Whether you are in the market for a new Bluetooth adapter or you are just curious about Bluetooth technology, reviewing the differences between Class 1 and Class 2 Bluetooth adapters can help you evaluate their respective capabilities. A Bluetooth adapter enables a device without integrated Bluetooth hardware to be compatible with other Bluetooth devices, such as Bluetooth headsets. While Class 1 adapters are better-suited for consumer devices that require short-distance wireless connectivity, Class 2 adapters are better-suited for commercial devices that require longer-distance connectivity.
Bluetooth technology functions by creating a wireless personal area network (PAN), also known as a piconet, which Bluetooth-enabled devices can connect to. Once two devices are connected to the same piconet, they can communicate with each other. For example, if a user connects a Bluetooth adapter to a cell phone, he can talk on that cell phone via a wireless Bluetooth headset. With a Class 1 Bluetooth adapter, the piconet the adapter establishes extends further than with a Class 2 adapter. As a result, Class 1 Bluetooth adapters allow devices to communicate over longer distances. Specifically, a Class 1 adapter can provide a maximum connectivity range of up to 100m, or about 300 feet. In comparison, a Class 2 adapter can provide a maximum connectivity range of up to 10m, or about 33 feet.
Because a Class 1 Bluetooth adapter sends signals further than a Class 2 Bluetooth adapter, a Class 1 adapter requires a larger antenna. In most instances, a Class 1 adapter utilizes an external antenna, which protrudes outward form the adapter's casing or body. In comparison, because a Class 2 Bluetooth adapter sends signals over shorter distances, it can utilize a smaller antenna. In many instances, a Class 2 adapter has an internal antenna, which is an antenna that is hidden inside of an adapter's casing.
Apart from the distances Class 1 and Class 2 Bluetooth adapters are capable of, the other main functional difference between the two adapters is power consumption. In order to send wireless signals over greater distances, Class 1 adapters consume greater amounts of power than Class 2 adapters. For adapters that derive their power from outlets, the greater power consumption of Class 2 adapters can lead to higher energy bills. For adapters that derive their power from batteries, the greater power consumption of Class 2 adapters can lead to the more frequent re-charging, or replacing, of batteries.
Due to their longer ranges, Class 1 Bluetooth adapters are better-suited for industrial applications. For example, users can connect Class 1 adapters to Ethernet modems, which turn the modems into industrial access points for connecting wirelessy to the Internet. In addition, a user could replace a hardwired serial cable with a Bluetooth link using a Class 1 adapter. In contrast, due to their shorter ranges, Class 2 Bluetooth adapters are better-suited for consumer applications. Such applications include connecting a phone, computer or tablet computer to a wireless headset.