10 great Bluetooth gadgets
By Brian Nadel
November 20, 2008 12:00 PM ET
It's easier than ever to take snapshots with your cell phone, but what do you do with them all? Polaroid's $150 PoGo printer can put them on paper without a cable in sight.
PoGo measures 4.7 by 2.8 by 0.9 inches and weighs 8 ounces. Based on Zink (short for "zero ink") technology, it doesn't use ink or toner. The special 2-by-3-inch paper has microscopic yellow, cyan and magenta crystals that are activated by the printer.
The PoGo set up in a couple of minutes with my phone, printed a 278KB image in just over a minute and had a range of 37 feet. The 450 milli-amp hour battery was good for 15 prints.
The photos have a semigloss finish and an adhesive backing, so they can be used to make impromptu name badges. One 10-sheet pack of Zink photo paper is included with the PoGo, and you can buy additional packs in quantities of 10, 30, 60 and 90 at prices from $5 to $33.
As much as I like PoGo, I wish the prints were bigger -- but then PoGo wouldn't be as portable as it is.
If you dread your monthly mobile phone bill, Kensington's $90 Vo200 can cut communications costs to the bone. The tiny Vo200 handset connects via Bluetooth to a notebook and routes calls over an inexpensive voice-over-IP (VoIP) service like Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk or Skype.
The Vo200 is only 0.2 inches thick and weighs an ounce, making it one of the smallest and lightest handsets around. It works only with Windows XP PCs, using the notebook's Bluetooth gear to connect. As long as the notebook has a broadband connection, you're able to make and take calls.
Including software installation, setup took 15 minutes on my notebook. After that, I made and answered dozens of calls with the Vo200 on the Skype service and found its audio quality to be as good as wireless VoIP phones that cost three times as much. It had a range of 25 feet and its battery ran for two and a half hours of calls, although there's no battery gauge.
As enticing as the Vo200 is for blabbermouths, it's flimsy and lacks a screen or keypad. As a result, you need to dial calls through the notebook's keyboard.
On the other hand, one of the coolest things about the Vo200 is that the handset is stored and charged in the notebook's PC Card slot. That way it's a VoIP phone booth that's ready whenever -- and wherever -- you are.
More and more states are passing laws that forbid drivers to use handheld cell phones, but fiddling around with the buttons on a headset can be equally distracting. If you must talk and drive, BlueAnt has a better way: the voice-controlled Supertooth 3 speakerphone ($130).
The 3.8-ounce hands-free device is perfect for those of us who hate to read directions because it actually tells you how to use it in your choice of six languages.
The package includes not only the black speakerphone, but adapters for AC and car power. It took about a minute to connect with my phone, and I quickly figured out how to dial and answer calls by voice command. Its audio is clear and static-free, but a little hollow at times.
Supertooth 3 has a range of 40 feet and its battery lasted for four hours of use. The device easily clips to any car's visor, which means it's always there waiting for your next call.
Got a Bluetooth-less notebook? Fear not; there are many USB adapters that can plug into your laptop and connect it with any of these Bluetooth accessories. Plug-in Bluetooth modules are available from D-Link, ioGear, Anycom and others. If you don't care about size, there isn't much that separates them; they cost between $30 and $50.
But for travelers, size really does matter. Kensington's $40 Bluetooth USB Micro Adapter is only about as big as a fingernail and practically disappears when plugged into a notebook. It weighs less than a gram, barely covers the notebook's USB outlet and sticks out only 0.4 inch.
I tried out the Kensington module on a Dell Vostro 1510. Installing the included software took less than five minutes, and the adapter connected with a variety of devices on the first try. Its range was the same (about 30 feet) as with the HP Pavilion DV5000's built-in Bluetooth module.