Motorola's latest foray into the in-car Bluetooth speakerphone doesn't seem much different from its last, at least not on paper. Replacing the still-great-for-its-age, the Motorola Roadster still pairs via Bluetooth and still features the FM transmission mode that won us over the first time. So what's new? Aside from a lighter chassis and an updated aesthetic, the Roadster gains compatibility with the MotoSpeak application for Android and BlackBerry devices, which is designed to keep people from texting while driving, or, at the very least, make it safer.
Along the right side of the Roadster, one will find the power switch and the Micro-USB charging point. The Roadster ships with a coiled 12-volt power cable that charges its internal battery. Unplugged, the Roadster has an estimated 20-hour talk time and a standby time of about three weeks. This standby time is greatly extended thanks to a power-saving mode that automatically powers down the Roadster after a period of disuse.
Controls are broken into two groups, separated by the Roadster's approximately 2-inch loudspeaker, which is covered by a fabric panel. Audio output from this speaker is loud and clear--almost too loud for indoor environments. You won't want to go playing with this speakerphone at your desk, but in a moving vehicle with road, engine, and wind noise, it's just loud enough. Also hidden somewhere beneath the fabric panel are the Roadster dual noise-canceling microphones.
Along the top edge of the device are three buttons that are used for interacting with hands-free calling. From left to right, there are mute, call answer/end, and voice command buttons. The mute button mutes the microphone but allows you to continue listening, while the answer/end button works as one would expect--tap to answer, tap to end, and hold to redial. The voice command button actually calls up the paired handset's voice dialer rather than one of the Roadster's own.
Along the bottom edge are controls for audio output and playback. From left to right, there are buttons for play/pause of A2DP streamed audio, minus, plus, and FM. The FM button is interesting, as pressing it swaps the audio output from the Roadster's speaker to its FM transmitter. Upon entering FM transmission mode, the Roadster speaks aloud its current frequency--for example, 89.9 FM--to which you can tune your car's stereo or a nearby FM radio to receive the broadcast audio. The minus and plus buttons normally act as volume down and up, respectively. However, when the FM mode is activated, they become tuning buttons, adjusting the output frequency down and up in 0.2MHz increments with each tap or scanning for open frequencies after being held for a moment.
The Roadster mounts on your car's sun visor with a wire clip that is removable with some effort. We've previously criticized this sort of attachment as feeling flimsy, but we've never had one give out on us during normal use. The Roadster held fast during spirited driving, its clamp providing more grip than its 3-ounce chassis required. Still, we'd be careful placing the Roadster in, for example, a backpack with heavy books, as sufficient weight could easily flatten the wire clip.