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If you are a driver then you will probably know that it is now illegal to hold and use your phone whilst driving, if caught by the police you can expect points on your licence and a fine - too many points and you potentially run the risk of being banned and of course, more importantly there's the road safety aspect to consider too. Technological advancements in mobile phone development over the years have seen manufacturers incorporate various ways of getting round actually having to physically hold a phone to speak to a caller with the majority of phones these days having a loudspeaker function. This is all well and good and a handy thing to have but practically speaking isn't ideal when driving; road noise and where to actually position the phone to comfortably have a conversation don't lend themselves well to driving and speaking to someone on loudspeaker (which, truth be told, it not really all that loud anyway) can make for a frustrating experience.
Because we do a lot of driving during the caravan season and there are times when one of us will stay at the caravan while the other comes home for a few days we wanted something that would enable us to speak to one another plus friends and family on the phone whilst passing the time during the drive home. It was during a conversation with a friend about this when he recommended the subject of this review; the Parrot CK3100 Advance Bluetooth Car Kit - he has one in his works van which allowed him to keep in contact with colleagues and his manager and as he had fitted his own he said if we bought one he would fit it to our car, so that's what we did.
**So what is it?**
The CK3100 is a Bluetooth car kit which when attached to the stereo of your car allows you to take incoming and make outgoing telephone calls. By synchronising your mobile phone to the actual device itself it uses the car's speakers to allow you to hear your caller, a microphone is supplied which picks up your voice and essentially the 2 components allow you to talk hands free whilst your phone is safely away in your pocket or bag. The LCD display unit of the CK3100 can be fixed to either the dashboard or an air vent in close proximity to the driver's side of the car to allow easy access and it's this which acts the same as a mobile phone's screen display. Its uncomplicated design consisting of only 2 buttons (Green and Red) on either side of the central dial makes this an easy to use device which allows you to stay in contact with anyone whilst driving.
**A little box of tricks**
I'll cover the installation of the kit later in this review but for now will concentrate on the actual unit itself as it's this that contains all of the magic. When installed the LCD display unit becomes an extension of your mobile phone and to use it you are instructed to switch your phone's Bluetooth on and use the search function to find the CK3100 which takes only a matter of seconds. Once your phone has found the Parrot it prompts you to synch the two devices together and copies your phonebook information along with the details of your last made and received calls from your phone into its own memory. By using the central dial of the unit itself you can scroll through the names of your contacts and if you want to ring them you simply press the green call button, it really is a simple as that. Alternatively should you receive a call whilst driving either the number calling is displayed on the LCD screen or the caller's name should you already have their details in your phonebook and you can either then choose to accept the call via the green button or reject it with the red button.
Because the control unit is connected to your car's stereo it automatically mutes any music that may be playing at the time of accepting an incoming call which I think is rather clever and as the central dial acts as the volume control so you can select the sound level that is right for you. You can synch up to three phones at any one time with the control unit itself should you have other people in your car with you who want to use the system and can even set your contacts to voice recognition dialling. All in all it's a clever little device which packs plenty of features into such a small box.
It's all well and good having a hands free kit as long as the sound quality is clear and the CK3100 excels in this area. In my experience when I receive a call there are no crackles or distortions on the line and depending of course on how good your car stereo's speakers are you should find that you can hold a conversation without any concerns whatsoever. I have both made and received calls on mine and have not had reasons to grumble, I can clearly hear what is being said to me and the person at the other end has been able to hear me without the need for me to repeat myself. Positioning the microphone is an important consideration as you want it to be able to pick up your voice but it shouldn't be too close to you as this can cause a distortion and echo for the person you are speaking to. In our car we have the microphone positioned near to the top of our windscreen and this seems to work out fine for us, if the microphone is too far away then there could be a chance that whoever you speak to won't be able to hear you clearly so before you fix it into place I would recommend trying different positions before making a final decision. Similarly you want the control box to be in an easy to reach place for the driver of the car and because it comes without a bulky cradle you are free to fix it wherever you want, two strips of Velcro are supplied to hold the unit in place and as the unit itself isn't that heavy it easily fixes firmly to the spot you decide on. As already mentioned we have ours by the driver's side air vent so that it is on the right hand sand of the steering wheel, this seemed the logical place to put ours and was the best place for us.
The only negative aspect as far as I can see about owning a device of this nature is the actual installation of it into a car. I'm not technically minded as mentioned in past reviews so to say the CK3100 is easy to fit would be a bit of a lie in all honesty, there are wires aplenty with the actual unit itself and fitting it should be done by someone who knows what they are doing. Fortunately my friend loves messing around with cars and knows his way around the electrics so to him this was quite an easy process. I'll try to cover the basics as I understand them here but this won't be very technical and the actual fitting is probably more complicated then I'm going to make it sound but from what I could gather the unit itself needs to be connected to the back of your cars stereo via the various wires it comes complete with. There is a handbook and installation guide supplied which explains what the various leads are for and how they are connected and if you are someone who knows about these things then I would imagine it wouldn't be too difficult to follow, my friend seemed to have no problems with it so it is obviously as user friendly as it can be and from taking the system out to the box to synchronising my phone it took a little over 45 minutes to complete the job.
