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This unit is superficially very attractive, but, alas, is not one we can recommend for several reasons.

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Honeywell Airlite 900 Portable Speakerphone review

A lovely looking little unit, but a poor performer
 

The Airlite 900 Portable Bluetooth Speakerphone is the same size as a credit card and only a little thicker.

Part of our series on Bluetooth - more articles listed on the right.

 

 

This unit, branded by Honeywell but made by a third party (SOYO) which is no longer in business, looks appealing and gives good sound quality.

So what's not to like?  It is hard to mount in a car and doesn't automatically connect to your phone as it should.

Add to that the apparent complete termination of support for the product, even though it is still being sold new, plus a street price that is higher than current products from other manufacturers that are still supported, and we regret but must suggest that, as alluring as this is, it is not a unit you should prudently purchase.

What you Get

The Honeywell Airlite 900 is nicely presented in an easily opened cardboard box with clear plastic window to highlight the unit itself.

Inside the box is the unit itself, a carry/clip that you use to mount the unit on a sun visor, an instruction manual, plus two chargers - a tiny 'brick' unit for charging from the wall, and a cigarette lighter unit for charging in the car itself.

It comes with a one year non-transferable warranty.

Feature Chart

Use this information to quickly understand the capabilities of the unit and to compare with other units.
 

Feature                         Comment

Cost

List price unknown

Available from Amazon for approx $85, and from other sources for similar prices.


Ergonomics

Easy to put on and take off

Not applicable - not a headset.

Considered as a hands-free unit for cars, it is very portable due to its small size, light weight, and internal battery, making it, in theory, ideal for taking with you to a rental car.

However, the mounting clip is woefully inadequate for mounting on a sun visor.  It is too small, and has to stretch open too wide, and doesn't provide a secure or comfortable fit.

Easy to use the control buttons

With the much larger area on this unit, compared to an in-ear headset, you'd hope the designers would make good use of the space available and offer some extra dedicated buttons, making the unit easier to understand.

If that is what you hope, you'll be disappointed.  It has volume up and down buttons, a privacy button, and one of the accursed 'multi-function buttons' that does everything else depending on how long you push it for.

So, although the buttons are moderately large in size and easy to press, the unit is not appreciably any easier to use than any other units.

Comfortable to wear

Not applicable - not a headset.

But in terms of being easily mounted in a car, the mounting clip is too narrow to fit the thickness of most typical sun visors.  There is only about a quarter inch of space in the clip, and most sun visors are appreciably thicker than this, which means the unit doesn't mount securely, the mounting clip is stretched too far and weakened, and before too long, the mounting unit stops working well.

There are better ways to mount the unit in a car - ie with velcro (see below), or perhaps clipped to your safety belt.

Can you use with glasses

Not applicable.

Can use with either ear

Not applicable.

Securely mounted (in the car)

Not really, but the unit is very light and so doesn't need much mounting security.

We recommend you essentially throw away the mounting clip and instead put a small dot of velcro (the soft part) on the back of the unit, and then put a small dot of the other part of the velcro (the harder loop part) somewhere on the dash of the car as a way of mounting the unit.

To change between cars, just pull the unit off the velcro dot on the dash, and push it onto another velcro dot in the alternate car.

How to carry

We recommend that when you want to carry the unit, you flip it over in its mounting clip - that way, the control buttons are protected by the back of the mounting clip, meaning you won't accidentally turn the unit on or make calls, etc), and then carry it that way.

Otherwise, you'd want to carry it in some sort of padded pouch - the key issue being not to inadvertently turn it on.

Weight

The unit itself weighs a mere 1.1 oz, rising to 1.7 oz when including the carry clip.

Weight isn't of course as much of an issue for a car mounted unit, but this is wonderfully light and wonderfully small, making it very portable.


Ease of Use

Commands intuitive and easy to remember

Alas, although this unit had the potential of being easy to use by way of adding extra controls in the extra space available, it ends up being not appreciably any easier to use than other headsets.

Volume adjustable

Yes. One good thing about the unit is it does have two clearly labeled volume buttons to increase/decrease the volume.

How fast does it turn on

It takes about five seconds to turn on, but - and contradicting its claim - it does not then auto-synch with one's phone, making the unit massively less convenient than it should be.

Manual

The unit comes with a small 17 page manual that is clearly written and easy to understand.

Support

Update Sept 09 :  It seems that Honeywell may have discontinued both the unit and also support of the unit.

The (800) number for support (888 773-4923) rings and then switches off, and the two websites are both down.

A test email to their support email address has also gone unanswered.

Pairing password printed on device

No.

The pairing password is 1234 - not quite as common as 0000, but still something you're likely to guess within one or two tries.


Features

Battery life

The unit claims 10 hours or talk time or 10 days of standby time.

This has not been accurately evaluated.  But even if these numbers are exaggerated by a factor of two, it would seem to have adequate battery life for at least a normal day or two of usage between recharging.

Low battery indicator/signal

The unit will flash red when the battery is getting low.

Battery type

Lithium ion.

Replaceable battery?

No.

As with other headsets, the chances are by the time the battery has died, you'll probably have bought a new headset.

Battery charging method/time

I was hopeful that this unit might have a common/standard type of power socket - the 'excuse' often offered by headset manufacturers is they needed to use a non-standard socket due to the need to miniaturize things as much as possible.

But, alas, to my immense disappointment, this is yet another unit with its own unique plug/socket combination.  Shame on Honeywell for this needless aggravation.

The battery is charged by connecting the unit to either the wall charger, a cigarette lighter adapter charger (both supplied) or a charging cable that connects to a USB port at one end (sold as an optional extra).

