NXT flat panel speakers have been appearing in various guises, adapted for use in cars, offering the advantage of slim-line technology so they are not so obtrusive when attached to a sun visor. Parrot have a reputation with Bluetooth devices, but can they get the flat panel speaker right?
Coming in a compact form factor, the MINIKIT Slim certainly lives up to its name, the slim black and silver oblong carefully shaped to hug the end of your visor when clipped on using the wire spring clip on the back. The result is a solid result – there is no wobble, no movement, just a neat looking addition to your car’s interior.
There are three main control buttons – a standard red and green LED-lit button sit astride a central clickable rotating knob. As with Bluetooth headsets, the buttons have a variety of functions. Starting in the centre, the prominent knob allows access to the main menu which you can then scroll through and confirm the option you want with a tap of the green button.
This is one area where the MINIKIT Slim really stands out because you get full access to your contacts, which is really clever. This is possible by synchronising your phone’s contact list with the device on pairing. It stores the contacts internally, so is not dependent on any existing voice tags. It also means that it can read out your contacts to you, both whilst searching for a contact in the menu and on incoming calls. So, for example, you enter the menu, select "phonebook", and you are then able to scroll through the letters of the alphabet, and click down into individual names and even different types of number (home/"cell phone").
Whilst in a call, this central knob also acts as a volume control, so you can quickly adjust the caller volume to one appropriate for the conditions – sitting in a car park or driving on the motorway.
The green button has more functions, importantly to accept a call, but also to use the voice-dialling option. Again, this simply refers back to the imported contacts avoiding the need for any voice tags. You do have to speak clearly and we found ourselves shouting, but once again, you do get the option of different listed numbers for each contact and it is a better option to use than the menus whilst driving. Cleverly, you don’t have to wait for each step, you can just say "Roger Bottom at home" and off it goes.
You can also transfer the call to your mobile, so you can get out of the car, or talk without your colleagues listening in to your caller is used in an office environment. You can then, cleverly, revert back to the speaker if you wish.
The red button, importantly, rejects and ends calls, as well as stopping the MINIKIT Slim running away with itself when it fails to identify the correct entry in your phonebook. However, the red button also acts as your power switch and this is something of a let down, as a lingering press can power off the device.
The result of these controls and the access to the address book is, overall, a surprisingly pleasant one. The device is very easy to use, the controls are for the most part intuitive and give a positive response and the voice recognition works very well indeed.
So what of the sound quality? Well, of the NXT speakers we have seen so far, this ranks as about the best, but still suffers from those inherent problems of losing some of the soft nuances of a person’s voice, whilst the stronger tones can come across as rather shrill. Volume is not a problem, but the louder volumes exacerbate these shrill high pitches which can assault the eardrums. This also makes it unsuitable for music playback.
That said, for normal voice conversations this isn’t too much of a problem. You can hear what people are saying, but if you get into extreme ends – laughing or crying girlfriend(s) – things aren’t quite so good. Luckily, for normal business users, these problems should hopefully be few and far between.
We asked callers what they thought of the quality from their end, and the most common response was that it was boomy, like on a speaker phone. You will find noise reduction technology built-in, and whilst it sounded like a speaker phone, callers reported that it was clear enough to distinguish every word.
Besides the plain black test version that we had, there is also a Chic version with some flower detail on the front, bringing a little more interest to an otherwise plain device.
In the box you get a 12V power cable, USB cable and quick guide. Battery life is fairy respectable and we found the stated 20 days standby to be true enough, supported by 15 hours of talk time. Of course, with this type of device, you can’t really charge whilst it is attached to the sun visor.
The Parrot MINIKIT Slim is Parrot doing what they do best – delivering a good Bluetooth solution that works. The ease of use and the contact synchronisation make this a great device for use in the car.
It is let down slightly by the sound quality from that NXT speaker, which seems to be a shortcoming of the technology deployed in this function. However, you do get a slimmer device as an end result and one that looks the part too.