Depending on the make of your car you may have to purchase a separate adaptor to make the CK3100 compatible for your vehicle, our car is a Vauxhall Meriva and did need the adaptor which I ended up buying from EBay. Check with Halfords or whoever will be fitting the kit would be my advice, because my friend knew about this from when he fitted his own he was able to let me know so I thought it a point worth mentioning here. Also bear in mind that you may need a pair of stereo keys to enable you to remove your stereo to get access to the back of it, these can be expensive if you buy from Halfords or similar, I managed to get a pair from EBay for a couple of pounds so there are cheaper alternatives available - again do your own research on this especially if your stereo is one of the inbuilt, factory fitted ones which seem to be found in newer cars these days.
The CK3100 Advance Bluetooth Car kit from Parrot cost me just under £90.00 from amazon and for that price I think it offers great value for money. It allows me to make and receive phone calls whilst staying on the right side of the law when I'm driving and should I be needed in an emergency I know that I can be contacted straight away. The majority of newer phones available now are Bluetooth enabled so there should be no problems as far as synchronicity is concerned but as this would be a considered purchase for a lot of people I would recommend you do your own research as to whether it would be compatible for both your own car and phone.
Because the unit isn't quite universal for all makes and models of car there may be an additional adapter needed and making sure you have full access to your car's stereo does need to be a consideration. As far as how the unit operates it really is easy to use, you can clearly hear anyone who calls you and they should have no problems in hearing you, ours has already had lots of use and will continue to be used whenever needed and it is something I would recommend to anyone who is looking for a device of this nature.
Four stars from me considering that additional components may be needed but other than that the Parrot CK3100 should definitely be one to consider should you be on the lookout for an in-car phone kit. Thanks for reading my review, please note that this may also appear on ciao under my username.
I had one of these fitted into my company car around 3 years ago. The main reason I opted for the Parrot instead of the others available at the time was that you can connect 2 different phoned to the Parrot and can switch between the 2 handsets very easily. I have a work phone & a personal phone so this was a very important feature for me.
The second feature which particularly drew me to this phone is that it is quite fuss free to fit I.e there are no screws drilled into the dash-mine is mounted underneath an air vent, so there is no need to drill into the dash.
The actual unit is very easy to use. Once installed the only components you see are the main unit & a tiny microphone which is mounted somewhere at head height.
The main unit has a small display & 3 lonely buttons; 1knob for scrolling & 2 further buttons which act as a red & green button i.e make call, terminate call, go back etc..
Once paired with your phone(s) the Parrot will automatically sync itself when it is connected to the phone, so as you add or remove contacts, so will the Parrot. Once synced all of your contacts are accessible via the main control unit, so there is no need for you to have your phone in your hand at all.
You can also store voice dials for up to 20 contacts, which again means you are more focussed on driving than making or receiving calls. When you scroll through the menu it will tell you where you are e.g. "Main Menu, Settings etc." which means you are not always having to look at the display.
The sound quality of the Parrot is very good, although this may have more to do with the stereo you connect it to than the Parrot itself.
The only small issues I have had are that the second phone I have is an iPhone, and all of a sudden this has stopped connecting with the Parrot, which is quite a common issue. Whether this is an issue with the Parrot or the phone I am not sure. Sometimes the unit freezes up too, which is a pain as there is no on/off button and the only way you can re-set it is to turn off the ignition.
Overall, a few couple of years ago this unit was the best available. It is still good at its job, but I'm sure there are better units available by now.
what a great product! It doesn't take up a big part of your dashboard like other, older handsfree kits. It is very easy to use and, it also has the great advantage that it works with all bluetooth enabled phones which lets face it, is most phones nowadays. When using this, you don't have to wear an unsightly contraption on your ear but. Another great advantage of this niftly little gadget is that, your phone can be laying at the botton of your handbag but, as long as your bluetooth is turned on, it will still work. The parrot also can work using voice commands so therefor, it is totally handsfree. Older, chunkier handsfree kits charged your phone while you were driving and this doesn't but, in the current recession it may be a good thing as it won't raise your fuel consumption. But, overall this is a very good product and, it makes sure that you don't get a fine or worse, have a collision. I think this is great value for money and, I couldn't recomend it more.
I have this kit fitted into my car and i find it brilliant, connects every time to my phone without fail, mutes the car radio when there is an incoming call, and tells me on the screen who it is thats calling. its ideal when driving as i can use the buttons on the parrot display unit to scroll through the phonebook to start a call, i can view call register also. sound quality is very good as it comes out of all the speakers in the front of the car, people speaking to me on the phone have also said how clear i sound and even at high speeds it never distorts. i have friends who have higher spec hands free kits, costing £300+ and most of the features go unused, why would you need a picture of the person being displayed whilst driving, its taking hands free too far. I had mine fitted for £139 in a car audio shop in Manchester, for that money its not worth risking getting a ticket, i couldnt live without it now!