Wayne Thorp will speak at the 2015 AAII Investor Conference this fall; go to www.aaii.com/conference for more details.
In this segment, I have reviewed a few Bluetooth hands-free speakerphones that allow cellphone calls and listening to GPS directions. My favorite thus far has been the BlueAnt Sense I reviewed last July. Unfortunately, I left it in a rental car a few months ago and have been looking for a suitable replacement since. I have been testing out the SuperTooth Crystal for the last couple of weeks, which was given to me by the company.
When it comes to portability, SuperTooth definitely has a winner on its hands. The Crystal measures 5.1-inches by 1.9-inches by 0.6-inches (lwh), making it the most compact hands-free speakerphone I’ve tested. Its design makes it very easy to carry in a pants or shirt pocket. It also weighs 3.5 ounces by itself and just under four ounces when attached to its metal clip.
On the front of the SuperTooth Crystal are five buttons—multi-function button (MFB), end/reject call button, power button, and volume up and down buttons. The micro-USB charger port is on the back, a placement that proves problematic because it is impossible to charge the device while it is attached to its mounting clip. The MFB flashes red and blue when the device is in pairing mode and flashes blue when connected to Bluetooth-enabled devices. The MFB is conspicuous enough to allow you to easily connect and disconnect from calls while you are driving. Also, the MFB will turn red when the Crystal’s battery is low, turns orange when it’s charging, and turns green when it is fully charged.
The crystal also comes with a micro-USB charging cable and a cigarette lighter charger.
Pairing the Crystal with a Bluetooth-enabled device is very easy. Simply press the power button and the Crystal automatically goes into pairing mode. From your Bluetooth-enabled device, go to the Bluetooth menu and select CRYSTAL from the list of available devices.
The Crystal has upgraded to Bluetooth 3.0 to allow for eight-device multipoint pairing with two-device active monitoring—meaning two devices can be connected to the Crystal simultaneously.
On the back of the Crystal is a magnet that secures it to the metal mounting clip for your car’s visor. I really like this feature, as it makes it very easy to take the Crystal with you when you’re not in your car. However, the magnet is also strong enough to keep the Crystal securely fixed to the bracket. If you leave the Crystal in your car, its automatic pairing system will automatically reconnect to your phone when it senses the door opening and closing.
Generally, the SuperTooth Crystal performed admirably as a hands-free speakerphone for the car. Callers had no problem hearing me at highway speeds, although I did find the sound to be a bit tinny compared to other speakerphones I’ve used.
The Crystal also supports voice recognition, if your phone supports this feature. When paired with my iPhone 4S, I am able to activate Siri with the multi-function button and perform searches for businesses, or dial numbers from my address book. Holding down the MFB for a longer period of time will redial the last number.
Beyond handling calls, Bluetooth speakerphones are useful for streaming turn-by-turn GPS directions and the Crystal supports Bluetooth A2DP for audio streaming. The Crystal’s speaker is powerful enough to allow users to hear directions even with the window down or when listening to the radio.
According to SuperTooth, the Crystal has 20 hours of talk time and 40 days of standby time. When paired with an iPhone, you can check the Crystal’s battery life status on the iPhone status bar. I must admit, however, that I do miss the dedicated on/off switch that some speakerphones offer.
The SuperTooth Crystal is value-priced at $69 from the SuperTooth online store, making it one of the less expensive models I have reviewed.
The SuperTooth Crystal is a solid contender among Bluetooth speakerphones. Outside of the sound quality, which is just a shade below the BlueAnt Sense, there is really nothing to knock when it comes to performance. It was a bit of an oversight by its engineers to place the charge port on the back, which means you can't have it connected to the mounting bracket and charge it at the same time. Overall, if you are looking for a device that allows you to take phone calls while driving and streaming GPS directions, the SuperTooth Crystal delivers hard-to-top performance and value.
Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, is the author of “Gadget Corner.” All reviews are based on firsthand experience of the product or service. No third-party compensation is received for opinions on products, services, websites or topics. However, sometimes the author is not required by the manufacturer or their PR firm to return the product under review. In such instances, it is our policy to convey this within the review. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are strictly those of the author. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.