BlueAnt S4 True Handsfree Speakerphone

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Product: BlueAnt S4 True Handsfree Car Kit
Provided By: BlueAnt
Price: $99.99 MSRP

 

Introduction:

If you haven't heard of BlueAnt before, you really should sit down and do some research on this company.  They are headquartered in Melbourne, Australia and what makes them special is that they don't let sleeping dogs lie.  They continuously research and make their products better through firmware updates and come out with new technologies and integrate them into great products that keep raising the bar every year.

With that said, we have high hopes for their latest totally hands-free Bluetooth car kit - the S4.  This unit clips to your visor and initiates calls and interaction through your voice.  You don't need to press a button to engage the kit - saying the key-phrase works just fine.  With that in mind, let's take a closer look at the S4 before we jump into testing.

Package
S4 Bundle

 

The BlueAnt S4 comes in a nice retail package that includes a car charger, USB cable, two clips and some documentation - as well as the S4 unit of course.  This bundle is put together quite well and BlueAnt has once again opted to use the now-standard Micro-USB connector on the S4 for charging and firmware upgrades.


S4 Profile

 

The overall look of the S4 is very clean and it has a total of three touch-sensitive buttons on the top of the unit as well as a physical switch to turn on and off the device.  The buttons are for volume up, volume down and a multi-function button if the voice control doesn't work for you.

 

Features:

The information below has been copied and pasted from the BlueAnt S4 product page here.  Please head on over for all the information.

  • True handsfree voice controlled car speakerphone.
  • Make and answer calls using just your voice.
  • Use your voice to access information services on the go.
  • Text to Speech technology reads out the name of the incoming caller. Stores up to 2,000 phonebook entries per paired device.
  • Embedded audio help talks you through setup and operation.
  • Multipoint: connect to 2 phones and answer the one that rings.
  • A2DP streaming for playback of music, podcasts and directions from a GPS application on your phone.
  • Full duplex, high volume speaker for rich booming audio.
  • Outstanding wind, road, and background noise reduction for clear calls no matter how noisy it is.
  • Sleek design with touch sensitive volume controls.
  • Zero installation costs (fixes to the car sun visor).
  • Hardware on/off switch.
  • Firmware upgradeable.
  • Up to 20 hours talk time; 700 hours standby.
  • 2 year replacement warranty (excludes clip and charger).

 

 

Side View
Side View
Back Side
Back Side

 

Specifications:

 

General Specification > Bluetooth v2.1
> Up to 10 meters (33 feet) RF coverage
> CE, FCC, BQB, Ctick, RoHS/WEEE Compliant
> Headset Profile, Hands-Free profile and A2DP
> Micro USB COnnector
Frequency 2.4 GHz
Audio 3GPP with DSP Solution
Battery

> 3.7V Rechargeable Lithium Ion Battery
> Up to 20 hrs talk time
> Up to 700 hrs standby time with the handsfree trigger in battery saving mode
> 3-4 hr charging time

Dimensions 4.88 x 2.38 x 0.62 in / 124 x 60.7 x 16mm

 

According to the specs, the S4 has slightly lower battery life (standby) than the previous S1 unit.  This is due in part to the fact that the S4 is actively "listening" for you to say the key phrase.  To find out more about it - before we test it out - check out this promo video from BlueAnt.

 


 

Pairing and Initial Setup:

The BlueAnt S4 can be put into pairing mode with the button, but it is much easier to say "BlueAnt Speak To Me" and then "Pair Me" instead of remembering how long to hold what button.  Once pairing mode has been entered, you can pair the S4 with up to 8 devices - and remain connected to two devices at once.  This is true multi-point and although it seems like it could get a little confusing, it seems to work and balance well.

 S4 Side Profile

Testing The S4:

I've been using the S4 quite a bit lately - instead of an in-ear headset and I like the freedom the non-wearable hands-free kit offers.  The S4 is quite clear and has plenty of volume for the listener as well as good microphone quality with "DSP" (Digital Signal Processing) that helps take out a lot of background noise.  Still, if you're driving in an old car on a gravel road with the windows down - well, let's just say it doesn't work that well.

In the grand scheme of things - we live in an urban world and in this world the S4 excels.  It has great audio quality and when you consider that it is also an A2DP streaming device, you can use it to listen to your favorite podcasts or audiobooks that reside on your phone.  This gives greater flexibility to the S4 and with the long 20 hour battery life, it is useful for listening to an entire audiobook while taking calls and performing Text-To-Speech functions from your phone or GPS.

When you first hear that it can connect to 8 devices, it sounds a little extreme, but when you consider that you can connect it to your wife's Blackberry, your Android device, the kids iPod Touch, a GPS, laptop, netbook and more - suddenly it doesn't seem all that excessive.  The S4 is built for a family life as well as some corporate gadget junkie.

 

Sound Quality:

Regardless of the functionality and features of a hands-free kit, all would be totally lost if it didn't sound good.  While I don't expect this to be hi-fi by any means, the voice quality should be clear without undue hissing or popping.  The S4 has very sound quality and I could hear voices clearly and distinctly when driving down a quiet highway.  Even on a noisy road, the S4 performed very well in most situations.  On the microphone side of things, it is a similar story.  The microphone seems to work well and pick up voices nicely on quiet roads, even on noisy roads the S4 is better than any BlueAnt kit we've tried.

Take a listen to some of the features of the S4 and call quality here.

 

Range & Battery Life:

BlueAnt claims the Bluetooth v2.1 standard will provide range of up to 10m (33ft.).  This seems to be pretty standard and the S4 lived up to those claims.  I used the S4 in many situations and the range seems to be pretty standard.  Unless you have a very large vehicle, you shouldn't have any trouble keeping your phone in the trunk and still being able to make calls hands-free.  The battery life is very good and I've used it to listen to audio books and hockey games streamed from my Nexus One. From my experience, this is very close as the kit has only been charged a half dozen times over many hours of talk time and weeks of standby.  Charging the hands-free kit may take up to 4 hours, but in my experience it only takes just over 3 hours.  Also keep in mind that 20 hours of talk time or 700 hours of standby equates to just under a month, and it is possible that you will be able to go close to a month if you don’t use the hands-free kit very often.

 

Conclusion:

This is our third BlueAnt car kit we've looked at and it keeps getting better and better.  The S4 takes the convenience of a hands-free car kit and takes it up a level and makes it truly hands-free by using a voice command keyphrase that activates the device. The voice recognition works great and can be tweaked if you are having trouble.  For those that want truly and completely hands-free convenience, the S4 is probably the best choice if not the only choice on the market.


Pros:

  • True Hands-free calling, answer and text
  • Voice Activated Answer means you don't have to take your hands off the wheel to answer a call
  • Voice Prompts
  • Text To Speech announces callers name if it's in your address book (just number otherwise)
  • Pair with up to 8 devices
  • Good range

Cons:

  • Mic quality isn't as good as a headset
  • Speaker isn't quite loud enough in noisy driving environments

 

BCCRating
 Gold
 

 

I'd like to thanks BlueAnt Wireless for sending over the S4 for us to review.  Please feel free to post your thoughts, comments and questions regarding this product in our forum at the "Comments" link below.