Testing the Satechi Sound-Fly View was something of a roller coaster ride of expectations. My first stab of disappointment came before I'd even unboxed the product.
Apparently, the marketing and design departments had a disagreement about the product's name. The box reads "SoundFly VIEW," but the product itself reads "Sound-Fly VIEW." Heading to the manufacturer's Web site adds yet a third typographic configuration to the mix, "Soundfly View." When I later attempted to pair the device with my smartphone, it identified itself as the "Sound-Fly VIEW," so I'm sticking with the hyphen.
Now, I'm not so shallow that inconsistent spelling would affect my scoring, but my "attention to detail" radar was on red alert.
Unboxing the Sound-Fly, I was pleased to find that the device feels sturdy and well put together. The main unit measures 3.2 inches tall by 2.5 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick and is suspended on the end of a flexible 5.9-inch "goose neck" that can be bent and twisted into a variety of orientations. At the other end of that goose neck is a 12-volt power connector with an integrated rubber grommet that helps to hold anchor the whole assembly to your vehicle's power outlet.
The bulk of the unit's user-facing surface is occupied by a 2-inch monochromatic LCD display. You can adjust the LCD backlight color from white (which looks more like blue to my eyes) to yellow (which looks like lavender) to orange (which, to its credit, actually looks orange). Regardless of what color you choose, certain menu screens will always be rendered in their respective default colors--for example, the Quick Menu is always backlit orange and the main menu is always a bluish-white.
Just below the screen are the physical controls used to interact with the device. At the center of this control panel is a knob that can be twisted to navigate the unit's menus and pressed like a button to make selections. To the knob's left are buttons for answering calls and skipping back, to its right are buttons for rejecting calls and skipping forward, and just below the knob--if you look closely--is the pinhole microphone input for hands-free calls.
Along the bottom edge is a 5-volt, 1-amp powered USB connection for charging a paired smartphone. Along the right edge is a full-size SD card slot that accepts SDHC cards of up to 32GB in capacity. Finally, the unit's left edge is home to a pair of 3.5mm analog audio connections, one for input and one for output. Invisible, save for an onscreen readout, is the unit's FM transmitter, which is used to broadcast a low-power audio signal to any FM radio nearby or, more specifically, your car's stereo system.
Also included in the Satechi Sound-Fly's box are a 3.5mm audio cable (so you won't have to BYO), a user manual, an IR remote control, and--oddest of all--an extra fuse for the 12-volt power connection. Such a curious inclusion is either proof that the engineers are running the show over at Satechi or that they expect you'll blow a fuse within the span of device's one-year warranty. I'm guessing it's the former.
Let's return, for a moment, to the IR remote. About an eigth of an inch thick, with a footprint that's slightly smaller than a business card, the IR controller is where Satechi's engineers crammed all of those buttons that wouldn't fit on the Sound-Fly's face. In addition to duplicating the on-device buttons, it has buttons for cycling through audio sources, quickly adjusting the FM transmitter's output frequency, and navigating SD card folders. There's even an option to set an A-B continuous audio loop for media played back from SD, although I'm not sure why you'd ever want to do that in a car. All in all, there are 18 buttons to be found on the remote controller.
The Sound-Fly View's primary function is to receive Bluetooth hands-free calls and relay the audio to your vehicle's speakers via FM transmission. As an audio bridge, however, it has a few more thoughtful functions that have been engineered in.
For starters, let's stick with hands-free calling. You pair a device with the Sound-Fly using a four-digit PIN, but for phones and devices that support SSP (simple pairing profile) the pairing process is totally automated. I expected the Sound-Fly View to automatically attempt to download my phone's address book to its 500-contact memory, but it didn't. Fortunately, a manual sync is but a few menu options away. (It appears that each stored number counts as a contact, so if you have a home, office, and mobile number for a colleague, that counts as three contacts. This should only be a problem for those who keep thousands of contacts in a phone's memory.)
Once it's synced, you can browse your address book using the control knob. Voice control is not available on this unit, but you can access your handset's voice dialer (if available) by pressing and holding the green call button. Incoming calls are announced with the Sound-Fly's robotic voice; however, the caller's name is not spoken--only the phone number--because the unit lacks a true text-to-speech engine. Fortunately, you'll still be able to see the caller's name on the 2-inch display, provided that contact exists in the synced phonebook.