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car gizmos

Newer vehicles may have fancier systems for using a mobile phone hands-free, but aftermarket products like the Supertooth HD prove that portable alternatives can do a great job, too.

Powerful, functional and convenient, this Bluetooth speakerphone is one of the best on the market.

  • $129.99
  • Available at: Future Shop, The Source, BlueGear Wireless, Canada Computers,

What stands out initially about this unit is its build. Despite being made from plastics, it feels rugged and refined. Slide the metal clip onto the visor in your car and then the unit easily snaps in place because of the strong magnets on the back. It's been designed so well that detaching the device is actually very easy, yet it stays firmly in place on the road. The hefty battery inside also keeps it going for 20 hours of talk time or 40 days on standby.

Setup is seamless because the Supertooth HD is already in pairing mode when you first turn it on. From there, you choose the language – British English (my favourite), American English, French, Spanish, Italian or German. With pairing complete, the device proceeds to then transfer over your phone's contact list.

And since the Supertooth HD is heavy on voice commands, pressing the main volume dial button, and saying, "What can I say?" leads to a minute-long tutorial of the various phrases available to you. It will take a while to remember them all, and you can cancel the tutorial by simply pressing the main button.

By default, the Supertooth HD is already loud, and callers came through vibrantly, even when heating was on full blast or the music wasn't completely turned down. In turn, they said that my voice was clear for someone using a speakerphone microphone. The volume dial can be rotated in either direction, with the voice prompt indicating how loud or quiet that setting is.

Making calls hands-free by name is largely dependent on whether your phone supports such a feature natively, but most smartphones today have this built-in. On top of that, the unit will only speak out names it can actually pronounce, whereas others only have their phone numbers recited, despite their names being on the contact list. This won't matter when using an iPhone because its proprietary voice dial setup does the work. With other phones, it may be hit or miss.

There are five designated numbers you can set, like Home, Office, Emergency and a couple of speed dial numbers, but that's about it. Hold down the main button for three seconds and you can redial the last number you called.

The large button below the on/off switch with a mail icon on top accesses the Handsfree Assistant feature set, where you can use your voice to text, e-mail and update Facebook and Twitter. It does this using the Dial2Do service, which also works as a standalone app on Android or BlackBerry.

While it's cool to be able to do this – with a free six-month trial to boot – it's not for everyone. The lengthy setup on the Web might be a detractor, but the service also can't read out text messages sent to an iPhone. It works fine with the app for Android and BlackBerry though. Once the trial is up, you can renew the service for $39.99 a year, or upgrade to Pro for $59.99 a year.