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More Usability Information on Bluetooth Dongles

June 3, 2008

I did some more experimenting with Bluetooth USB dongles this evening.

First, I experimented with the Zoom 3411 Class 1 USB dongle. The good: somewhat better range than IOGear (maybe 50 ft instead of 30 feet); and headphones remain paired even after being turned off. The bad: turning off headphones won’t automatically result in sound coming out of the PC’s speakers; and there is no working ARVCP support (meaning that I can’t use the controls on the headphones to move to a different song or pause during playback). On balance the disadvantages out weigh the advantages for me.

Second, I tried the Belkin F8T013 Class 2 USB dongle. This worked just fine (albeit with the same need to manually "connect" the headphones using the USB tray icon whenever they are being used), but appears to be based on the same Broadcom chip as the IOGear USB dongle I had tried previously. So there is no reason to prefer this to the IOGear dongle.

Third, I discovered that Broadcom has drivers that are even more up to date than those offered for downloads by the manufacturers of products that use their chips. As of this writing, a download from the Broadcom website will update your Bluetooth Widcomm drivers to version These seem to work a little better (in terms of ease of connection) than the older 3300 drivers offered by IOGear and the 4400 drivers offered by Belkin.

So far the winning combination for me is the IOGear Class 1 USB dongle paired with the Song DR-BT50 headphones. The range on the IOGear dongles is little better than Class 2, however. I would be interested in trying a Class 1 dongle with an antenna that used the (so far) reliable Broadcom chipset.


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