Blaupunkt is a well-known brand manufacturing car audio systems and speakers for a while and features a few Bluetooth hands-free kits as well. We received the BT Drive Free 211 a short while ago and here is what we have to say about the product.
Combination of BT headset and dock
Features and build
The BT Drive Free 211 is a combination of a Bluetooth headset and a hands-free docking system. The docking station has a clip on the rear for mounting on the sun visor while the headset is a single tiny BT hands-free unit that can be docked into the docking unit for charging. The product is as large as a standard phone—and almost four times thicker thanks to the built-in removable battery. The product has a single large 4-inch speaker on the front. The right side has the control panel with volume, power and call buttons. The headset docks in the centre, which needs to be snapped in or pulled out for charging. The bottom has a manual switch for charging and a micro USB port for the charger. Bundled along with the product is a cigarette-lighter charger along with a few additional clips for mounting the BT device on the dashboard and one spare rubber ear cushion for the headset. The product is lightweight and highly portable.
Docking port with snap-on headset
The BT Drive Free 211 features a 2.4GHz Bluetooth V2.1 + EDR interface. It has a built-in Li-ion 3.7V battery for powering the unit as well as charging the headset when docked. The BT dock can be used for conveniently answering calls especially when driving or can also be used as a speakerphone when used on your desk. The dock has a talktime of 15 hours, a standby time of 400 hours and can be charged within 3 hours. The headset is where the entire BT interface is and the dock is just a speaker dock to amplify the audio. Without the headset docked into the docking station, the dock is as good as a paperweight. The headset has a built-in battery that charges itself when docked. One can also charge it separately using the micro USB port located on the headset. The headset has three buttons for call and volume functions. It has a single in-ear cushion made of silicon, but there's no around-the-ear loop for additionally securing the headset. Though the headset fits snugly into the ear canal, there is a threat of it falling if you accidentally brush against someone or something. The operating range of the headset is 10 metres.
Built-in battery with 15 hours of taktime
The build quality of both the dock and the headset is very good. The exterior has a dual-tone silver and black matte finished, scratch-resistant body. The headset snaps onto the dock well, but getting the headset out is a bit of a task. There are no eject buttons or levers (which should have been there) and you have to actually pull out the headset with a little force. Regular insertion and removal of the headset can cause the internal plastic notch, which holds the headset in place, to wear out in time. Lastly, the internal battery is replaceable and can be easily replaced with a Nokia BL-5B battery, as they are both identical.
Good build quality, matte-finished exterior
Setting up the dock and the headset is as easy as any other Bluetooth hands-free with no passwords whatsoever. Though you can connect the hands-free units to two phones, the device gets confused between the two and does not respond. The phones can handle the hands-free from their end, but the hands-free cannot control the device for last call redial. It is better to keep it connected to a single phone. The headset has the call end/pairing button behind the earpiece with a backlit LED for status indication. The LED should have been on one side because when you are powering on or pairing the headset with a phone, the LED is placed behind the thumb and it gets difficult to know the LED’s colour to know the status of the BT.
BT Headset with 2 hour talk time
The BT Drive Free 211 is easy to use, but can get a bit confusing for starters. As we mentioned earlier, the BT headset is the only unit that has the BT interface; the dock is just a power source and an amplifier. You cannot use the dock on its own and have to snap in the headset to make use of the speakerphone. Pull out the headset and the call gets transferred to the headset. However, we noticed a problem here—when we snapped in the headset back to the dock while a call was active, the call was transferred back to the phone and not to the dock.
Power/end-call/pairing and volume buttons
We tested the dock and the headset for call clarity. The speakerphone was loud enough and very clear, but the headset had an average audio volume. The audio quality of the headset is below average and though clear, is very hollow sounding. We also noticed that this BT device does not work with phone media—you cannot use it for playing audio and video, and it does not support AVRCP. If the feature was included, one could enjoy music or watch videos without the need of a headphone.
Lastly, we also found that the docking station would not charge if the charging (physical) button is not switched to ON. This is a drawback because if you forget to toggle the switch, you would not be able to charge either of the two devices. An advantage though—you can use the docking station simultaneously while it is being charged.
Physical button to toggle the charging mode
Verdict and Price in India
Priced at Rs 3,999, the Blaupunkt BT Drive Free 211 seems slightly overpriced for the features it offers. With the headset offering just 2 hours of talktime, and taking into consideration issues such as disconnection of the BT link when on an active call and a below average audio quality, the product does not seem worthwhile.
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