Apr 29, 2014
When it comes to accessories, it’s easy to go for stuff that increases the functionality of existing hardware. That’s why stuff like Antec SmartBean Bluetooth Receiver is so relevant.
As the review unit Antec sent us showed, the device is relatively small, with gentle edges; the square body tapers into a clip that forms on the backside. There is a 3.55 mm slot that is built into the tapering top, while there is a micro-usb charging port at the bottom and a microphone hole on the side. It’s mostly made of hard plastic, mostly white with a light blue frame that encircles the white center square that serves as the play/pause button. On said blue frame, there are are control buttons forwarding and rewinding/skipping and volume. The clip is firm without being rigid, and altogether, it’s a compact piece of hardware that feels exceptionally light in hand. Also packaged with the unit is a USB cable and documentation. The unit is also offered with grey or pink accents.
Out of the box, the SmartBean requires a stated 2.5 hours of charging to prep it for pairing. After the requisite charge time, long-pressing on the center button puts the gadget into pairing mode, and getting it linked to a Bluetooth source is easy as it gets. After the pairing, the utility of the gadget really comes forth.
What the SmartBean does is convert audio output devices with the standard 3.55mm input jacks into pseudo-Bluetooth devices; it is, in essence a wireless receiver. I connected a bunch of different headphones and wired speakers, and the puck handled the audio duties very well. The audio fidelity transfers well, with hardly any noticeable distortion. Smartphones, tablets, mp3 players, TVs, car auxiliary ports and more with coaxial connectivity are all supported, and the lessened amount of wires is nothing but positive. The presence of rechargeable battery can’t be taken for granted, as some competing products do not include this.
I liked the ability to take calls with the unit; on non-continuous calls, it came close to the advertised six hours of talk time. It claims a standby time of 130 hours too.
The range isn’t unlimited, of course, and with walls and such between the source and output, the audio did cut out, so the closer the streaming source, the better. Another gripe I have is one I have with several Bluetooth peripherals: the infernal flashing blue light. Yes, it makes sense, and it is a good indicator, but there are times I wish I could toggle it off.
When it comes down to it, the drawbacks don’t even come close to taking preventing the SmartBean from being a great pickup; pricing and functionality make it that much more of a steal.