Tech, Autos, & Gear in Layman's Terms Since 2006

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March 4, 2008 • Reviews

The Venturi Mini Review

Chris Spera called me the other day while I was driving my Alfa. We talked for a little bit, but then I finally had to admit that I was driving a stick shift in traffic, and holding my mobile phone to my left ear was a little bit tricky…since that was the hand I needed for the steering wheel, while my right hand was working the shift.

He, of course, reminded me that they make headsets for that.

I, of course, don’t really like wearing one.

This review will focus on a compromise for people like me, those who don’t particularly like ear roaches, but who know that driving a stick shift with a phone in one hand and a latte in the other (didn’t I mention that?) isn’t the safest way to get from point A to point B.

The product is the Venturi Mini, and what it does is allow you to listen to music from your mobile phone as it streams via Bluetooth over your vehicle’s speaker system (assuming your phone has A2DP), or you can talk hands-free over the Venturi’s speaker system.

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Inside the box is a fat little manual and the all-in-one Mini. The book is so fat because there are quite a few languages covered; although only 20 pages are dedicated to the English instructions. Fear not – I would find that the Venturi was easy to set up and easy to operate.

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The Venturi Mini is, as the name implies, a smallish sized bit of kit. Measuring about 3.5″ long (albeit bent in the middle) x 1.6″ wide x 0.5″ thick, there’s not a whole lot which will be sticking out of your vehicle’s power port when it’s plugged in; the 12V adapter portion is about 3.5″ long.

On the front of the Mini there are four integrated buttons and a scroll wheel. Starting at the top left, there is a Music Mode Key, which controls Play, Pause & Skip when listening to music. On the top right is the Phone Mode Key, which controls hands-free calling and the phonebook; in the middle of those two buttons is a small ambient light sensor.

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Directly under these buttons is the 1″ wide x 0.5″ tall integrated black and white OLED display. In the middle is the Multi-Function Scroller Key, which allows scrolling through the phonebook, moving through music tracks, muting calls, and scrolling through FM stations during setup. The small grill under the scroll is not a speaker, it is instead the hands free microphone. On the bottom left is the Music Play / Pause button, and on the right is the Music Stop key.

When the Mini is laid on its left side, you can see the Settings Mode / Off key and the USB Charger Connector port, which allows you to charge your mobile phone or digital music player (assuming you have a USB charging cable).

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The left side of the Mini has an FM Set Up Mode button, as well as 3.5mm Line In and Line Out ports.

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As you can see in this picture of me holding the Mini, it isn’t very large at all.

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The following two pictures show how the 12V adapter will swing 180 degrees to allow the best angle for viewing when it’s plugged into a vehicle’s power port; it will not swing to the right or left, however.

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When plugged into a power port, the Venturi will offer the user their choice of languages.

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Next you will be asked to chose up to four empty radio stations which can be set as presets on the Mini. Obviously it works best to chose them from the vehicle’s radio and then set them on the Mini.

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Choosing them on the Mini is as simple as spinning the scroll wheel.

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You press the bottom left “Confirm” button to store the settings. Assuming that your radio has a Radio Data System (RDS), HELLO VENTURI will display on both the Mini and your stereo display.

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During the first setup, the Mini will automatically switch to Bluetooth pairing mode.

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Just in case you aren’t sure which PIN to enter, the Venturi will display it.

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It took 30 seconds to pair with my phone, and I was soon ready to make my first call.

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I dialed the number on my phone…

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…and got Jerry’s voicemail; LAME. I left a message for him however, asking for a report on how clear my voice sounded. He called back soon after and said I had sounded clear. I also called Sarah and held a conversation with her, where I didn’t mention that I was on a speakerphone, and she never mentioned that I sounded like I was on one; which was a good thing.

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The Mini can pair with up to four devices, and it will keep them juiced as long as they are plugged in via the USB port. If your Digital Music player doesn’t have Bluetooth, or if your mobile phone which also serves as your digital music player doesn’t have A2DP, you can use the Audio In and Audio Out ports to directly connect it to the FM transmitter.

When a call comes in, the number is supposed to display on your car’s RDS as well as the Venturi (I’m not sure why it didn’t on my truck’s radio, but whatever!); you speak to the caller through the microphone on the front of the device, and you are replied to over your vehicle’s speakers. You do not have to lean forward and talk into the Venturi! Just speak naturally and as long as your windows are up and the top isn’t down, call quality will be excellent.

Let me tell you something, it is pretty wild to talk in this manner, and I like it.

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Since my neither my iPhone nor my Vertu have A2DP, I was not able to test streaming music, but I can tell you that I see this feature as an extra heaping of goodness. My main reason for regretting that I must send the the Venturi Mini back, is that I will miss its excellent sounding hands free phone operation.

If you live in one of the many states where it is (or will soon be) illegal to talk on your phone without a hands free kit of some kind, you really should take a look at the Venturi Mini. It integrates so nicely with vehicle and phone, that using it is an absolute pleasure.

The Venturi Mini is available from the manufacturer, Verizon, and other retailers.

MSRP: $129.00
What I Like: Easy to set up and operate; excellent sound quality for incoming and outgoing calls; Allows streaming music over A2DP; charges your music player or mobile phone via USB
What Needs Improvement: Nothing

4 Responses to " The Venturi Mini Review "

  1. Mitchell Oke says:

    These are a great idea if you don’t want to have one wired into your car. Also great in your situation where you have two cars you use regularly, just take it between them.

    I like the idea of displaying the caller id on the radio via RDS, very clever idea!

  2. Wayne Schulz says:

    Hey does this CHARGE your iPhone?

    This seems to primarily be a deal for those with phones/devices which do support the special A2DP Bluetooth protocol — which as you point out the iPhone does NOT (but my Blackberry does – yeah!!).

    I LOVE that this device has a USB port (when the heck will cars DUMP the old fashioned ugly cigarette lighter that doesn’t light — in favor of universal USB?)…

    I’ve seen other units that clip to your visor — which is nice aesthetically — but then requires either snaking a cable or periodic recharges (translation: another funky charging cable to carry around)…

    …when elected President, within the first 30 days in office I intend to pass a law that all cars must have 5 USB charging ports and all devices such as portable phones are required to change their charging port to a universal mini-usb size (such as the Moto Razr has).

    Enough of the veering off topic for one morning..

  3. Joel Mclaughlin says:

    Man I am going to have to get me one of these! I have a 2 GB MicroSD in my Green enV and I don’t yet have a headset to listen to the music, yet, but I have very often used it’s built in speakers to demo some songs to people. This thing would be cool to use in my van when we’re on trips. I bet you could ALSO use it with a Bluetooth module that you’d plugin to the iPod.

  4. Wayne, it does charge the iPhone! The inclusion of the USB port was clever as anything. 🙂

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