by Kevin O’Brien
Thrifty talkers the past few years have seen many new toys hit the market for use with programs such as Skype, GoogleTalk, AIM, and Yahoo chat that offer computer to computer or computer to phone chat services. If you have a laptop or Tablet, you have been forced to deal with the internal speakers and inconveniently placed internal microphone. Not really the ideal situation, since the internal microphone is going to be picking up the constant typing, and the speakers broadcast your conversation to everyone around you. The Kensington Vo200 hopes to solve some of these problems and stay out of your way when it’s not in use.
The Kensington Vo200 is a Bluetooth handset that looks like a slim cell phone when folded out. It sports a standard speaker and microphone, as well as a speakerphone setting. Its biggest draw for laptop users would be its small size, and ability to charge inside the PCMCIA slot out of your way. This means you don’t need an extra spot in your laptop bag for it, or a bulky AC adapter.
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- Requires Bluetooth enabled PC laptop or a Bluetooth dongle
- Handsfree and handset modes
- Stores & charges while docked in your PC Card slot
- Works with all Internet phone services: Skype, MSN, Yahoo, Google
- Over 3 hours of serious talk time and up to 30 hours of standby time
Installation is very simple, as long as you have Widcomm Bluetooth software on your computer. The only software you must install is a little application that allows the computer to detect when the card is present in your PCMCIA slot and charging. Everything else is taken care of with a standard “Audio Device” profile when your Bluetooth software detects it. Software compatibility is pretty much every chat program that works with speakers and a microphone. It worked with every program I thought of, and would even route music and movies to the device.
The Vo200 Bluetooth phone is very slim, so slim it fits in your PCMCIA card slot for storage and charging (view large image)
Range and battery life were okay, but left a bit to be desired. I could make it about 15-20 feet away from the laptop before interference started to break up the conversation I had. For the price, I might have expected BT 2.0, which offers up to 100 meters of range. Battery life is above 3 hours of talk time, and about 32 hours before it wanted to shutoff. I feel standby time could have been improved if the thing didn’t blink so much, or as brightly.
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Some complaints I have with the device are its picky Bluetooth standards, short standby battery life and really bright LED indicators. I like to tether my Blackberry Pearl to my laptop through Bluetooth as well, and that is not possible if I wish to use the Vo200 at the same time. Blackberry software requires MS Bluetooth, the Vo200 requires Widcomm. Since each completely replaces the other, no middle ground is found, leaving the only option as uninstalling the Widcomm software completely to use the Blackberry again. Battery life could be a bit better than 30 hours of standby, leaving me wondering if the super bright blinking blue LED is draining the power.
- Very small size
- No AC adapter needed
- Stores inside of the PCMCIA slot when not in use
- Picky Bluetooth software needs
- Bright blinking LED’s and low battery life
- Won’t work with many new laptops that only have an Expresscard slot