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Parrot Minikit Neo Bluetooth speakerphone review: Parrot Minikit Neo Bluetooth speakerphone

Parrot ups the ante on its already impressive Minikit line of Bluetooth speakerphones with app integration, NFC technology, and truly hands-free calling.

Antuan Goodwin Reviews Editor / Cars
Antuan Goodwin gained his automotive knowledge the old fashioned way, by turning wrenches in a driveway and picking up speeding tickets. From drivetrain tech and electrification to car audio installs and cabin tech, if it's on wheels, Antuan is knowledgeable.
Expertise Reviewing cars and car technology since 2008 focusing on electrification, driver assistance and infotainment Credentials
  • North American Car, Truck and SUV of the Year (NACTOY) Awards Juror
Antuan Goodwin
6 min read

Hardware: The Parrot Minikit Neo
At first glance, the Minikit Neo isn't much different from the previous generations of Parrot's visor-mount Bluetooth speakerphones. The Neo has a smaller footprint than the previous Minikits that I've tested, measuring 3.70 inches long by 2.12 inches wide by 1.53 inches thick. At only 2.43 ounces, its weight is on par with its predecessors.


Parrot Minikit Neo Bluetooth speakerphone

The Good

The <b>Parrot Minikit Neo</b> supports Bluetooth hands-free calling, address book sync, and audio streaming. Magic Words voice command allows for the initiation of calls without touching the unit. NFC takes all of the guesswork out of pairing. The Neo App Suite boosts convenience and customization.

The Bad

Audio from the space-saving NXT speaker is good, but not great.

The Bottom Line

The Parrot Minikit Neo combines the great call quality that we've come to expect from Parrot devices with advanced technologies that make it safer to use and easier to live with.

However, where the Minikit Slim and the Minikit+ used a thin, wire arm to hold to your vehicle's sun visor, the Minikit Neo uses a thick plastic grip. Viewed from the side, it appears that the Neo is formed of a single smoothly curved piece of plastic, but the plastic arm is actually separated from the main body with a flexible hinge. There's not a tremendous range of motion allowed by that hinge, but the Minikit Neo is able to grip visors up to about 0.75 inch thick and hold strongly.

The control scheme of the Minikit Neo is familiar to the Minikit line. There's a button marked with a green LED that is used to answer incoming calls, call a contact from the phone book, and initiate voice recognition. Mirroring this is a button marked with a red LED that is used to end calls and exit menus. Between them is a rotary knob that can be pushed to enter the Minikit's audible menu of spoken options, rotated to cycle through those options and adjust the volume of the current call.

Parrot's noise-canceling microphone and DSP technology are still among the best in the biz. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

What appears to simply be blank space on the unit's face is a 3-watt NXT vibrating panel speaker, and on the leading edge of the unit, just ahead of the rotary knob, is a multidirectional noise-canceling microphone. Digital signal processing (DSP) helps the microphone to reduce echo and road noise. Audio quality from the NXT speaker is good, but with its limited bass output, I wouldn't use it for music. Unlike the much larger Jabra Freeway, this is a speaker that's best used for voice only. On the other hand, Parrot's microphone and DSP continue to be among the best in the business.

On either side of the unit you'll find a Micro-USB port that is used for charging and software updates and a three-position power switch with stops for off, on, and battery level. Pushing the switch to the battery level position causes the Minikit Neo to speak the current charge state of its 1,000 mAh battery aloud.

The unit makes the most of that battery with a vibration sensor and ultralow-power mode. When the unit goes unused and unpaired for a period, it powers down into an ultralow-power mode, a sort of deep-sleep mode that it can maintain for up to six months on a full charge. When you get back into your car, the unit detects the vibrations of the vehicle shifting and the door opening/closing and powers back up to automatically re-pair with the last device. Parrot estimates the talk time at up to 10 hours from a 3-hour charge.

Also in the box, along with the Minikit Neo itself, are a USB-to-Micro-USB cable, a 12-volt USB charger, and a printed quick-start guidebook.

The Minikit Neo also ships with a 12-volt charger and a USB cable. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Features: A cutting-edge speakerphone
The Minikit Neo's advanced feature set begins with the pairing process. In addition to pairing via the standard Bluetooth 4-digit PIN song and dance, the Neo also features near-field communication (NFC) fast pairing. If your phone supports NFC reading, you can simply tap the back of your phone to the back of the Minikit's gripper arm to initiate an automatic pairing. Just tap and go.

