01.Sudio Solar Powered Bluetooth Handsfree Speakerphone
Driving and using your mobile phone could cost you a lot in fines - or worse if you have an accident. The Sudio Solar Powered Bluetooth Handsfree Speakerphone is a relatively cheap way to have a hands-free car kit without cluttering your car’s centre console or dashboard.
It's small at just 100 x 55 x 17mm and weighs only 69g. Although the device is solar powered, as the name would suggest, it also has a lithium ion polymer (Li-Pol) battery with a claimed talk time of 12 hours (up to 720 hours in standby), which needs an initial full charge using the supplied USB cable connected to a computer, or to the car adapter provided. There's a warning to fully charge the battery before using the device and this took us around three and a half hours. However, during subsequent charges, you can do things like pairing it with your phone and downloading your phonebook. This is a good feature, because it took around 20 minutes to download our phonebook (184 contacts) and the device repeats "please wait", quite loudly if you don't turn it down, every 30 seconds while it's transferring.
It comes with a plastic cradle that attaches to your windscreen via small suction cups. This works well, but the device tends to vibrate in the cradle, resulting in an annoying rattle on anything but the smoothest roads. Also, the 'on' light is quite bright, which could be distracting at night. In contrast, the charging light is so dim that it's almost impossible to see in the outdoors and we had difficulty seeing it in our lab. The idea is that the solar cell, on the back of the device, will top up the charge in the battery as you drive, but, if you're talking, the drain will be greater than the charge and it will run down eventually.
Sound quality is similar to some of the better GPS devices we've tested, which is adequate, but noisy roads might challenge it. Unfortunately, the person listening to you won't have as good an experience, because the sound from the device is echoey and compressed. There's no support for SMS, unlike some GPS products, which can also read the message to you when it arrives.
When you receive a call, it is announced with the name from your phonebook, but you have to press the large silver multi-function button to answer it. Voice dialling works by pressing the multi-function button - after a couple of seconds there's a beep and you speak the name of the person you wish to call. Sudio repeats the name back to you for confirmation.
We measured the 10m claim for connectivity and it performed well, so having your phone in your bag or pocket shouldn't be a problem.
It's not as good as a dedicated hands-free kit for sound quality or functionality, but it's a good option if you're not a heavy phone user and want a light, portable and relatively cheap hands-free solution.