i have found the perfect aftermarket bluetooth adapter.

The world of Bluetooth radios for computers are, as far as I’m concerned, a wretched hive of scum and villainy when it comes to quality, compatibility and honesty. USB Bluetooth adapters are exactly the kind of merchandise that comes from Asia and floods the market with bizarre variations.

The problems are numerous. You need specific, proprietary driver and software packs to use the things, they won’t exactly conform to standards, they’ll use weaselly words on their packaging to puff up their apparent feature lists, it’ll randomly not work with some devices or some operating systems, it’ll overheat and have to be unplugged for 10 minutes every half hour, and most probably you paid $9 for it on eBay and it’s not worth the hassle to chase up a refund. Nice work, if you can get it.

And don’t think that by sticking to big brandnames you’ll get the best, either. I recently went to Officeworks and paid $35 of my glorious, hard-earned dollars for a USB bluetooth adapter purportedly made by Swann. I’ll tell you right now that this device is identical to the crappy ISSCBTA dongles, down to the supplied driver CD being a cheap CD-R some kid in a factory’s burned the same old software to.

You face the same problem with laptops. Don’t ever buy a new laptop without a factory-fitted internal Bluetooth adapter, because adding them after-market is just painful.

This colourful little dingus is an internal Bluetooth adapter for Dell Inspiron (and probably other) laptop computers. I did the stupid thing and bought it off eBay, and wound up with a device that Just Doesn’t Work.

I’m too embarassed and prideful to say how much I spent on it and the cable, or to get a proper quote from Dell for the same, guaranteed-to-work parts. I don’t need to, either, because I’ve found a bluetooth adapter that doesn’t completely suck.

Yup. It’s a tiny notch of plastic and electronics on the rear end of a USB plug. That’s an 80mm CD “single”, too, not a full 120mm 700MB job.

The box it came in says “HI-SPEED USB 2.0, CLASS 2 + EDR, RANGE 30 M”, which I think means it’s a long-range Bluetooth 1.1 device, not 2 (I’ll doublecheck and update this when I know for sure). I don’t care how fast it is or how far it can shout; I basically use it to copy the occasional photo off my phone and zip other files around when it’s too much of a hassle to find the right cable for a particular device.

Here’s the good thing though: It works out of the box on Windows XP and Vista. You don’t even need the driver CD, and you can use Windows’s own inbuilt Bluetooth software, which turns out to actually be quite excellent:

And here’s the punchline: It costs US$12 delivered anywhere in the world, from DealExtreme. They’re a weird bunch based in Hong Kong who sell all kinds of electronic crud cheaply with free postage, and unlike eBay actually CARE about what they’re selling. I’m not yet brave enough to buy an “iFone”, but for most things like memory cards and card readers and such they’re perfect.

There are slightly cheaper ones available, but I paid $12 instead of $9 for the smallest one possible. Here it is, plugged into my faithful old Inspiron:

It doesn’t stick out very far, and the plug is tight and holds on like crazy. It’s not going to fall off by itself, and as long as you don’t stuff the computer in your bag USB-side-down, you can basically leave it there forever. The only downside is the bright blue LED in it that flashes ceaselessly, but if that’s a problem, scribble over it with permanent marker or something.

Stop trying to find drivers for other adapters. Buy this one instead.

2 Responses to “i have found the perfect aftermarket bluetooth adapter.”

  1. Jeremy says:

    I’ve found Linux’s Bluetooth dongle support to be quite excellent. Do all the problematic ones you described also fail to work in Linux?

  2. tim says:

    Ubuntu 8.04 identifies this as a Cambridge Silicon Radio Bluetooth dongle, which probably means it’s Bluetooth 2.0 at least. Annoyingly it doesn’t seem to actually work in Ubuntu; I could pair my phone with my laptop but trying to transfer files both ways failed with connection errors.

    The ISSCBTA dongles did work in Ubuntu 7.04 (at least) out of the box, but if you go for one of them, remember it’s not Bluetooth 2 and you’re going to want to avoid needing to plug it into a Windows box.