Here at CNET Car Tech, we spend a lot of time in brand-new cars with brand-new tech, so I was honestly a little surprised to learn that FM transmitters are still around, and that there are new models hitting the market. However, for drivers of older cars that don't feature USB, Bluetooth, or an auxiliary input, the MPOW Streambot Y could be a simple and easy method for getting calls and audio from their phone routed to their car's speakers.
FM transmitters: Still around
The Streambot Y features a two-part design that is connected by a flexible, articulating arm.
The plug portion is at the base of the device and where the product connects to your car's 12-volt power point. The base is where you'll find a 1-amp USB charging port, which should be enough to keep most smartphones juiced while streaming. Surrounding the USB port is an illuminated, translucent blue ring that indicates that it's getting power from the car.
The mounting arm is permanently connected to the base, shooting away from the body at a slight angle and giving the Streambot Y its "Y" shape.
The upper, main portion connects to the end of the mounting arm with a magnetic click and can be rotated to a variety of angles to meet your car's mounting needs. This removable bit contains the electronics and radios for the Bluetooth receiver and FM transmitter. The magnetic connection makes adjustment and setup easy, but care must be taken when adjusting the arm not to momentarily disconnect the transmitter from the power. Holding the arm, and not the body, helps with this.
One end of the main section is a rotating knob that controls the Streambot Y's output volume and surrounds an illuminated multifunction button on the device's tip. Tap this button to toggle between play and pause when listening to Bluetooth media, or to answer or end an incoming Bluetooth call. It can also be double-tapped to reject an incoming call.
In the middle of the body is an illuminated red LED display that shows the currently transmitting FM station or the volume level (0 to 30) when twisting the aforementioned knob. Next to the display, you'll find a tiny pinhole microphone for hands-free calling, as well as Previous and Next buttons that skip forward and back on the paired Bluetooth device. The last bit of interface is a knurled metal knob for selecting the transmitting FM frequency.