Features and Performance
The headline feature of the Anycom Solar Car Kit is its solar panel, which, according to its manufacturers, gives the device 30 minutes of talk time after being exposed to 3 hours' worth of direct sunlight. In order to ensure that the device gets the maximum exposure to the sun, it comes with a handy suction cup mount, enabling the device to be attached to a car's windshield.
While we are impressed with the originality of the solar panel, we're not entirely convinced of its usefulness. In the unlikely coincidence that the device is out of juice and the charger for it is not in the car, would-be callers will have to drive around for at least an hour in direct sunlight (assuming that there is any) to get any value out of the solar cell. Furthermore, it is unlikely that anyone will leave the device stuck to the windshield to charge with the car parked, as it is presents an open invitation to gadget thieves.
For more conventional charging, the device can be connected to a standard 12-volt cigarette lighter outlet or to a PC via a USB cable. According to the instruction manual, the Anycom Solar Car Kit provides "more than 7 hours of talk time." In testing, we found the device to more than fulfill this requirement ,with an impressive observed talk time of more than 15 hours. And we particularly like the simple battery status test, which involves pressing both the up and down volume buttons simultaneously, resulting in a number of beeps and flashes of the battery indicator that correspond to the remaining life: four beeps/flashes, if the remaining battery life is above 7 hours, three if it's above 5 hours, two if it's above 3 hours, and one if it's fewer than 3 hours. (Ideally, we'd like another indication that talk time is less than 30 minutes or so, as well.)
For such a simple-looking device, the Anycom Solar Car Kit has an impressive number of control options. Users can take and end calls; mute (and unmute) the incoming-call tone; mute the built-in mic; transfer to a call waiting; and check battery and solar power.
All of these features and settings are controlled through a combination of the device's three buttons, with many features being activated using the same input with the speakerphone in different states. For example, pressing the "-" button once while a call is incoming mutes the ringtone, while pushing the same button during a call mutes the internal mic.
Similarly, pushing the main multifunction button "briefly" (i.e. for less than 1 second) answers an incoming call, while pushing the same button for exactly 1 second rejects the call. We're not sure about the wisdom of this design, as it means a split second makes the difference between talking to someone when you don't want to or rejecting a call that you want to take.
When you are finally connected, call quality via the Anycom Solar Car Kit's built-in speaker is generally clear, albeit with the same distant, tinny sound that we have come to expect from Bluetooth speakerphones. In contrast with the Sony Ericsson HCB-120 that we tested recently, the Anycom device did, at least, deliver sufficient volume to be heard above the road and wind noise while driving along. From the other end of the line, we apparently also came through clearly, although our test caller did notice a lot of background noise getting through when driving along the freeway.
Besides its solar panel, the Anycom Solar Car Kit differentiates itself from the masses of other Bluetooth speakerphones in a number of ways. Its slender design and impressive talk time recommend it, but its fiddly and difficult-to-master controls make it a challenge to use without some time with the instruction manual.