Parrot, and the many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to which it supplies, likes to call itself the leader in Bluetooth hands-free technology. After testing a few of its products, including the, we're prepared to at least admit that it's among the best where audio quality is concerned. However, every new product is a new opportunity to fall from grace, so we're turning a critical eye on the new Parrot MiniKit Smart.
Bonding the internals of the previously mentioned (and previously reviewed) MiniKit Slim, the Smart is a windshield- or dashboard-mounted universal smartphone cradle and Bluetooth speakerphone.
Design and construction
Opening the Minikit Smart's box, we're immediately greeted by the Smart unit itself. The unit features a spring-loaded arm with foam pads that holds most average-size smartphones or mobile devices in place with friction. Handsets up to about 2.7 inches wide can be accommodated, so anything from the massive Motorola Droid X to an iPhone in a case should fit. The Smart's chassis is a mix of metallic finishes and panels coated in a soft-touch material.
Just below the dock are the Minikit Smart's physical controls, which again mirror those of the Minikit Slim. A central knob can be twisted to make selections and pressed like a button to confirm choices. This knob is flanked by a pair of buttons which are primarily used to accept and end calls. On the unit's right side are connections for mini-USB and full-size USB for charging the Minikit Smart and its paired device, respectively.
On the left side is a microphone that can be popped out of its indentation and relocated to the vehicle's sun visor, maintaining its connection to the Minikit's chassis with a 2-foot retractable wire. The idea here is that the user has the option to improve audio quality in a louder vehicle by moving the microphone closer to their head. We didn't have to use this feature in our loudish test car, but we can see how this could be useful in, for example, a convertible. Enterprising users could probably fashion some sort of lapel clip for maximum closeness, but we'd be concerned about forgetting we were connected and yanking the entire kit off of the glass.
Out back is a loudspeaker and the connection point for the mounting arm that connects securely to the Smart's chassis with a magnet and a friction clip. The speaker is quite loud, but it also is very clear for understanding human speech. We wouldn't listen to music through the tinny output, but in a pinch we were able to enjoy a podcast or two. More importantly, spoken turn-by-turn directions given by a running navigation app rang out loud and clear over road noise and playing music.
The mounting arm features a single ball-jointed point of articulation--which can be locked into position with an included Allen wrench--and attaches to the glass with a lever-actuated suction cup. Thanks to its ball-jointed neck, the cradle can be positioned in the portrait or landscape orientation, or any angle in between. We noticed that the suction cup requires very clean glass and a careful application, otherwise the Minikit Smart (and your cradled smartphone) will go tumbling across the cabin.