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I used to have a Company car, with the phone all plumbed in and ready to use. However once I bought my own car I quickly realised that I did not want either the expense nor the permanence from a fully fitted job. The idea of something plugged into my ear with aerials like a Dalek had simply no appeal, so I had to start searching for a smarter alternative.
My first idea was to use the car Sat Nav (a TomTom 720) which includes the ability to download the phonebook and make calls. This was all fine and dandy except for the fact that I don't need this aid when I know where I am going; so it lives in the boot most of the time! No my needs were for something that was discreet, had sufficient clarity and volume, that I could simply leave in-situ....
I found the Venturi Mini through Amazon, posted straight to me for £55.95 which satisfies most of my needs.
It's a cute little gadget which plugs directly into the 12v cigar- lighter type socket on the dash. A quick twist with the locking ring and its in place so zero installation, its my type of gadget. Its discreet enough and it looks part of the car. I actually leave mine in place most of the time, although it would be very simple to remove. It only requires Bluetooth connectivity and an FM transmitter (the car stereo radio) to work, so no other wires or fiddly bits.
The business end of the unit has a small display screen with a multi-function scroller button underneath. At the base of the unit are the call select and call end type buttons we are familiar with on most mobile phones. The settings and on/off key are to the side of the unit. The whole front face of this gadget measures approx 4cm wide by 8cm long with a the plug behind.
It offers true hands free phone functionality by providing decent quality audio via the car speakers and clear voice transmission capability via its own built-in microphone. There is also the option for remote control of your phonebook with dialling activation directly from the unit. To enable this to happen a free FM frequency needs to be selected and stored on both this unit and the car radio. It can cope with up to 4 such frequencies. This is probably the most difficult bit and I have yet to find a frequency where there is not a slight hissing, but at road speeds this is not actually noticeable. Frustratingly frequencies which are clear in the daytime become riddled with the sounds in the evenings and nights and vice versa.
Once paired with the phone, (usual Bluetooth instructions to follow displayed on the units little screen), the gadget remembers the phone each time the ignition is switched on, and automatically disconnects when it's switched off.
In addition to transmitting via the radio, Caller ID and the phone book entries are also shown on the radio display when the unit is in use. In practical terms if you are listening to the radio and a call comes in, you need only take two actions; one to answer the call by pressing the answer button on the Venturi Mini and the other is to switch to the selected frequency on the radio, You can then conduct a conversation with much the same clarity and comfort that the more expensive plumbed in units can offer. I also find that I need to increase the radio volume whilst using the phone, or it is too quiet, but this is simply done by turning up the radio volume knob, then remembering to reset once you have finished, before your ears are blasted!!
My only criticism of the unit is how fiddly each entry in the phone book is to select. This needs to be done using the scroller button immediately below the little display screen on the unit, first selecting the alphabetic grouping, then finally selecting the individual entry from this grouping. Inevitably driving with one hand on the wheel whilst fiddling at this level of precision is a challenge, so probably not to be recommended unless stationary. However if you know you have to make a call it's easy to get the entry pre-selected and displayed on the radio before moving off, then simply using the call function on the unit to activate the call once you are ready.
For anyone who wants to stream music directly from the phone to the radio or use a portable music player, this unit will support this either via Bluetooth or through its own audio input jack. I have never actually needed to try this so cannot comment on how effective this might be.
However the final feature which I find useful is the built in USB charger socket which allows you to connect the phone for charging as needed. Given how hungry Bluetooth can be on the phone battery , this is very useful as you only need the one 12v socket to both charge the phone and utilise this FM transmitter unit.
Finally, Parrot a more familiar brand in the car phone kit market offer a similar product (PMK5800) at about £70 which may be worthy of your consideration. For myself, I am content with the solution I have found and it keeps me legal whilst chattering on.................
The Venturi Mini is a new and unique product combining Bluetooth Music streaming with Hands-Free calling and USB style charging. The integrated FM RDS Transmitter streams stereo audio through the in-car sound system for music playback and hands-free. The Venturi Mini simply connects to the cigarette lighter socket in the vehicle. The integrated OLED display and high performance microphone enables high quality crystal clear hands-free with the received audio coming through the in car speakers. Music Streaming Music can be streamed from a mobile phone using the Bluetooth A2DP profile or a portable music player can be connected via Bluetooth A2DP or directly through the audio in stereo jack. Hands-Free Bluetooth Audio and Phonebook Providing high quality audio via the car speakers and crystal clear voice via built-in microphone as well as remote control of your phonebook with dialing activation from the smart interface on the Venturi Mini. Bluetooth Wireless Technology Featuring Bluetooth v2.0 & state of the art DSP technology for clear hands-free audio and advanced music streaming from your Bluetooth enabled phone or portable music player via smart interface on the Venturi Mini. FM Transmitter with RDS/RBDS Sends caller ID and other information to the car radio display for simple and easy call management. The phonebook contents are also displayed on the car radio display along with call status all controlled via smart interface on the Venturi Mini. Audio In and Out For complete flexibility the Venturi Mini allows you to connect any device to the audio-in and supplies audio-out for a direct connection to the vehicle stereo system or other audio devices. Built In Charger To keep your phone battery and other devices fully charged on the move with the built in 5V, 500mA USB style charger.