Review: Lenntek Hookup Lanyard Bluetooth Kit for iPod nano
Pros: A cleanly-designed way to wear your iPod nano and automatically interrupt its music with incoming or outgoing calls from a Bluetooth equipped cell phone. Fits and works with second-generation iPods; can also be used less attractively with first-generation nanos. Extremely simple phone-to-accessory pairing, sound quality of both iPod music and phone calls is acceptable.
Cons: Bluetooth 1.2-based chipset doesn’t excel on range and begins to have static issues at distances of 6 or 8 feet from the phone; best used when you’re carrying both your phone and iPod together rather than using them far apart from one another. Microphone could be closer to your mouth; unit turns nano’s backlight on once per minute unless you turn off the backlight in the nano’s settings. Doesn’t pause iPod’s music when calls come in or go out.
Over the past year, we’ve tested a number of add-ons designed to let you automatically interrupt your iPod’s music whenever a cell phone call comes in. The requirements and prices vary from accessory to accessory, but there’s one across-the-board prerequisite: you need a Bluetooth-equipped cell phone, generally one supporting the Bluetooth 1.2 standard, which some 2005 phones - including the Motorola RAZR and all iTunes phones - and many 2006 phones do.
We recently reviewed Lenntek’s Hookup (iLounge rating: C-), which offered full-sized iPod users this functionality and a little more at a price of $130 or $190, depending on where you looked. Now Lenntek has released Hookup Lanyard ($70), a cheaper and iPod nano-specific version of Hookup, with much better results. Visually, Hookup Lanyard looks a lot like Apple’s iPod nano Lanyard Headphones, but with a larger, silver metal Dock Connector-equipped base, silver-edged earphones, and white foam earbud covers. These parts are connected by a user-resizeable lanyard necklace that’s highly similar to Apple’s, and joined by an in-line microphone that hangs from the right earbud wire.
As is obvious from the various parts, you connect the dongle to your second-generation iPod nano - or, less attractively, the first-generation nano - then pair it with your Bluetooth 1.2 phone, and with a single button press automatically interrupt the nano’s music with cell phone calls as they come in or go out. Like the original Hookup, the pairing process is extremely easy, and consisted of no more than four total button presses between our cell phone and the Lanyard: a blue-glowing button between two volume buttons on the accessory’s right side handles pairing, call acceptance, and call ending. When a call comes in, you hear a nice chime in the earbuds and have the option to accept or ignore the call.
Lenntek has thankfully made one significant improvement to Hookup Lanyard: its integrated microphone actually works. Under normal testing conditions, callers were able to hear us, albeit a little more softly than we’d have preferred, when we were talking through the mic. So too were we able to hear callers talking to us; as with most such Bluetooth stereo accessories, the ability to hear the caller in both of your ears adds to your accurate perception of what’s being said on the other end. We’d have preferred that the microphone’s distance from our mouths would be adjustable or just plain closer, but Lenntek’s done a pretty good job here.
The only issues we had with Hookup Lanyard were ones we’d describe as moderate rather than huge or trivial. Like the first Hookup, Lanyard doesn’t pause your music when a phone call comes in - it just mutes it. Consequently, unless you pause the iPod yourself, you’ll lose your place in a song, audiobook, or podcast, and the track may well end before you finish the call. It also carries on a bad habit of turning on the iPod’s screen once every minute to preserve its ability to share the nano’s battery power; it is not as efficient as it should be in power consumption. Consequently, you’ll need to turn the nano’s screen off to avoid the wear on your screen - Lenntek really needs to fix this in future revisions of Hookup.
Additionally, the unit’s sound quality is fine, but not fantastic. We found the iPod listening experience to be more than acceptable, with the Dock Connector’s volume properly attenuated using the unit’s built-in volume buttons; similarly, when the iPod and phone were physically as close to each other as they’d be in typical ‘walk around outside’ use, phone calls sounded pretty good. Unfortunately, when we increased the distance to 6 or 8 feet, static began to creep in, and at a distance of 25 or so feet, Hookup Lanyard typically lost our phone’s audio altogether. There are, of course, limits on the broadcasting ability of Bluetooth accessories, but Hookup Lanyard doesn’t so much push them as ride within them.
While we’re initially tempted to say that Hookup Lanyard’s $70 price tag seems reasonable given that Apple’s iPod nano Lanyard Headphones sell for nearly $40 without any Bluetooth functionality, the truth is that Apple’s asking price was a bit high, and Lenntek’s implementation here is good, but not fantastic. Ideally, Hookup Lanyard would be $10 or $20 less expensive, a little stronger on Bluetooth audio performance, and better interfaced with the iPod’s play/pause feature and battery. But as it is, we think that its convenience and clean (if highly Apple-inspired) design make it a solid little accessory for the price, and worthy of our general recommendation.