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BlackBerry Music Gateway review: BlackBerry Music Gateway

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Photo and video streaming is beyond the Music Gateway's capabilities, as well. Other gadgets such as the HTC Media Link promise to do this but for higher asking price ($99.99).

One interesting twist, though, is the Music Gateway's integrated Near-Field Communication (NFC) circuitry. An NFC chip sits under the BlackBerry logo on the device's Pairing button. Similar to how it's used in the Motorola Elite Sliver, another NFC-enabled accessory, the purpose of NFC here is to let you link compatible phones to the Music Gateway's Bluetooth radio just by physically tapping both products together.

A Pairing button sits on top of the BlackBerry Music Gateway. It also houses an NFC chip for instant pairing with compatible gadgets. Sarah Tew/CNET

Because the BlackBerry Music Gateway is built to perform just one function, it's dead simple to set up. I made sure the device was connected to AC power, then held the Pairing button down for a few moments to put the Gateway in pairing mode -- the device's LED flashes between red and blue to let you know it's ready. Next, I navigated to my phone's Bluetooth settings, selected Music Gateway in a list of detected devices, tapped the option to pair, and was linked to the Music Gateway in seconds.

In fact, I connected the Music Gateway with two Android devices over Bluetooth, specifically a Samsung Galaxy Nexus and a HTC One X, and it was the same swift and painless procedure. I can say the same for a BlackBerry Bold 9930.

My attempts to use NFC for Bluetooth linking, though, were not as smooth, at least for my Android devices. After putting the Music Gateway into pairing mode, I placed my BlackBerry Bold 9930 (Verizon) test unit on the Gateway's top surface. Instantly the handset displayed a "connecting" notification and in less than a second told me the device was linked to the Music Gateway. That certainly beats having to flip through phone menus. By contrast, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and HTC One X failed this task completely and couldn't recognize the Gateway's NFC tag when I tried the same procedure.

When any of the phones was connected to the Music Gateway, however, I could stream audio from it to a set of external speakers quite easily.

The idea of linking mobile phones and other mobile devices to home entertainment equipment isn't new. But it's something that most smartphones can't manage right out of the box. Sure, you can opt to buy one of the legion of wireless speakers on the market, like the $299 Jawbone Big Jambox or even original $199 Jawbone Jambox. But if you crave a way to enjoy the music that's trapped inside your handset or other Bluetooth gadget but would rather use your existing home audio setup, the $49.99 RIM BlackBerry Music Gateway is a simple and affordable choice. Its effortless NFC pairing with compatible phones is icing on the cake.

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