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Reviews

Helium Digital HDBT-110 Bluetooth Speakerphone

By Brandon Miniman October 19, 2007, 12:00 am

INTRODUCTION

    I don’t use a Bluetooth headset, and I probably never will unless some hardware company decides to integrate one into a phone. Until then, having a Bluetooth speakerphone in my car is necessity, as driving a manual car while talking on the phone isn’t particularly safe. A relatively new offering from Helium Digital claims to provide an easy to install and use Bluetooth speakerphone with good battery life and a clean design. How did it do in real world testing? Read on for the review!

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WHAT’S HOT

    The HDBT-110 sports a pretty solid list of features. It has a built-in 900mAh battery, allowing for 10 hours of talk, and 500 hours of standby (which comes out to about 2.5 weeks). How does this compare to other Bluetooth audio devices? The average talk time for a Bluetooth headset is around 7 hours, with standby times of about 250 hours, so the HDBT-110 performs well in this department. It’s also got a very unique design – much better-looking than any other Bluetooth speakerphone that I’ve tested. It claims to have echo and noise cancellation, but, as you’ll discover later in the review, I found it to be particularly lacking the latter. Finally, the range of use is 10m, although the range of the microphone is MUCH less, requiring you to place the unit very close to your mouth in the car. Other features include: pairing with up to 8 devices and voice dialing capability.

SETUP

    Getting this to pair with my AT&T Tilt was quick and easy. Installing the unit into my car was easy as well. You have two options: the magnetic visor clip or the vent clip. I used the visor, so that the unit would be kept out of the way. Installing the device onto my visor involved me sliding a metal hook onto the visor, and pressing the unit against the visor so that the magnetic contacts would match. Very easy, and secure!

PRODUCT FEATURES

   

Here’s how the unit looks inside its packaging.

Box contents include: the speakerphone, a vent mounting system, a visor mounting system, USB cable for charging, a car charger for the USB plug, and a user guide.

The unit is very attractive – it looks like a flying saucer (hence the title of the review!). There are just three buttons on the front: +, -, and phone. On the other side, there is a power button which resides next to the microphone.

It looked great installed in my Mini Cooper. Note the blue glow – this is the indicator light that tells you when the unit is on, and when it’s paired with your device properly.

    It was important to me that my phone would easily re-pair with the speakerphone when I got into my car. With this unit, you either tap any button on the speakerphone to get the pairing to occur, or, when a call comes in, it will pair automatically. The phone button is used to answer and hang up calls, and pressing and holding the button will allow you to transfer a call to your handset, should you be exiting you car.

    I actually wish the range wasn’t as good as it is. It’s got a Bluetooth range of 10m, which is silly because the microphone will only pick up audio within a few feet of the device. So whenever I would go to place a call in my bedroom, which is "within 10m" of my car downstairs in the garage, the phone would "see" the speakerphone, and I would have to turn of Bluetooth to get the handset to use the call.

HELP SUPPORT

    Ease of use was pretty good on this unit. Seldom did I have to refer to the manual.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

    The unit is compatible with any compatible Bluetooth device that supports the headset and handsfree profiles.

BUGS AND WISHES

   
The HDBT-110 claims to have noise cancellation and echo elimination programs built in. In my testing, whenever a call came through, it meant that I had to put my windows up and turn off my music, or the person on the other end wouldn’t be able to hear me. Even if I had the A/C or heat working, that proved to be too much background noise for the HDBT-110. The echo cancellation worked fine, but the noise cancellation needs to be improved in a big way.

    Included in the box is a car charger, but no home charger. The device can charge via a USB port on any computer, but what if I just want to use wall power? Or, what if I’m on the road, and all I have is a laptop? I don’t want to drain the battery on my laptop for the sake of powering up my speakerphone.

    And finally, the unit could benefit from a higher level of volume, especially when there is road noise or other audible distractions. I had the volume on maximum at all times, and I found myself leaning towards the speakerphone, and even sometimes taking it off the visor and placing it near my ear, to hear what the caller was saying.

PURCHASING

   
You can buy the HDBT-110 direct from Helium Digital via their website for about $90 CAN, or about $92 USD.

PROS


  • Small, light, and cool-looking

  • Great battery life
  • Easy installation

CONS


  • Speaker not loud enough

  • Noise cancellation is weak
  • No wall charger
Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What do these ratings mean?

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OVERALL IMPRESSION

    This was one of the best Bluetooth speakerphones I’ve tried, but it still leaves a bit to be desired. I think they have enough room to increase the battery size (and thus make the unit bigger), for the sake of having more volume and a stronger level of noise cancellation. To have to silence everything in my car when a call comes in is just not reasonable; hopefully these issues will be addressed in a future iteration of this product.




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