With legislation on the horizon banning the use of cell phones while driving, we decided to take a look at the options for those drivers with too much self respect to wear Bluetooth headsets. With an increasing number of hands-free speakerphones on the market, Parrot's CK3100 still manages to hold its own when it comes to features and usability.
The CK3100 is a characteristically simply-designed device from Parrot. Like the more basic CK3000 Evolution, it features the usual call, answer, and hang-up buttons as well as a push button rotary dial for navigating menus. The big difference between the CK3100 and its baby brother is the former's three-line monochromatic LCD display, which adds another layer of functionality to what is already a very easy to use hands-free calling system. With a cell phone connected to the CK3100, the display shows a range of useful information, including signal strength, battery life, and current call volume. In our experience, installation of the CK3100 is best left to Parrot-approved dealers as the connectors needed are car-specific ISO harnesses, which are difficult to find in the aftermarket. With the device installed its two visible components (the screen module and the external microphone) take up very little room and can be easily mounted almost anywhere within sight of the driver.
Features and performance
As with the CK3000, the CK3100's simple design disguises an impressive number of features. With the hard work of installation done by someone else, connecting a cell phone to the CK3100 is a breeze: Simply search for the device using your cell phone and enter a passcode. The first time that a phone is connected to the CK3100, the entire phonebook as well as all call records (missed calls, outgoing calls, etc.) are transferred to the Parrot device giving drivers all the relevant information they need to use the device as a proxy for their phone. Those who so wish can still dial out using the phone handset, after which the call is routed through the Parrot device and the car's speakers.
One thing that we noticed was that the system will copy contacts only from a connected phone's SIM card and not those stored on the phone's internal phonebook. On our Samsung SGH-T619 test phone, it was a simple procedure to move all the phone contacts to the SIM card in one go and then transfer all contacts at once. With the contacts transferred, to the CK3100, they are then searchable on the Parrot device either by browsing entries by name or by scrolling through a useful alphabetized letter list.
The CK3100 also gives drivers the option of making calls by entering numerical digits via the "Dial Number" menu. For safety purposes, the CK3100 has a spoken menu option that reads out numbers and other menu entries at the same time that they appear on the display. This can lead to the device being a little too chatty at times (it can, thankfully, be turned off) but the feature is useful when dialing by number while maintaining focus on the road. As the CK3100 has voice-recognition capabilities, we are a little disappointed that there is no way to dial numbers by voice command (as is the case with many high-end factory-installed Bluetooth hands-free calling systems)--perhaps this is something that Parrot can look into for future iterations in the CK series.