Review: BlueAnt S1 Sun Visor Bluetooth Handsfree

Like many other states, Oregon has a new handsfree law.  This means we are now disallowed to drive while holding up a mobile phone to our ear.  The new law, effective 1 January 2010, requires all drivers, except for a few exceptions, to drive with a Bluetooth or other headset.

As a result, I’ve received many requests for suggestions on Bluetooth headsets from Oregon folks and others who want to go handsfree.  Today, I’m featuring another option that doesn’t involve sticking an awkward headset into your ear.

Introducing the BlueAnt S1

S1 in the carThe BlueAnt S1 could easily be confused with a normal garage door opener.  The S1 is a Bluetooth speakerphone that clips on to your sun visor in your car.

At first look, the S1 looks pretty intriguing.  It has 4 buttons on the front that facilitate four separate functions: call send, call end, volume up and volume down.  The buttons send button doubles as the power key as well.

Features and Capabilities

The S1 has a whole slew of features that try to win you over.  First of all, the S1 tries to make sure you don’t have to take your hands of the wheel by enabling you to use your voice as much as possible.  For example, when paired with your phone, when a call comes in, you can simply answer the call by saying the word “Answer”.  Also, if you have voice dialing on your mobile phone, the S1 supports this feature as well.

The BlueAnt S1 features A2DP streaming capability.  Like Bluetooth headphones and some other devices, you can stream music from your iPhone or mobile phone to the S1.  This might be of use if your speaker system on your phone is not up to par (which is very likely).  Also, this enables you to utilize the S1 with your dashboard GPS such as a Garmin Nuvi or TomTom device.

The S1 has phenomenal battery life.  BlueAnd advertises 15 hours of talk time and 800 hours of standby time.

BlueAnt equipped the S1 with noise cancellation, to cut down on noise whilst in your car.  This is an important factor for noisy cars, such as my Honda Civic.  Lastly, the S1 features “multipoint” technology – meaning the device can be paired with multiple devices, even 2 devices at the same time.  This might be useful for two folks who have a phone each and want to utilize their phone while in the car at the same time.

Setting up the S1

After you open the box, the S1 requires to be fully charged.  Once you charge it, the S1 is ready to pair with your mobile device.  Setting up the S1 is very easy, as fluid as pairing any Bluetooth headset with your handset.  I was able to easily pair the S1 with many different devices, including a Motorola Droid, iPhone, Nokia N900 and N97.

Using the Device

So, the S1 has all sorts of great bells and whistles, but how does it sound while making calls?  In a word, it sounds OK.  When I called folks on the S1, they sounded pretty good to me.  BlueAnt did a great job of making this Bluetooth speakerphone very capable as a speaker phone for you, as a caller.

However, when I had folks call me from the S1, the sound quality left me wanting more.  When my wife, who drives a relatively quiet Ford Escape, called at low speeds, she sounded distant and at times, I had to really concentrate to understand her.  I was able to hear her words in most cases, but BlueAnt needs to refine the noise cancellation on the S1.

One area the S1 shines is battery life.  I can’t verify the 15 hours of talk time, but in my estimates, I have easily gotten 13 hours of it on a single charge.  It is so nice to be able to just leave the S1 on at all times and not fuss with having to turn it off and on.  The S1 has such remarkable battery life that there’s no need to concern yourself with having to manage the power settings on the S1.

I was able to utilize the multipoint technology, which was nice as I was testing a Motorola Droid recently and it was nice to be able to pair with both of my phones.

Conclusion

All things considered, should you buy the BlueAnt S1?  One must consider the great features including music screaming, long battery life, and ease use.  With these advantages, you must balance these against the OK audio quality.

Above all this, you must consider the price point.  A recent search revealed that the S1 is available for around $50 US.  I would say at this price, the S1 is worth the money.  Not everyone wants to fuss with locating their Bluetooth headset, putting it in your ear, and shouting into your car so that folks can year you.

The S1 is a no-fuss solution for talking on your phone, freeing you from headsets, bad battery life, and awkward looks when you have a headset in.

For those looking, the S1 is available from Amazon for about $54.