Hands off!

Hands off!
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First Published: Tue, Jun 26 2007. 11 52 PM IST
Updated: Tue, Jun 26 2007. 11 53 PM IST
This is for all you road warriors. If you are one of those who live behind your wheel and always wish you could turn your car into a techno shrine, remember there’s much more available in the market than what you can possibly accommodate on your dashboard.
From satellite navigation devices to audio and video entertainment systems, there’s a range of devices to smoothen even the bumpiest ride. The key is to figure out the perfect configuration and, of course, the depth of your pocket.
When it comes to driving, it is not just about expecting your car to be more responsive to your needs or tuning the engine to give you an optimum performance.
Car audios, and in some cases videos, are almost a given in today’s vehicles. You can even have sensors in your car that help you “see” the obstacle in front and warn you well in advance. Many of these also give parking directions to you. Some devices respond to vocal instructions to turn on the radio or turn up the air conditioning. Want more?
Remember, it is about giving you the maximum pleasure, and ease while you are behind the wheel. Controlling your music system in addition to keeping an eye on the road during rush hour can be quite a tricky proposition but, with the right set of tools, you can manage both just fine. Most of these devices, however, come with instructions that you should not operate them while driving.
Mint takes a look at some hands-off devices that promise to add that extra zing to your driving experience. These offer more than just bling value. There’s safety, convenience and a great deal of practicality.
Sony-Ericsson HCB-700
If you are a Sony-Ericsson loyalist, try the HCB-700 car hands-free unit. Even if you aren’t, it’s worth checking out. Connect it wirelessly and you can answer and make calls without really needing to use your hands, thanks to voice dialling and Bluetooth.
Supporting a huge range of handsets, the Sony-Ericsson option works well and you can mount the display device close to the rear-view mirror or the dashboard, with the voice unit close to you. You can conduct conference calls on the speakerphone in your car, or reject a call by simply looking at the display unit without actually taking your eyes off the road.
The HCB-700 consists of three parts—a backlit monochrome display, a speaker and a control knob. The knob consists of five buttons (power/end call, Bluetooth, speech/answer call, phone book and a scroll wheel). The separate information display and the control unit allow you to check the name and number of the caller and answer using the control panel without having to take your eyes off the road.
The display is bright and clear due to a monochrome backlight. The settings menu allows a choice between white and green backlights. Also, there are enough character spaces to show even the longest of contact names.
The voice-dialling feature makes handling calls much safer and if the number is already in your phone’s address book, you simply need to call out the name of the person and the phone will automatically dial the number for you.
The kit uses Bluetooth to connect to your phone, even when the latter is in your pocket, and you can easily use the control unit buttons to access your phone book or change settings. Moreover, you can pair up to five different phones with the kit.
The voice quality of the HCB-700 is another impressive factor: The speakerphone is quite loud and clear. The volume of the speaker at its highest setting is more than adequate even in the noisiest environments. Another good feature is that in addition to the speaker ringing during an incoming call, your phone rings as well—meaning you shouldn’t ever miss a call.
Price: Rs8,400
Motorola T305 car kit
The T305 car kit’s sleek design features a plain black plastic outer shell, highlighted by a smart faux carbon-fibre front panel. The small and compact unit uses just one main call button for most of its operations, and this also doubles as an indicator light. It glows red while charging or when the battery is low, blue when in pairing mode and flashes purple when muted. The T305 uses a combination of these indicator lights with a number of audio tones, and the result is a unit that is simple, effective and easy to use.
Making, answering or ending a call and redialling are all as simple as pressing the call button. The only other buttons on the T305 are volume control ones (which are also used to reject calls) and a power button located on top of the unit. The speaker sits on top of the unit, concealed under a silver Motorola logo.
But, there’s more to the T305 than its looks. It is powered by version 2.0 Bluetooth wireless technology, allowing for a speedy connection to compatible Bluetooth-enabled devices, improved audio, fewer dropped calls and reduced interference from other wireless devices. It does not require to be matched with Motorola phones, hence is suitable for those who use a phone of a different brand but want this device.
