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In-Depth Review

Kensington’s Hands-Free Visor Car Kit

While it's still legal to talk on a mobile phone while driving in my state, I think it's dangerous so for years I've relied on a Bluetooth headset such as the Jawbone II  or Plantronics Discovery 665 to talk on the phone when I'm driving. I'm still a fan of such devices but I've always lusted for a hands-free phone system like the ones that come with many new cars these days (since my Mini Cooper S didn't come with one). Fortunately, there are now several aftermarket hands-free phone kits and I recently put one from Kensington -- the Hands-Free Visor Car Kit for iPhone (and other Bluetooth phones) -- through its paces.

This kit (shown below) comes with everything you need and more.

Kensington hands free kit

(Left to right) Hands-free unit, two rechargeable batteries, USB battery charger, USB car charger.

The first thing to do is to charge one or both batteries, each of which provides up to 10 hours of talk time. Now pair the hands-free unit with your Bluetooth mobile phone (or phones -- it supports up to three at a time). Now attach the unit to your sun visor with its metal clip...

Kensington hands free side view

...and you're ready to make and receive calls.

When you receive a call just press the Call Button (the one that looks like a telephone handset on the front of the unit) and start talking. To make a call, simply dial the number on your iPhone or use voice dial if your phone supports it (the iPhone does not). There are also three easily configured speed-dial buttons for the three numbers you call most; just push a button to call the associated number.

If a call comes in while you are already on a call, you can press and hold the Call Button to put the first call on hold and talk to the second caller. Press and hold again to place caller 2 on hold and switch back to caller 1.

The system allows you to pair up to three different mobile phones, which can be useful if you want the unit to work with a different phone. Say, for example, my wife is driving my car and I'm the passenger. If my phone is connected to the hands-free system I just have to press the User Swap button (the one that looks like a little circle on the front of the unit) and my phone will be disconnected while hers connects to the hands-free system. We've found this feature more useful than we expected.

The system has several other thoughtful features I haven't seen on other hands-free car kits. Rather than requiring you to charge the unit itself by running a cable up to your visor or bringing it into your home or office, the Kensington system has two removable batteries you can recharge in the car or at your home or office. That's a nice touch. And the system has an auto-off sensor, so if you forget to turn it off manually when you leave the car, it will turn itself off after about 15 minutes as long as you take your phone with you when you leave the car... If you leave the phone in the car, all bets are off.

Unfortunately, this system has several features I found less than perfect. First and foremost it just wasn't loud enough in most cars under most conditions. When idling quietly it was usually loud enough but only barely. Once I got going,the wind and road noise made me wish I could crank the volume up another notch or three or four or five. While people I talked with said I sounded pretty good most of the time, there were far too many times when I couldn't hear them very well.

My second complaint is minor but irritating none the less... the power button is right next to the "push-to-eject" battery. So I frequently ejected the battery when I meant to turn the system on or off.

One last thing: While the SRP of this system is $119.99, I just price checked it at Amazon and saw it for a much more reasonable $79.99. (Link)

The Bottom Line

If you have a nice, quiet car, the Kensington Hands-Free Visor Car Kit is well designed and works well. If, on the other hand, your car isn't very quiet (like my Mini Cooper S), you'll probably be happier with a Bluetooth headset.

Just The Facts

Pros:

Two batteries, three speed dial buttons, easy access to volume control, pair with up to three phones.

Cons:

Not loud enough in many cars, on/off button right next to battery eject button.

2 comments from the community.

You can post your own below.

geoduck said:

[quoteWhile it’s still legal to talk on a mobile phone while driving in my state, I think it’s dangerous

You could have stopped right there. Talking on a cell is dangerous hands free or not. It should not be legal anywhere. When one of my cells ring, personal or company, I either ignore it or if I’m expecting an important call I stop. Numerous studies have shown that it is the talking not the hands part that is distracting and dangerous.

In the words of the Tappet Brothers

Shut Up and Drive.

   Quote

DoctorMac said:

Point well taken.

But if you _must_ talk while driving, holding a phone in one hand has to be more dangerous than using both hands to drive. So if you must talk while you drive, a headset or hands-free kit has to be at least a little safer.

Bob

   Quote

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