Cobra BT 200 Heavy Duty Handset with Bluetooth Wireless Technology review: Cobra BT 200 Heavy Duty Handset with Bluetooth Wireless Technology
The Cobra BT 200 is a heavy-duty Bluetooth handset that features a fairly limited list of features. It makes calls, and that's about it. During our time with the BT 200, we encountered a few inconveniences, such as no automatic contact-list importing and an unintuitive interface for advanced features like inputting numbers into the phone book.
However, when you're using a device in an outdoor environment, sometimes the strongest feature can be rugged simplicity, which the BT 200 has in spades. Its rough-and-tumble design can take a beating from Mother Nature without blinking.
The BT 200 features a small, monochromatic screen with blue backlighting. Just below the screen are four soft keys that control various functions depending on the current mode. Further down is a bank of eight keys for navigating menus and answering and ending calls. All of the buttons on the unit's front face feature the same blue backlighting as the screen.
On the unit's left side is a large push-to-talk (PTT) button. Lining the top are three buttons for backlight/lock, PTT/VOX, and power ON/OFF.
The BT 200 does not have an internal battery and must be plugged into a 12-volt power source to function. A coiled power cable stretches to about 4 feet to give you plenty of flexibility for finding power sources.
On the back of the unit, you'll find a metal pin used to mount the unit to the included hanger bracket when not in use.
The Cobra BT 200 has a hefty feel and is shock-, UV-, dust-, and water-resistant, making it perfect for the outdoorsman who needs to stay in contact with the world during excursions. The device can even be completely submerged for brief periods without damage, thanks to its compliance with Japan Industrial Standards for water resistance (JIS7).
All of the buttons are made of a durable rubber and feel like they could withstand years of abuse. The sole exception is the squishy PTT button. It held up well during our testing, but its hollow construction makes us worry that it may be prone to tearing over the long run.
The Cobra BT 200 pairs to your mobile phone using the Bluetooth wireless protocol. Once paired, the unit displays the name of the connected phone and the available signal strength, a feature we think would be invaluable in remote areas with spotty signal.
The unit can be paired to only one phone at a time, but can store pairing information for up to eight phones.
The BT 200 doesn't automatically import your contacts, but it does feature a phone book function for storing frequently dialed numbers. It also stores the most recent outgoing and ingoing calls in a Call Log, and displays unknown numbers using Caller ID. Entering numbers into the phone book is a tedious process because of the BT 200's lack of a numeric keypad. Names and numbers are entered one letter at a time by scrolling through the alphabet using the up and down keys.
Users have the option to choose between two call modes: PTT and VOX.
In its default PTT mode, the user must depress the PTT button on the left side of the device whenever he or she desires to be heard. This is similar to the user experience with CB radios and walkie-talkies and carries the benefit of completely cutting out background noise.
The second call mode is the VOX mode that, when activated, uses the handset's microphone pickup instead of the PTT button to activate voice transmission, effectively making the BT 200 a hands-free device.
The BT 200 is not a full-duplex unit, so you can't talk and listen at the same time (the unit must switch between the two modes). In noisy environments, using the PTT feature affords the user manual control over the microphone and prevents background sounds from tricking the unit into thinking the user is talking and thereby cutting the speaker.
Call quality was passable, but not what we'd call good. Incoming voices were discernible, but sounded muffled; no doubt a side effect of the BT 200's waterproof construction.
When using the PTT function, callers often thought they'd been hung up on, because of the sudden cutting in and out of background sounds. When using the VOX function, this complaint was alleviated, but in louder environments background noises were then evident.
We'd advise against using the Cobra BT 200 in your car. Its internal speaker is loud enough for quiet environments, but not loud enough to overcome the road, engine, and wind noise of a louder vehicle. We found that we needed to hold the handset close to our ear during use in our Chevrolet Aveo test vehicle. That drawback, added with the fact that you must manually activate the PTT function for the cleanest sound, essentially takes the Cobra BT 200 out of compliance with driving laws.
However, the Cobra wasn't designed for use in automobiles. The unit's tough construction and dust, vibration, UV, and water resistance makes the BT 200 perfect for use on boats, ATV, and snowmobiles.
The idea is that weekend warriors can keep their precious BlackBerrys and iPhones tucked in a waterproof case or backpack, while the more robust Cobra BT 200 stays out for making and receiving calls, easily dealing with the rigors of an outdoor environment.
The Cobra BT 200 is a simple device with a limited feature set, but its rugged construction makes it a great solution for people who want to tackle the great outdoors without worrying about smashing their smartphones.