Voice commands have made life a lot easier. They offer a level of convenience and while driving makes life a little safer. We've enjoyed voice commands native to our Windows Mobile phones for some time now and thanks to BlueAnt, we now can enjoy them on our Bluetooth headsets.
Enter the BlueAnt Q1 voice-controlled headset. On the surface, it looks like your typical thin, compact Bluetooth headset. Start using the Q1 and you can't help but smile when the headset asks what you would like to do and listens.
Follow the break to see how well the Blueant Q1 listens to your commands.
The first impression I had when I took the Q1 out of the box was that it was solidly build and classy looking. However, with the Q1, looks wasn't all that makes this Bluetooth headset impressive. BlueAnt eliminates most of the need for button navigation on the Q1 and makes it almost completely reliable on voice commands. It takes hands-free to a level even Darth Vader would approve of.
What's in the box?
The Blueant Q1 is packaged with a USB charger, ear hook, replacement ear bud and the Q1. Obligatory documentation is also included (quick start guide and warranty card) with a full manual available at Blueant's Web site. The sleek, black, brushed aluminum headset measures 2.16"x.66"x.31" and weighs in at .3 ounces (add .08 ounces if you use the ear hook).
The charger cable detaches from the wall plug to allow you to charge the Q1 from your computer as well as installing any firmware updates that may come down the pike.
The Q1's design is simplistic with a center control button on the face of the headset and volume controls on the side. An optional ear hook can slide into the headset for a more secure fit. But while wearing the Q1 when jogging (or playing basketball, bicycling, etc.) the Q1 still rides nicely without the hook.
The Q1 will pair with up to eight devices including phones and laptops (for use with VOIP clients such as Skype) as well as maintain a pairing with two devices at the same time.
The headset is fitted with a 3.7V Lithium Polymer battery that is reported to have a lifespan of 4 hours' talk time and 100 hours' standby time.
The feature that sells the Q1 is that it is controlled by voice commands as opposed to button sequences. You still have to press the control button to power up the Q1, but most everything else relies on voice commands. Where traditional BT headsets require you press/hold the control button to enter pairing mode, with the Q1 you simply press the control button and say "pairing mode." The Q1 will then walk you through pairing the headset with your phone. It goes so far as to tell you to turn on your phone's Bluetooth and have it search for devices.
I have to admit that using the voice command on the Q1 made me grin and say "cool" several times. If you can't remember what to say or what commands are available you simply press the control button and say "what can I say" and the Q1 recites all the voice commands. There's even a "teach me" command that will scroll through a series of tutorials.
I did have problems getting the headset to recognize the native voice commands on the AT&T Fuze that was used during testing. You have to say "Phone Commands" then speak the phone's voice commands (got confusing for a bit). I found that if you pause too long after saying "Phone Commands" the Q1 reads the commands as directed to the headset not the phone. BlueAnt does note that some phones may need voice tags added to the phone for this feature to work properly.
What I found most effective in dialing was to use the phones speed dialing feature. Simply say "Dial 2" and the phone dials whatever number is stored in speed dial position two. Re-dialing, hold, checking battery power, pairing status and all the other core functions of a BT headset are available. The only two functions I found that were not controlled by voice were to turn the headset on and controlling the volume.
For the most part, the voice command was very accurate in responding to the correct commands. There were a few redials when I wanted to check the battery but not enough to make me swear to never use the headset again. Some of the errors were user related (mumbling, speaking too low, etc).
While the voice recognition is the Q1's strong suit, it's only window dressing if the headset's performance isn't equally as strong. The Q1 uses dual microphones and Voice Isolation Technology to filter out the background noise and focus on your voice. The headset also has a few internal wind shields to reduce wind noise.
The Q1 was comfortable to wear with or without the ear hook. I wear glasses so it was easier to place the Q1 in my ear without the ear hook. Obviously the ear hook provides a more secure fit but I was comfortable wearing the Q1 without it.
Incoming calls are announced via caller id and you are asked if you want to answer or ignore the call. Again, taking hands-free to a new level.
The audio performance of the Q1 ranks amongst the best I've tested. Callers came in loud and clear with no interference, background noise or wind interfering with my voice. Tough call as to which is better the Jawbone or Q1 but with the voice recognition software, the Q1 has a slight edge.
The BlueAnt Q1 definitely has a "cool" factor that sets it apart from other Bluetooth headsets. It's comfortable to wear, has decent battery life and the voice commands makes using the Q1 almost effortless. I would have liked to have seen better integration with native voice commands on the phone but I'm sure with so many phones on the market, this would have been a difficult task for the engineers.
I would have also liked the ability to adjust the volume through voice commands and eliminate the need for physical volume keys. It would have also been nice to have the ability to choose between a female and male voice (currently the Q1 is of the male persuasion). Maybe BlueAnt will put these options in the next firmware update.
While the Q1 is a quality, feature rich, Bluetooth headset, it's also one of the more pricey headsets on the market. The level of performance the Q1 offers does justify the above $100 price tag. The headset is solidly constructed and with the ability to update the firmware, it can keep pace with the software technology as it improves.
If you rely on a Bluetooth headset for your daily activities, the Q1 would be the one for you. The Q1 would serve the casual headset user but might be cost prohibitive. Regardless, the Q1 is a quality headset that should make everyone's short list when shopping for a Bluetooth headset.
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