Many handhelds these days are coming
with Bluetooth built right in. The situation is different with
desktop and laptop systems, however. With those, you usually have
to add on Bluetooth functionality. The easiest way to do that is
with a Bluetooth radio module that plugs into your desktop or laptop
USB port. There are many manufacturers that make these USB
Bluetooth modules. You would probably think there isn’t much
difference between them. That is where you would be wrong.
Bluetooth is all about “profiles.” Profiles determine which types
of devices your computer can connect with. For instance, if you
want to use your computer with your cellular phone, you need the Dial
Networking, the File Transfer, and the Information Synchronization
profiles. If those are not supported, you will not be able to do
as much with
your devices as you would otherwise be able to do. It may
surprise you to know that the profile support differs widely from one
USB Bluetooth module to the next. In the case of desktop and
laptop Bluetooth, more supported profiles is, without fail, better.
The Bluetake BT007Si is one of a
pair of adapters from Bluetake Technologies. The BT007Si (which
we used for this review) supports a 100 meter range while the BT009Si
supports only a 10 meter range. The two are colored differently
to show that difference, but, otherwise, they have identical
features. These Bluetake modules supports Serial
Port, Advanced Audio Distribution (high-quality audio), (cellular/PDA)
Headset, Dial Up Networking, LAN access, Human Interface Device (for
keyboards and mice), Basic Imaging (picture transfer), Hardcopy Cable
Replacement (printing), Personal Area Networking, Synchronization,
Personal Information Exchange, File Transfer, and Fax profiles.
It uses frequency hopping and spread-spectrum technology to work around
interference. The software is compatible with Windows 98SE, Me,
2000, XP and Macintosh OS X. The firmware and drivers are also
user-upgradable to add future support for new features.
The BT007Si/BT009Si comes with IVT Corporations Blue
software. This software is highly configurable but still very
easy to navigate. In addition to providing the breadth of
services noted above, Blue Soleil also provides depth. For
instance, instead of supporting just one pair of COM ports (for
incoming and outgoing serial data), Blue Soleil supports three
pairs. Instead of supporting just one Personal Area Network
connection, it supports two.
Setup is a two-step process:
You install the software…
First, you select which of
the six supported languages should be used for the user interface.
install the software, view the manual or setup guide, or visit the
Bluetake web site.
To complete the
installation, you will be asked to restart your computer.
Once you have
re-booted the computer, you simply plug the
module into any available USB port. The module is
“hot-swappable.” You can remove the module to use the USB port
for other purposes and, when you plug it back in Bluetooth
functionality will restart automatically.
The box is just
(clockwise from top-left) the module, the software CD-ROM, the warranty
card, and the Quick Setup Guide.
itself is very small…
..and takes up
very little extra space when plugged into your laptop or desktop USB
When active, the blue side panels flash every second.
main screen of the Blue Soleil software shows the services at
the top. (Look at all of them!) Placing the cursor on any
service with display its name. The laptop/desktop is shown as the
“sun” in the center. Placing the cursor on it will show its name
and Bluetooth MAC address. “Orbiting” around the sun are any
discoverable devices. These first appear, labled with their
Bluetooth MAC address as shown.
on any device will query the device. It will switch to displaying
the device name and highlighting any services which can be used by that
device. The screen above shows that my hx4700 iPAQ is set up to
use the Personal Area Networking, Serial Port, File Transfer, and
Object Push services. Note that it is also displaying the
Personal Area Network IP Address at the bottom right.
You can start a
connection through one of the services by right-clicking on the service
icon to pop up an options menu (shown above) or by double-clicking on
the service icon to start the default option.
service is connected, a dotted line connects the device and the
You will also
see pop-up messages indicating connections, disconnections, and other
service event-related information.
Blue Soleil program also has a Service display mode which shows
each of the services the computer can provide to other devices. The services
that are currently active (started), are highlighted in yellow. When
a service is connected to another device, it is highlighted in green.
on a service icon will call up the Service Properties dialog.
Each of the available services has a tab in the dialog with options for
that service. In some cases, like the Bluetooth COM port shown
above, the only option is whether the service is automatically started
when Bluetooth starts (when the module is inserted or when the computer
can also connect to services using your Pocket PC. In this case, you will
see a list of services that the Bluetake module provides that are
supported by your Pocket PC’s Bluetooth implementation. You can
select different services for different uses.
