Jabra is probably best known for its Bluetooth wireless headsets, but it also produces quality Bluetooth speakers. It offers an entry-level/easy series SP-200 and now are adding to their advanced model/smart series with the Cruiser. The Easy Series speakers from Jabra cover the basic hands-free operations and the Smart Series adds a few more bells and whistles such as a FM transmitter.

Not everyone is comfortable wearing a Bluetooth headset, but still wants a hands-free environment while driving. The Jabra Cruiser, being part of the Smart Series, will give you hands-free operation of your Windows phone along with the ability to channel streaming audio to your FM radio.

We took the Cruiser out for a test drive with the AT&T Tilt 2 and Samsung Jack. Ease on past the break to see what type of impression the latest Jabra Bluetooth speaker made.

Design

Compared to the Jabra SP-200 and the SP-700, the Cruiser is more polished in appearance with the glossy black facing and chromed buttons. The Jabra Cruiser measures 5" L x 2.4"W x .67"D and attaches firmly to your visor with a wire hook.

To the right side of the Cruiser you'll find the volume keys and charging port. To the left are the power button and FM buttons. On the face of the Cruiser you'll find the playback buttons (play/next/previous) and the answer/end button. LED lights are also on the face of the speaker to show battery, call, connection and FM transmission status.

The Cruiser comes packaged with a USB cable, car charger adapter and a Quick Start guide. Battery life is being reported at 14 hours of talk time and 13 days of standby time. Based on the use during the test period, I won't disagree with these numbers and with the included car charger, battery duration becomes a non-issue.

Hands-Free

As a hands-free Bluetooth speaker, I found the Jabra Cruiser to be a good performer. The speaker has a dedicated power button and when powered up, goes automatically into pairing mode. The Cruiser has voice confirmations (a female voice with a slight British accent) that help guide you along the pairing process.

Pairing was easily accomplished with both the AT&T Tilt2 and Samsung Jack. Once paired, the Cruiser remembers the last device paired with so when you turn it back on, it searches for that device.

As a hands-free solution, the Cruiser allows you to answer/end calls, redial, access voice commands (phone dependent), and muting. The speaker has Voice Announcements where the British female voice announces incoming calls.

Call Quality

Call quality on the Jabra Cruiser is good.  It's not "knock your socks off" good but does the job well.  The strong point has to be with the microphones.

The Cruiser uses dual microphone technology to filter out background noises.  Some Bluetooth speakers require you to raise your voice to be heard but with the Cruiser, the dual microphones and noise filtering software allowed me to be heard nicely over my car stereo and the traffic noise using a normal tone and volume.

The weak point of the Cruiser's call quality was the speaker volume. The Cruiser's volume seemed muted and while the microphones battled background noise really good, the speaker struggled. It performed well with no background noise (e.g. car parked) but you had to max out the volume to hear the speaker over the engine and traffic noise.  Speaker volume is manageable but probably the weakest point of the Cruiser.

FM Transmitter

While the Jabra Cruiser is a hands-free solution for your Windows phone it is also a FM Transmitter. This allows you to direct audio files to your car's FM radio. If you tap the FM Transmitter the speaker will announce which station you should set your car radio to.

You can control the playback (play/pause, next track, and previous track) from the Cruiser.  Sound quality was good with very little static present.  If the pre-selected channel doesn't ring loud and true, you can have the Cruiser select an alternative channel to feed your audio files to.

Overall Impression

Personally, while from time to time I will use a Bluetooth headset, in the car I'm more comfortable using a speaker solution. I often find myself fumbling with the headset and the convenience of having a portable Bluetooth solution on the visor is nice.

I've used the Jabra SP-200, SP-700 and now the Cruiser. With respect to call quality the Cruiser is a good choice but a mixed bag. I feel the microphone performance of the Cruiser is the best of the bunch. The dual microphones and noise reduction software performs noticeably well. The speaker volume, however, is a little on the weak side. The SP-200 might be the stronger performer in this respect. The Cruiser's speaker seemed muted but workable.

The Cruiser does offer a FM Transmitter, which performed well sending your favorite tunes to your car stereo. The speaker is sleek and professional looking.

So when the dust settled, I look at the Cruiser this way. If you want more out of a Bluetooth speaker than just a hands-free solution then the Jabra Cruiser would be a good choice. If all you need is a hands-free solution then the SP-200 would be my choice.