BlueAnt provides one of the first voice controlled Bluetooth headsets. (August 2nd, 2009)
Product Manufacturer: BlueAnt
- Voice control truly works.
- Easy to pair up.
- Speed dialing in its own memory.
- Good voice quality; effective noise cancellation.
- Low volume on startup.
- Side buttons can be confusing.
- Expensive compared to some headsets.
- No bundled carrying case.
In my other career as a reviewer of new cars, I have the opportunity to travel around the world testing the latest and greatest motor vehicles from America, England, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Korea. With many of these locales incorporating hands-free calling laws in an effort to curtail traffic incidents and other mishaps, Bluetooth earpieces are becoming the de rigueur accessories for drivers who take their phone calls, and their driving, seriously.
With some experience using better headset models from Plantronics, Motorola and Aliph, we are always on the lookout for the next big thing. BlueAnt may not have the largest name in the business, but with the Q1 it hopes to stake a claim as a major force. We'll find out how well it lives up to that promise.
What's in the box
Arriving in a smart-looking clear plastic-covered cardboard box with innovative cutouts and packaging, it was pretty easy to see what was included and what purpose each enclosed piece had. From its pedestal-like perch inside the top of the box, the earpiece sits with its large silicone earpad. Under the top is an ear hook, a smaller earpad, AC adapter, USB charging cable and instruction manual. Pop the earpiece out of its holder and place the mini-USB cable into the plug receptacle located on the backside of the earpiece. Connect the other end to the AC adapter or an available USB port on your computer. Expect about two to three hours on the charger. A blinking red LED will let you know the charger is doing its job. When complete, a blue light will be visible.
pairing, comfort and battery
Pairing the Q1 was as easy as using the voice commands on the earpiece. Pushing the BlueAnt logo button for three seconds brings up the welcome message; you just follow the voice prompts to pair your phone. This requires having your phone in Pair mode as well, but once there, the Q1 will recognize your phone, and the voice inside your ear tells you pairing was successful. With no codes or passwords to enter, it couldn't be easier. We like it.
The number of devices that can be used is also a plus: eight separate phones can be paired to the Q1, and two phones can be used at one time.
The BlueAnt is one of the most comfortable Bluetooth earpieces we have tried recently. As all ears are sized differently, it's almost a necessity to have the earhook to help keep the pad positioned correctly in the ear canal. Units like the Plantronics Discovery 925, which fit inside the ear canal with no support from outside and over the top of the ear, are actually quite painful. We found that as soon as the call was completed, the device was out of the ear. That was not the case with the BlueAnt, which could stay in the ear for its entire battery life.
The lithium polymer battery gave us about 3.5 hours of talk time. Chalk that up to a new battery. After a couple of charge cycles, it should expand to four hours. This isn't spectacular for all-day users like sales agents, but it's common for high-end headsets.
The Q1's signature feature is, of course, its ability to recognize voice commands instead of depending on button press. These allow a number of functions by just pushing the logo/function button and speaking various commands, such as checking the battery or connection, making an immediate call back, and dialing both regularly as well as in speed dial. These are simple and more often much easier than either on-headset buttons or else the phone itself to complete the remainder of the call.
With the Palm Pre, we did have difficulty making the Q1 complete speed dial commands; that's because the phone does not offer such functionality on its own. However, the BlueAnt Q1 has the ability to assign incoming numbers their own speed dial function through the earpiece memory itself, at least mitigating the need to use a particular handset.
The Q1 offers excellent voice quality... after the initiation of a call. When pushing the logo/function button to start a voice command, the volume through the earpiece is rather low, but once the call is connected it restores to normal levels. The same occurs with the call announce function, where the Q1 speaks the number of the incoming call. We are still investigating ways to improve these levels. There exists a firmware update from the company website that addresses certain issues but we are uncertain if they apply to volume because it is currently available as an EXE format at this point, ruling out most Mac users.
The noise canceling function worked as advertised, which we tested by calling people in our network. The two-stage DSP signal processor comes with normal and high settings, which work to cancel ambient noise, echo cancellation, and wind noise protection. Getting to the more aggressive cancelation is easy and just involves pressing the BlueAnt function button.
All told, the Q1 is mostly a resounding success. It's not often that companies will try an ambitious feature like extensive voice control and have it work, but here it does. More importantly, BlueAnt didn't feel compelled to use an exotic design and recognized that users want to keep their headsets in for long periods of time.
If anything is an obstacle, it's likely to be the price: at $129, it collides directly with the Aliph Jawbone Prime and Plantronics' Voyager Pro and is significantly above the price of some competitors. We'd say the Q1 is worth at least a serious look if not a definitive pick, as it has both the voice control that the others don't as well as a smaller, more discreet design that the Voyager Pro lacks.