Multi-voltage charger

Unknown.

The power charger doesn't have any information printed on it about the voltage range it supports.

In light of the power supply's very small size and light weight, and its silence about multi-voltage capabilities, it seems like a sensible assumption to assume that this charger only works on 110V.

Charger weight/size

A very small brick charger.

1.4 oz total for the charger and its cable.

Other charging methods

In addition to the wall charger, a cigarette lighter adapter charger and cable is also provided.

A USB adapter and charging cable is sold as an optional extra accessory.

How many pairings can be stored

Not stated, but at least two based on testing, although the lack of an auto-connect rather reduces the value of this.

Headset and hands-free profiles?

Yes.

Audio profile for computers

Yes - A2DP.

Bluetooth compatibility

Version 2.0

Power/range

33'/10m.

Effective range

With a car unit, the concept of range gets turned on its head a bit.  You want a unit that has sufficient range to work wherever you are in the car - but that is probably in a front seat, so a 5 - 10' range is more than adequate.

An extended range in a car can be a nuisance, because the unit might take a call when you're out of the car.

This unit tested to a range about as specified, which is - in this case - a bit too much rather than a bit too little.

Warranty

The warranty is a generous one year warranty, but offered to the original purchaser only.

Update :  With the closure of the original manufacturer (SOYO in Canada), it is unclear what the ongoing warranty support will be.

Free return

Retailer policies will vary.

Noise cancelling/DSP

The unit claims some background noise reduction and digital sound processing.

It worked very well.  The efficaciousness of this can be judged by the sample recording (see below).

Sound quality

Sound quality was average to good.

Here are two sample recordings - one in a quiet car, parked with the engine off, and the other while driving at 30 mph with my window and sun roof both open.

The effect of the DSP can clearly be heard as it quickly tunes the unit to pick up as much of my voice and as little of the background noise as possible.


Capabilities

Turning on and off

Like all other units without a simple on/off switch, this is complicated.

To turn the unit on you press and hold the multi-function button for three seconds until the blue light flashes and you hear a tone.

To turn it off, you press and hold the button for five seconds until the red light flashes and you hear a tone.

Auto connect

The unit claims to auto-connect, but testing with both an iPhone 3GS and a Blackberry 8900 showed that the unit would not auto-connect.

This is a massive weakness and enormously reduces the convenience of the unit.

Voice tag support

Supported (if also supported on the phone, of course).

You press the button for two seconds to initiate this mode.  Don't press it too long or the unit will switch off.

Last number redial

Yes.

Press the button for about two seconds until a beep.

Transfer call to/from phone

Not known.

But if you can do this via your phone handset, that would be a viable approach.

Call waiting/Three way calling

Not known.

But possibly can be done via the phone.

Call reject

Yes.

Press the button while a call is coming in for about two seconds until a beep.

Call answer/end

Yes.

If the unit is already on, a short press of the main button will answer an incoming call.

To end a call, a short press of the control button is again needed.

Mute

No - but it does have a Privacy button which is different - it basically turns down the volume of the speaker and sensitivity of the microphone, so if you want to have a more private conversation without other people in the car hearing, you can switch to privacy mode and then in effect use it as a regular handset.

Okay, so maybe it would be easier just to switch the call back to the phone!  But who among us can remember how to do that with our headset.....

Other Features

The unit will turn itself off automatically if it has been in an unpaired state for more than an hour.  This is a great idea, meaning when you leave the car (and take your phone with you) the unit will turn itself off after an hour.

This also means if you just leave the car for a short while, the unit will still be on when you return.

The unit will play music from the phone, although the quality of the music through its tiny speaker leaves a lot to be desired; indeed, it seemed that the sound quality was better playing through my iPhone's speaker than through the Airlite 900.


Subjective

Attractive design

I liked the design, and the concept of the very small little unit as a portable unit to use when traveling and switching cars.

Flashing indicators on standby

Yes, a blue light flashes.

This might be a bit of a nuisance if driving at night and the unit is more or less directly in the line of sight.  It can't be turned off.

Size

The Airlite 900 is comparable in size to a credit card (albeit thicker), measuring 2.1" x 3.4" and about 0.2" thick.  The carry clip adds about 0.1" to the unit's length and breadth, and a bit more than that when allowing for the clip on the back to its thickness.


Summary

This could be a very good headset, but it suffers from two very annoying problems - a nonstandard power connection, and the inability to auto-connect to phones.

Add to this the unit's apparent no-longer-supported status, and we feel that it is not something we can recommend at its current street price of about $85.

 

Using the Honeywell Airlite 900 Portable Speakerphone

The key issue about using this unit is the lack of auto-connect, discussed under the next heading.

Most other issues were positive, but no auto-connect makes the unit unsuitable for most of us.

Connecting with phones

Alas, the auto-connect feature does work. You have to manually tell your phone to connect to the unit every time you are within range.

This makes it way too inconvenient for most of us, and is contrary to the entire capabilities and concept of Bluetooth connections - they are designed to automatically connect together when paired devices get within range of each other.

Three and more years ago it was common to find units that did not have a properly functioning auto-connect feature, but it is unacceptable to find such a limitation these days, and for this reason, we must give the product a thumbs-down and can not recommend you purchase it.

Summary

This is a very attractive appearing unit, but suffers from several flaws of varying severity - difficulty mounting to a car visor, nonstandard power socket, an out of business manufacturer, and - the deal breaker - it does not auto-connect to your phone.

Not recommended, particularly at its current high $85 street price.
 

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Originally published 25 Sep 2009, last update 19 Dec 2013

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 

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