Review: Iqua Vizor Sun Solar Powered Bluetooth Car Handsfree
Iqua's Vizor Sun ($100) is an iPhone-ready handsfree speakerphone system, more specifically an alternative to wireless, rechargeable battery-powered microphone and speaker combinations we've tested from Bluetrek/Contour Design, BlueAnt, and Kensington. It connects to the iPhone and iPhone 3G via Bluetooth 2.0, and enables you to take calls without holding a phone up to your ear and mouth. All of these devices mount on the car's visor, close enough to pick up your voice and let you hear the voices of your callers; unlike many categories of accessories we've tested, every one of these wireless speakerphones has been either good or great at its task, with certain caveats. Vizor Sun is no exception.
One feature helps Iqua’s option stand out from the speakerphones we’ve previously reviewed. Unlike any prior unit we’ve seen, Vizor Sun includes a solar panel on its face, a feature that Iqua claims offers “unlimited talk time” under “optimum lighting condition[s]” by using the sun to recharge the unit’s integrated 20-hour battery. In order to use this feature, you’ll need to either turn your car’s visor towards the sun or detach the unit from the visor and leave it on your dashboard in direct sunlight; those who park their cars in garages or live in cloudy places will be better off using Iqua’s included car charging bulb and cable to keep the battery going. In any case, 20 hours of talk time before a charge is significant enough that keeping Vizor Sun running shouldn’t be a problem for most users; competitors offer similar or less talk time without including a solar panel as a charging option.
Sonically, Vizor Sun has its ups and downs, bolstered by a strong, fairly clear integrated speaker that can easily be heard in a moderately noisy car, and detracted from somewhat by a microphone that did well in quiet car testing but poorly in one with wind and other ambient noise. Callers told us that we sounded a little more natural in a quiet car with Vizor Sun than with Kensington’s competing visor-mounted Bluetooth speakerphone, but when a window was opened and noise levels kicked up, they said that we were basically inaudible with Vizor Sun and far clearer with the Kensington solution.
There are some interface oddities. Iqua includes six control buttons, one an oddly-placed side power button and the other five labeled with icons that require instructions to totally understand. A fast-call button works like the three buttons on Kensington’s unit, letting you memorize a single favorite number from a prior call, then redial it; a picture of a Pac-Man like head emitting waves triggers a voice dialing feature that’s not (yet) supported by the iPhone, and also temporarily mutes a call - a fractured speaker is supposed to indicate the muting. Another reason to consult the manual is the confusing initial pairing of Vizor Sun with the phone: you actually need to hold down the pairing button during the whole pairing process in order to get Vizor Sun to accept a connection. We’ve never had to deal with that particular issue before, but once you’ve successfully paired the devices, it won’t be a problem again unless you do another pairing. Iqua’s Bluetooth implementation supports up to eight paired devices at a time, useful for multi-iPhone or multi-Bluetooth phone families.
Mounting Vizor Sun in our test cars required a little bit of physical and visual adjustment. Due to its 5 1/8” (W) by 3 3/4” (D) by 3/4” (H) size and shape, it protrudes a bit more from the edge of the car’s visor than other options we’ve tried, and its flexible button edge is folded over the visor’s edge for cosmetic and functional reasons. Stabilizing the unit on the mounting bracket requires a few seconds of stress testing to confirm that the magnets are more or less locked into place. Once it’s up there and stable, activating the tiny side power button takes some additional getting used to, and the left-mounted microphone naturally comes closer to the U.S. left-mounted driver’s window than competing options we’ve tested. Iqua’s EU-centric design, made for right-seated drivers, might have had some role in this placement and the unit’s commensurate weakness when wind noise is introduced from that window into the cabin.
Despite the issues identified above, Vizor Sun is a good iPhone speakerphone system overall: each of the units we’ve tested has its strengths and weaknesses, and between its strong speaker, good microphone, solar charging, and 20-hour battery, Iqua has included enough here to satisfy many people. That having been said, the mic’s weakness in high-noise environments, the power button design, and the practical utility of the solar panel may lead some users to consider other options instead. We’d recommend this primarily to users in sun-drenched climates, but almost any user looking for a competent car speakerphone will find this one to be good—after the initial pairing hurdle.