary to a speakerphone, I highly recommend you check out the new Plantronics M100 headset I recently reviewed - or the high-end AD2P compatible Plantronics M1100 Savor headset. Now go buy a K100 and show off to your Mercedes/BMW/Audi friends/family how you can play any iPhone/iPod touch/Android audio app straight to your car's speakers - including Pandora, YouTube audio, Stitcher, and more.