A few weeks ago I bought a Packtalk Bold and thought this was a good opportunity to share my thoughts on it having used in a number of different scenarios. This is an honest review and not sponsored by Cardo or any retailers.
First I wanted to acknowledge the price of the item, I paid £250 for my model brand new in July 2019 and being a 2019 model it comes with higher quality JBL speakers. I think this price is a little high and found it hard handing the money over for it without trying the competition. As a premium product I had expectations of it being a good quality product that worked reliably and convenient when on the move on the bike.
The item arrives tightly packed into a small box and contains everything you need to get up and running. Installation of the unit is fairly self explanatory, my helmet has a slider for the internal visor on the left hand side so I had to use the glue plate rather than the clip to hold it in place – no big problem.
I decided to shortcut the install process when I realised that the speakers stuck firmly to the lining inside my helmet – they are stuck into the ear cavities without the need for velcro pads and haven’t moved at all. There is still good clearance between the speakers and my ears which I find comfortable even with my ear plugs in. I opted to use the boom mic following a recommendation by a colleague, this sits right in front of my mouth with the stem and cabling neatly tucked behind the left cheek pad. I found it easy to hide the cabling around the helmet and overall done a tidy job in around 15 to 20 minutes.
Pairing with my phone (OnePlus 6T) was really easy, you can pair it with two bluetooth devices at the same time. Once it got everything set up I moved to my Windows PC and connected the Packtalk to Cardo Community to perform an update. This went without an issue and also fully charged the device for me.
With the helmet ready and the Packtalk charged and up to date I fired the helmet on and gave it a go at home. My initial impressions were that the voice commands work very well “Hey Cardo, Radio On” but I didn’t realise I wasn’t using it right at first. When you say “Hey Cardo” nothing happens and that is OK… I was expecting a chime or some sort of confirmation it heard me. I used the Cardo Connect app to set up my speed dial and FM radio stations. The quality of the speakers are very good, listening to music either through Spotify or the FM Radio sounds great for being in a helmet I think. I called my wife using the speed dial functionality and she commented it sounded better than my car bluetooth… but a road test was still to be completed.
On the road I don’t listen to music much unless I’m on a longer trip, such as sitting on the motorway but whilst out a ride I tried some of the features and was pleasantly surprised how well they work even at speed. I called my wife whilst sitting on the dual carriageway at 70MPH and she had zero issues hearing me at all.
Something in particular that I liked about this unit was the compatibility with a digital assistant, when riding I can use “Hey Google” or press the virtual assistant button on the device itself to trigger Google Assistant on my phone. I was coming back from the Trossachs and said “Hey Google, Directions to home” and without any further commands Google Maps on my phone started providing audio instructions on my journey home… it was around this time I started to realise that the Packtalk Bold was a worthy investment. You can expand this out to any other Google Assistant functionality such as reminders or even “Hey Google, Play Foo Fighters on Spotify” it worked exactly as expected. To stop the music, you stop the Packtalk music player “Hey Cardo, Music off”.
Another thing worthy of mention is that I’ve got a pretty broad Scottish accent which often doesn’t play well with voice assistants… but this works really well.
So far I’ve covered almost each area of the product but what about the intercom? One of the great things about the Packtalk is it’s DMC (Dynamic Mesh Communication) and ability to connect to other intercoms via it’s universal connection. Over this weekend I’ve used the intercom for around six hours of use with three different riders and have been incredibly impressed. When meeting with the first rider it took around ten seconds for her to put her Packtalk into a mode that would accept new riders and then ten seconds for me to press the join button on my Packtalk – job done. Ten minutes later we’re going down a dual carriageway with crystal clear communication, zero breakup. When I met with the next two riders it equally took around the same time for the group leader to open the group and for me to join. On both of these cases, the riders remained in close proximity so I’ll need to provide an update on how this performs with larger groups when the distance increases.
So far this is how I’m getting on with the Packtalk and have been ultimately very impressed. It’s expensive but it’s working very well and I’ve been impressed at how well it works. I’d highly recommend it to others.