A small clip that attaches to the back of the device enables you to mount it to your car’s visor and a mini-USB port at its base is useful for charging at home while the vehicle power adaptor that plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter can be used for charging in the car. The 12 hours of talktime and 200 hours standby should be more than adequate for most trips.
The T305 automatically enters pairing mode when switched on. Pairing, therefore, is as simple as finding the T305 on your phone and entering the default Bluetooth password. If you want, the T305 can also automatically connect to your phone when switched on.
Price: Rs5,600
Nokia CK-20W car kit
If you want to turn your cellphone into a mobile entertainment for your car, try this one. The Nokia CK-20W car kit delivers top quality communication, music, navigation and push-to-talk features in your car.
It allows music playback from a compatible mobile phone and/or dedicated mobile music player via Bluetooth audio streaming or cable connection. More importantly, it also lets you access basic calls and control music playback functions via an input device. You can answer, reject, pause or resume or go to the next or previous tracks with it. However, do check out the compatible devices before you buy this.
The device also lets you access GPS information and find your way around the city. For the GPS functionality, though, you need to get a navigation pack (LD2) separately. For navigation purposes, you can hook the kit to a GPS device as well. The latter transfers all the data to the phone via Bluetooth.
The kit allows you to wirelessly stream MP3s from your mobile phone through its speakers. With the help of a compatible handset, you can use it as a music player. Nokia has ensured that the kit is compatible with a wide range of headsets and delivers high quality audio via the onboard Digital Signal Processing (DSP) technology. The highlights of the kit include high quality audio with echo-cancelling and noise-reduction features, music playback, access to the main calling and playback features, voice dialling and a car radio mute support.
Price: Rs10,800
Pioneer CD-SR1 remote control
Mount it on the steering wheel and let your fingertips make the AVIC-Z1 in-dash navigation system do everything you want it to. Compatible only with AVIC-Z1, the CD-SR1 remote is voice-controlled as well as Bluetooth- compatible to relay your wishes to the music player. And if you don’t want to keep talking to a small device, the remote can wirelessly communicate to the music player. The fine fingertip control is one of the USPs of the product.
It allows you to control the main functions of the head-unit with both hands on the wheel. Remember, with the AVIC-Z1 offering you a number of in-car functions, from Bluetooth cellphone integration to voice-activated GPS navigation and a range of audio-visual and media playback options, the CD-SR1 is a very interesting gadget to have on your steering wheel.
Price: Rs1,000
Pioneer AVIC-Z1 in-dash navigation system
Given its price tag, many of you would think twice before opting for this all-in-one, well almost, gadget. But wait till you find out what the AVIC-Z1 has to offer. The AVIC-Z1 in-dash navigation system has a 10GB music library (30GB hard disk), is GPS ready, and has an optional rear camera for reversing your car, using the screen in front to display the images. With GPS making an entry in India, it is not a bad idea to take a second look at this product.
An important aspect of AVIC-Z1 is its utility as a car stereo: You can skip through radio frequencies, CD tracks and control volume using the touch screen. With Gracenote, an embedded software that enables the AVIC-Z1 to identify and catalogue audio files, you can also build your own digital library. The auto-record mode enables the head unit to automatically start recording audio files from CDs as soon as these are inserted for playback.
Another highlight is its voice-activated Bluetooth hands-free calling function. You can pair your phone to the system and make calls by using the voice-recognition system or the keypad on the touch screen. If you are using the voice-recognition system, you have to say, “call number.” For this to work, though, your parking brakes must be activated.
You can also answer calls by using the head unit: A ring or a graphic on the screen notifies you of a call and you can answer it by pressing a green phone button.
But the AVIC-Z1 is primarily an in-dash navigation system. You can enter destinations, by address, phone number or by manually selecting a point on the map, via the touch-screen keypad or a voice command. It also has text-to-speech voice guidance i.e., it tells you the names of the roads you are looking for.
Price: Rs1,10,000 (approx.)
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First Published: Tue, Jun 26 2007. 11 52 PM IST
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