Bluetooth speakerphones seem to be a happy medium between adhering to hands-free laws, while also refraining from wearing an earpiece at all times. The added benefit of this one being solar-powered should also mean its battery is readily charged almost all the time.
Scosche CBHSOL5 solVUE Solar Powered Bluetooth Speakerphone
- Available at: Newegg.ca
This isn’t the first time Scosche has attempted a solar-powered Bluetooth speakerphone; the solVUE is actually a follow up from last year’s solCHAT, which I reviewed last summer (tgam.ca/vBo).
The biggest difference between the two right off the bat is the small screen at the top displaying all the essentials. Naturally, its main purpose is as a caller ID, but it also shows battery strength and volume, along with indicators for missed calls and Bluetooth pairing.
An automated voice running through the built-in speaker announces incoming calls, including the contact’s name, which you can also see displayed onscreen. The solVUE can do this for up to 1,000 contacts, but the feature requires that you transfer your contacts to the device, something that not all phones necessarily support.
On the flip side, holding down the main multifunction button prompts the solVUE to ask you to recite the name or number you want to call. Again, making calls this way only works if it’s a feature your phone actually supports. Most smartphones do in one way or another, but older handsets might not.
After initially pairing a phone with the solVUE, it will turn on and off on its own when your phone is in or out of range – usually when getting in and out of your vehicle. Once back in, the solVUE lights up and tells you it’s connected and your phone is ready to use. This was an original feature of the solCHAT, and it doesn’t perform all that differently here. The one oddity for me was on a few occasions where the opposite happened – meaning the solVUE actually unpaired from my phone once I got in, only to then pair again about a minute later without me doing anything.
Once you get a conversation going, you will find call quality to be pretty satisfactory overall. Scosche improved on some of the echoing effects that seeped into the solCHAT, and the microphone helps your voice come through clearer, in spite of the typical background noise while driving.
Battery life and talk time are actually hard to read because of the solar panel. If your car is sitting in the sun all day, the battery just eats up the rays and adds juice to the battery. All in all, Scosche says it takes 15 hours of direct sunlight to fill up the battery, but only three hours using the 12-volt adapter or a computer via USB.
Getting that solar power is easy if your car is on the driveway or a parking lot most days, but for those who prefer their garage or park underground as condo dwellers, it’s likely you’ll be using the 12V adapter more often. You also have the option of suctioning the solVUE to your windshield, or mounting it on your visor.
As good as the unit performs, the shoddy craftsmanship can quickly become painfully obvious. The solar panel is nice and durable, but the plastic used to make the solVUE feels cheap. So cheap, in fact, that the latch that flips up the top portion weakens considerably after only a few lifts.
I’m not really sure why, but the latch broke on the fourth lift, which is ridiculous for something that is supposed to tilt half the time anyway.
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