The Venturi Mini is a useful device for those looking to bring some advanced tech features into the car without investing in a new stereo or separate Bluetooth speakerphone. Using a built-in FM transmitter, which transfers all audio output to its host car's speakers via a connection with the in-dash stereo, the Mini supports streaming of wireless and hard-wired audio, and can be used as a Bluetooth hands-free calling interface. If your phone supports the required Bluetooth Phone Book Access Profile (PBAP), the device can also receive and store address books. With all this functionality packed into such a small device, it is not surprising that there are some usability niggles: the requirement for the device to be plugged into a 12-volt cigarette lighter adapter means that its accessibility is dependent on your car's design, and call quality via the Mini's built-in microphone can be sketchy. Nevertheless, the Venturi Mini is an attractive option for those looking to tech their car's cabin on a budget.
The Venturi Mini has a compact design and a flexible and adjustable profile, enabling it to be plugged into even the most awkwardly placed 12-volt adapters. Its hinged design makes it easy to adjust the orientation of the bright, white-on-black OLED display and push-button controls. Programming of the Venturi Mini's phone and music playback functions and access to its menus is straightforward, thanks to a number of intelligently designed and positioned controls. The front of the device comprises two sets of clearly labeled buttons: two Mode keys (one for music, one for phone); and two colored keys that serve as multifunction buttons for playing and stopping music, answering or rejecting calls, and confirming or rejecting set-up menu options.
The other main control interface on the front of the device is its scroll wheel, which is a very driver-friendly means of navigating through menu options. Two less-conspicuous side-mounted buttons enable drivers to access the set-up menus and to change the FM frequency at which the Venturi Mini streams audio to the car's stereo. While we have no major complaints about the physical attributes of the device's controls, we do take issue with the shrill, annoying beep sound that accompanies almost every selection and button press. This unwanted, unnecessary, and (apparently) un-turn-off-able sound is most grating while attempting to pair the Venturi Mini with a cell phone, as the device beeps and beeps and beeps until the pairing process is complete. The Twilight-Zone-esque incoming ringtone also has the potential to become annoying very quickly.
For such a small and simple-looking device, the Venturi Mini packs in an impressive number of car tech features. The device can be paired with up to four cell phones and then be used to stream incoming call audio through the car's speakers via an FM connection to the in-dash stereo. The Venturi Mini comes with its own integrated microphone with digital signal processing called Clear Voice Capture that is designed to improve the quality of outgoing audio. With a cell phone paired, incoming calls can be answered using the green Answer button and ended using the red End Call button. Like many other Bluetooth speakerphones, the Venturi also has options for muting the microphone and switching to privacy mode during a call, but there is no way to switch between an ongoing call and another incoming call.
For making outgoing calls, the options are impressive if you have the correct phone. People who have phones with the appropriate Bluetooth protocol can transfer entries directly to the device. With a phonebook uploaded, drivers can browse through contacts using the scroll wheel and a very intuitive alphabetized search options. Those without such phones have make outbound calls using their cell phone handsets or by using the "redial" option on the scroll wheel. In what is the Venturi Mini's most advanced feature, phonebook contracts and caller ID text can also be displayed on the car stereo's display thanks to its Radio Data Broadcast System (RDBS) transmitter capabilities.
The Venturi Mini has options for audio formats of both the wired and wireless variety for music playback. Drivers can use the system to play audio from digital audio players via the Mini's standard 1/8-inch line-in jack. As with the sound from incoming phone calls, audio is then streamed via the FM transmitter to the car's stereo and played though the speakers. While drivers can control volume and EQ of the audio streamed in this way, they have to revert to the player itself to select, pause, play, and stop music. The options for wireless music streaming via the A2DP (or Bluetooth audio) protocol are more advanced. Having paired up a phone that supports wireless Bluetooth music streaming (for our test we used the LG Voyager), the device can be used to play, stop, and skip tracks.