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Editors' note: The Motorokr T501 is identical to our Editors' Choice Motorola Motorokr T505 in every way, but given a unique model number by Motorola because it is sold in a different market. For this reason, we're also awarding the Motorokr T501 our Editors' Choice.
At first glance, the Motorokr T501 seems like an average visor-mounted speakerphone. Its calls are clear. Its design is unobtrusive. However, when we looked a little deeper and really explored its features, we found that there is a much more complex and flexible device hiding under the T501's simple exterior. A2DP music streaming, a built-in battery, and a built-in FM transmitter make this device much more than just a speakerphone.
Clipped to our test vehicle's sunvisor, the T501 is a handsome-looking device. Smooth and devoid of any sharp angles, the T501 is made of matte-finished metallic plastic. In a world of high-gloss fingerprint magnets, the T501 looks high quality and subdued.
The bottom surface of the device is dominated by an omnidirectional speaker with a bright chrome Motorola logo set into the center. The front of the device is home to a call answer/end button, a play/pause button, and a multicolor LED that communicates the device's status. On either side of the T501 are volume up and down buttons, while the back is where you'll find the power and FM buttons as well as the USB charging port.
The T501 features a built-in rechargeable battery with up to 18 hours of talk time. We like this feature because it lets you ditch the power cord while driving, which means there's no cable dangling in your field of view. There is also an auto power feature that puts the device to sleep when unused and wakes it for a call. The long battery life coupled with the device's auto power meant that during a week of testing, we only had to charge the battery once. When the time to charge does come, the T501 gets its power over USB and comes with a micro USB car charger. So, if you want to charge the T501 outside of your car, you'll have to supply your own USB cable.
We'd like to see a caller ID display on the face of the T501. The device does speak aloud the number of the incoming call, so the lack of a display isn't too bad. However, if your phone offers a text-to-speech caller ID, you should probably use it instead, as recognizing a caller based on phone number alone can be a bit unwieldy. Calls are answered and ended with the call button, and the last number called can be redialed by holding the call button for 2 seconds.
Motorola didn't just stop at the basics for the T501. If, for example, the built-in speaker still isn't loud enough for you, you can use the FM transmitter function to route calls through your car stereo's speakers.
Another great feature the T501 offers is A2DP audio streaming, which lets you use the device as a monaural speaker or, in conjunction with the FM transmitter feature, stream music to your car stereo. This is a great feature for people who own a Bluetooth-enabled MP3 player or a phone with A2DP streaming. When in A2DP mode, the side buttons allow the user to skip back and forward between songs, and a play/pause button starts and stops the music. This allows you to leave the phone or MP3 player out of view and helps keep your eyes on the road.
Pairing the T501 with our test phone was painless. When powered on, the device goes into discovery mode, re-pairing with the last connected device when it comes in range.
The Motorokr T501 handles all of the basic speakerphone functions with ease. The built-in omnidirectional speaker is loud and clear and very easy to hear over road noise. The pinhole microphone did a good job of eliminating road noise, but not completely. Voices sounded a bit hollow during our test call, but we could still hear clearly. The metal visor clip has a rubber coating on the interior that holds the device firmly in place during spirited driving.
Like most speakerphones where the microphone is close to the speaker, the Motorokr T501 is not full duplex. This means that there are no noisy audio feedback loops caused by putting the speaker too close to the microphone, but it also means that the microphone doesn't pick up while the speaker is operating and vice versa. At best, this slows down the flow of conversation. At worst it results in awkward pauses in natural conversation while waiting for your turn to talk. Unfortunately, this is par for the course with speakerphones in this price range, though to the T501's credit the annoyance is minimal.
Setting up the FM transmitter function is even easier. Simply hold the FM button on the back of the device and the T501 searches for the clearest channel in the area. Once it finds a channel, the device speaks the radio frequency aloud so you can tune your radio to its frequency. All calls or A2DP music streams will now be routed through the car's speakers via the FM radio. Sound quality is reduced because of FM compression and interference, but volume is only limited by your car's capabilities. The device continues to use the internal microphone for calls, so sound quality remains the same in that respect. If a call comes in while you're rocking out, the T501 will pause the music for the duration of the call. Users highly concerned about privacy should know that when in FM mode, their conversations can be picked up by any FM radio in the area, but the transmitter is relatively low power and has a short range.
By stepping outside of the speakerphone box and adding functions that are both cool and functional, the T501 gets high marks for features. We like how the T501 integrates its features, such as how A2DP Bluetooth works with the FM transmitter, making the device a liaison between your digital music player and stock car radio. Regardless of how you use the device, it is easy to operate and sounds good, earning the T501 high performance points. We think the design looks great and creates a user experience that's both pleasant and easy to use.
The Motorola Motorokr T501 is more than just a really good speakerphone. It's more than the sum of its parts. The features chosen work so well together that they create a device that can be used in many different configurations.