More and more cars have got Bluetooth car kits built right in from the word go but there are still some models that don’t have access to this short-range wireless technology. It’s possible that you could get by answering on the go and attempting to steer and talk at the same time but that’s just inviting disaster. A solution is called for and Parrot have got a particularly elegant one on the form of the Minikit Neo car kit.
It may look like a wireless mouse, if you wanted to attach a wireless mouse to a car visor for some reason, and it works almost like one. In places, that is. The Minikit Neo uses fairly sturdy plastic construction to house a small speaker, three buttons and a voice recognition system, as well as the Knob. Parrot calls the Knob a jogwheel but since it does almost all of the setup work, it deserves the capital letter.
The Minikit Neo is able to pair with up to two smartphones at once, either through the standard Bluetooth process or via NFC. If both devices are present, the phone that has seniority takes precedence. Once paired, the Neo asks for permission to scoop up your contacts list and call history and giving it access is a very good idea. That’s the basic setup done and using the thick plastic clip to attach it to a nearby visor is all you really need to do.
If you are keen on getting a bit more advanced, the Knob is your friend. The Knob controls everything. Turning it to one side takes you through the various options, from volume settings to voice recognition setup to the Magic Words (‘please’ isn’t one of them) to the aforementioned Dual Mode, which supports two phones. Making changes is a matter of clicking in the Knob to select an option and then either turning it (to cycle through your phonebook) or, in the case of some of the settings, clicking the red or green buttons to complete setup.
Once the Minikit Neo is customised to your satisfaction, there is just the matter of answering and making calls. Like the average phone, it’s possible to answer a call with the green button and reject it with the red one. The Neo will inform you, via voice prompt, who is calling beforehand so taking the call is just a matter of lifting your hand from the wheel for a moment. But that’s not really hands-free and that’s where the Magic Words system comes in.
Users can also accept or reject calls just by saying the words ‘accept’ or ‘reject’, assuming the Magic Words option is active. This can also be used to make calls, a feature that is activated by saying ‘Minikit’ and then responding to its confirmation by saying the name of the contact that you’d like to reach. As it appears in your phone’s address book, of course, it doesn’t know your friend Dave from a bar of soap. So simply saying ‘Minikit’ and then following it up with ‘Stinky’, for example, will see you dialling Stinky (whoever he is) without breaking that drift around the corner and through the gas station. Magic Words for incoming or outgoing calls can be enabled or disabled separately as well.
If there’s anything wrong with the Minikit Neo, it has to be the speaker. It certainly performs very well but it could definitely be louder than it actually is. That’s far from a deal-breaker, since the rest of this Bluetooth car kit is everything you never knew you wanted in your car, but a little more volume and slightly better sound quality would have been nice. It’s understandable however, when you see the Neo nestling in the palm of your hand you’ll realise just how little space Parrot had to work with on this one.