The Neo supports the hands-free profile (HFP), stereo audio streaming profile (A2DP), and phone book sync profiles (PBAP) via its Bluetooth connection. After syncing contacts, the Neo utilizes text-to-speech and speech recognition engines to both speak contact names aloud when browsing them via the rotary knob and recognize contact names when spoken aloud by the driver. It does all of this automatically.

The Minikit Neo supports NFC pairing. Simply tap it with an NFC-enabled phone and you're done. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

A feature called Dual Mode allows the Neo to be paired with up to two different devices simultaneously and accept calls from either -- but not both at the same time. Additionally, the Minikit Neo can remember pairings for up to 10 devices in total and has space in its memory for up to 2,000 contacts per paired phone (20,000 contacts total).

Users are given the choice to use either the Minikit's own voice command engine or to hand off voice command duties to a paired smartphone, which is great for those who already have a voice command app that they love, such as Vlingo or Siri. The Minikit Neo also features a function called Magic Words that allows users to accept or reject an incoming call or initiate an outbound call without touching the unit. Incoming calls are announced via the text-to-speech Caller ID system, including the name of the caller if stored in your address book; simply say "reject" or "accept" when prompted to answer or send the call to voice mail, respectively. When not in a call, say "Minikit" and the Neo will ask you, "Who do you want to call?" Simply answer with an address book contact and you'll be connected. Magic Words for incoming and outbound calls can be disabled or enabled independently of one another.

Software: Neo App Suite
Parrot also offers a free companion smartphone app to go along with the Parrot Minikit Neo hardware. The Neo, of course, can be used without the software and the software can be used without the Neo, but many of the advanced functions work best when the two work together. An iOS version of the app is "coming soon," according to Parrot, but at time of review only the Android version was actually available for download, so that's what I tested with.

The free Neo App Suite contains a number of convenience and customization options for the Minikit Neo. Screenshot by Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The app's home screen is littered with a variety of icons for its many functions, including Find My Car, Parking Timer, Driving Time Reminder, Voice Recognition, Dual Mode, Auto-Reply SMS, Customize Jingle, Neo Information, and Help Pairing.

Find My Car displays the latitude, longitude, and street address of the last reported pairing location of the Minikit Neo, which is (presumably) still in your car. This screen also features options to display the location on a map, to share the location with others, and to make text notes about the location.

The Parking Timer and Driving Time Reminder are timers that measure the amount of time that you've spent away from and behind the wheel of your car, respectively. The Parking Timer lets users set a countdown so they won't return to a parking meter to find a ticket. The Driving Time Reminder lets users know when it's time to take a break during long hauls. Both can be be programmed to automatically stop or start when the Minikit Neo is paired or unpaired.

The Find My Car feature displays the location where the phone disconnected from the Minikit Neo. Screenshot by Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Voice Recognition allows users to switch the Neo between its own, onboard voice command system and the phone's voice command system. This change can also be initiated using the physical rotary knob on the Minikit itself. Likewise, Dual Mode allows users to activate or deactivate the Dual Mode function and switch between the two paired devices.

Auto-Reply SMS allows users to automatically send an SMS message in response to inbound text messages and to rejected callers to let them know that you're driving and will respond when you're safely stopped. There's also a text field that allows users to customize the SMS message that goes out.

Users who'd rather not text while driving can use Auto-Reply SMS to respond to incoming texts and rejected calls. Screenshot by Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Customize Jingle is a fun feature that allows users to record replacement sounds for the power-on and power-off jingles that play when the Minikit Neo turns on or off. Simply hit record, capture the sound, and you're done. If you get bored with your recorded sound, you can always record a new one or simply reset back to the default jingle with the touch of a button.

Finally, the Neo Information and Help Pairing options display text information about the paired Minikit Neo device, links to Parrot tech support, and step-by-step instructions to help users with pairing devices with the Neo.

The Minikit Neo brings clever technology and good looks to the Minikit line of Bluetooth speakerphones. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

In sum
The Minikit Neo itself is a top-notch option for speakerphone seekers. Audio quality on both sides of the call is fantastic. Features like the NFC pairing, automatic contact syncing, and Magic Words voice command help to make this one of the easiest to use Bluetooth speakerphones that I've ever tested. If you have access to an NFC-enabled Android phone and the Minikit Neo app, you'll likely never have to fiddle with an on-device menu. Simply tap and start talking.


Parrot Minikit Neo Bluetooth speakerphone

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 9