Bluetooth headsets might make talking on your mobile phone while driving legal, but they're not always comfortable to wear, and most of them look ridiculous. There is, however, a better solution -- a Bluetooth hands-free car kit. Parrot has made a number of these, but its latest -- the Parrot Minikit -- is one of its best to date.
The Parrot Minikit is compact and has an attractive design that doesn't suffer from the same cheap-looking plastic construction of its competitors. It comes with a very practical clip that lets you attach it to your car's sun visor, which means that it sits right over your head.
The advantages of this are that it's out of the way of the dashboard and it's better hidden from thieves. It also makes phone conversations easier to hear as the speaker is closer to your ears. It works well, and the sound-processing technology ensured that no-one we spoke to complained about feedback, despite the fact there's no pull-out microphone.
The audio quality during calls is excellent. Not only is the sound loud, but it's also clear, which is rarer than you might think with hands-free car kits. It can also be used on a desk, which comes in handy if you can't hold your phone or want to include other people in a discussion.
You pair your phone by searching for a Bluetooth device and then selecting the Minikit. You then need to enter the pairing code (which in this case is 1234, not 0000). Once paired, your phone's functions are controlled via the navigation knob and call keys.
The controls are well laid out and accessing them is relatively easy. Depending on your phone you can set some handsets up to answer automatically so that you don't need to touch anything.
The Minikit supports up to 150 voice tags for voice dialling. In order to use this service you need to send the contacts via Bluetooth to the Minikit and then record the voice tags using the built-in microphone. You can also record keywords to specify different numbers for the same person -- like 'John, home'.
Battery life is good, with the Minikit lasting for around 14 days on standby and giving you 10 hours of talk time.
The voice recognition didn't always work during our testing, particularly if the radio was turned up loud. Another issue was that the buttons weren't always easy to find, as the Minikit is placed over your head and therefore out of sight.
The menu system was confusing at times and we found that it was all too easy to accidentally change the language when we were trying to do something else. Using the navigation knob does take some getting used to and, while we like the design, a small display would have been useful.
The sun visor clip makes the Minikit really easy to install, and the audio quality during calls is loud and clear. The long battery life means you don't have it connect it to the cigarette lighter for power if you find the cable is getting in the way.
Overall, we were really impressed with the Parrot Minikit and recommend it to anyone looking for a good hands-free car kit.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield