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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Parrot CK3000 Evolution review:

Parrot CK3000 Evolution

To activate the voice-command features, drivers have to go a time-consuming one-time programming process, which involves recording certain keywords (or "magic words" as Parrot calls them) including telephone", "hang-up," "office," "home," and "cellular." The process involves recording each of the words twice--and sometimes three or four times as the system tries to understand the command. With the keywords recorded, the CK3000 Evolution gets a whole new level of functionality, as users can initiate calls just by saying the word "telephone" and hang up by saying "hang up." The simplicity of placing and ending calls this takes some time to get used to even if you are used to using hands-free calling systems. In our testing period, the CK3000 Evolution's voice recognition system responded to voice commands with an impressive level of consistency.

To make the most of the CK3000 Evolution's voice-command feature, drivers need to record voice tags for each of the contacts in a connected cell phone. This is done by pushing the contacts' details to the device one at a time as V cards (.vcf files) and then voice tagging them individually. For owners of Sony Ericsson phones, this process is made easier by the phones' built-in Parrot menu, although there is still no way around assigning voice tags one by one (we have recently raised our hands-free calling expectations because of our experiences with the Ford Sync system, which automatically downloads the phone's contact book and indexes the entries, making them available by voice command). With contacts successfully voice tagged, the CK3000 Evolution also provides a very useful caller ID service for incoming calls, which are accompanied by the name of the caller.

For our test of the CK3000 Evolution, we installed it in our Chevy Aveo test car with stock speakers. Incoming audio quality was generally good, although at higher volumes, the system suffered from distortion. We do, however, like the way in which the device automatically overrides the currently playing car audio when a call comes in. From the other end of the line, we were comprehensible when we phoned a friend, but our test caller did notice some intermittent echoing.

In sum
The CK3000 Evolution is a very useful device for making hands-free calls on the road. Considering its price tag of about $100, it offers an attractive alternative to factory-installed systems for owners of new cars, as well as a cost-effective means of upgrading older cars with an increasingly necessary safety technology. Despite the challenges of nonprofessional installation, the CK3000 Evolution's intuitive control interface and impressive voice command options make it an excellent alternative to Bluetooth headsets and chunkier standalone speakerphones.

What you'll pay

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