Network Service can be used to browse or stream data from a networked
resource on your desktop/laptop.
can also do ActiveSync over a Bluetooth Serial port. In order for this to
work, you will also have to setup ActiveSync on the desktop/laptop to
receive data via the incoming Bluetooth serial port (COM6 above) of the
Bluetake module. Bluetooth ActiveSync is faster than wired serial
or USB syncing but slower than WiFi or wired network synching.
combination, you can easily connect your desktop/laptop to virtually
any Bluetooth device available. The only case where you would
need anything else is with the portable keyboards that use the Serial
Port profile and an extra driver. You would need that extra
driver for any Bluetooth implementation.
The BT007Si comes with a printed
Quick Setup Guide as well as a full User Manual in Adobe Acrobat (PDF)
format on the CD-ROM. The Quick Setup Guide is sufficient to get
the software and hardware properly installed. The setup software
guides you through the process well. The User Manual is very
complete and well-written. It includes such information as which
services act as clients, servers, or either. It also has a
thourough explanation of each service, how it is used, and examples of
connecting and using devices with it.
In addition to the Setup Guide and User Manual, the
CD-ROM includes a link that will take you directly to the Bluetake web site.
From the web site you can download the
latest software and drivers for your module. There is also a Frequently Asked Questions
section on the web site, but it does not currently have any FAQs
for the BT007Si product. The FAQ page does, however, have a link to directly query the
Bluetake Technical Support staff.
As mentioned elsewhere the BlueTake
USB module comes in two varieties: The BT007Si operates at
distances up to 100 meters (about 300 feet). The BT009Si operates
at a shorter maximum distance of 10 meters (about 30 feet).
Pocket PCs only operate at the shorter 10 meter distance so, if you are
getting the Bluetooth module just to connect with your Pocket PC, there
isn’t any reason to go with the longer range. Get the
BT009Si. If, however, you have other Bluetooth devices that
operate at the greater range, the BT007Si is the module to get.
The range is the only difference between the two models. The
software and profile support is identical.
support Bluetooth version 1.2 and USB version 1.1 (or higher).
The CD-ROM includes drivers that work with Windows XP/2000/Me/98SE or
Macintosh OS X 10.2.6 or later. The hardware is driven by Apple
Bluetooth software on the Mac and can be driven either by the Blue
Soleil software or Windows XP SP2 Bluetooth Stack on the PC.
These combinations support the Bluetooth Serial Port, Dial up
Networking, File Transfer, Human Interface Device, Hardcopy
Replacement, Object Push, and Synchronization profiles. In
addition, the Windows combination also supports the LAN Access, FAX,
Personal Area Networking, Advanced Audio Distribution, and Basic
Imaging profiles. (Those last are not supported on the Mac.)
BUGS AND WISHES
The only issue I had with the BlueTake product is with the Blue Soleil
software. As stated elsewhere, the software is terriffic in
almost every way. The one issue is that it implements Bluetooth
in a way that is partially invisible to the Windows operating
system. This is only an issue with Windows XP SP2, where
has added support for Bluetooth devices. Blue Soleil implements
several Bluetooth Serial Ports that are visible within the Soleil
program itself and also appear as available serial ports for ActiveSync
and other serial operations. They do not, however, appear in the
operating systems list of Bluetooth COM Ports. This may seem like
a minor issue, but one repercussion of it is that, when you make use of
the multiple user capabilities of Windows XP, the Bluetooth Serial
Ports are only available to one user. I would have liked to be
able to set up one Bluetooth port for my Pocket PC to connect and
another for my wife to connect, each within our own user space.
To be sure, I can not do this with any other Bluetooth implementation
that I am aware of, because they lack the ability to pre-select a
device/COM port connection as you can do with Blue Soleil’s “Quick
Connect” option. However, Blue Soliel can not do it either as it
does not allow more than one user access to the Bluetooth COM ports at
the same time.
You can, of course, use the Windows XP SP2 Stack to
control the module, but then you lose the greate user interface of the
Blue Soleil software. In addition, the CD-ROM installs both the
software and the drivers. There is no option to install just the
drivers if you wanted to use only XP SP2’s built-in support.
I took points off on the “Ease of use” score for
Support for the
widest variety of profiles
Small size (easily
(both hardware and software)
- Very affordable price
integrated with Microsoft’s Windows XP Bluetooth support
|Ease of Use|
What do these
The Bluetake hardware and IVT software is, collectively, the best
Bluetooth implementation I have seen. The breadth of Bluetooth
profile support and the depth of multiple services in the same profile
make this the Bluetooth implementation to meet or beat. Couple
that with the easy installation and the competition really has their
work cut out for them. The only issue I had with the product was
the difficulty in using the provided software with multiple users in
Windows XP. That is something to be aware of, but it is certainly
not a “stopper” in my estimation.
If you are in the market to implement Bluetooth on
your laptop or desktop system, you owe it to yourself to check out he
Bluetake BT007Si/BT009Si adapter.