Review: Callpod Dragon V2 Class 1 Bluetooth 2.0 Headset
Last year, we spent some time testing Callpod's Dragon V2 ($100), a Bluetooth wireless headset that didn't really impress us much, and we didn't get back to reviewing due to the huge pile of items requiring our more immediate attention. As we're making our way through the stack, we wanted to make a few quick comments for those who might be interested in our take on Dragon V2 -- in short, it hasn't gotten better over time, but it does have a feature or two some users may find interesting.
Shaped like a hockey puck and larger than many of the Bluetooth headsets we’ve recently tested, Dragon V2 uses its unusually large, plastic shell to house an eight-hour battery, dual microphones that promise noise suppression, and a Class 1 Bluetooth chip that promises to let users achieve wireless distances of up to 300 feet from their devices. Callpod includes charging cables, wall and car adapters, a carrying case and a replacement eartip in the package, plus an adjustable earstem that generally keeps the circular earpiece on your ear. Three colors, including the faux carbon fiber one shown here, are available; we weren’t particularly impressed by the cheap look of the label-like carbon art on this unit’s side.
If there’s any reason we initially were interested in Dragon V2, it was the Class 1 Bluetooth technology: in practical comparisons with the iPhone 3G, we were able to walk further away from the phone than the typical 30-foot Bluetooth headsets we’ve tested; Dragon V2’s connection becomes troublingly staticy at around three times the distance, or 85-100 feet. This is good by the standards of most headsets, but bad in another respect: there’s a base level of static flutter in Dragon V2 even when you’re right next to the iPhone, so your connection never sounds totally clear on your side. It’s sort of like listening to an FM radio, adjustable in volume with a three-position power and volume toggle found on the side that’s closest to the back of your head. In incoming audio quality, we wouldn’t choose it over most of its competitors.
Outgoing call quality was also unimpressive. We were told repeatedly that—despite the dual microphone design—our voices sounded warbly, compressed, and deep, lacking in treble and sounding softer than with other headsets we tested. That was without any background noise. When we did our standard comparative test with audio in the background, such as music, we were told that we sounded “really muddy” against the sound of the ambient noise, which Dragon V2 did not screen out from our voice like last year’s Aliph Jawbone or newer headsets such as the iVoice Diamond-X. It seemed as if the microphones just weren’t separated enough from each other, or the signal processing inside the unit sufficient to know how to remove ambient sound from the user’s voice. Overall, no matter how we tried it, callers told us that Dragon V2 “just doesn’t sound good.”
Another possible standout feature in Dragon V2 is a walkie-talkie feature, which lets two Dragon users pair their headsets to one another for direct communications. You can use a circular button on the unit’s side to turn the audio on or off for communication or muting; a separate accessory called the Phoenix allows up to five of these headsets to be used at once together for a push-to-talk or group conferencing situation. In our testing with two Dragon units, the same 85- to 100-foot distance-before-static limitation applied, but the ability to let two people talk wirelessly anywhere they go at no additional charge for cell phone minutes may appeal to some users.
Apart from this, Dragon V2 has little else that would even modestly interest us. The shape, size, look, and static of this earpiece are so sub-optimal that we wouldn’t want to wear it around, and the sound quality so roundly disappointed our callers than we wouldn’t want to inflict it upon them, either. The only reasons this headset doesn’t rate a C- or D+ are its wireless distance and walkie-talkie performance, which may appeal to some users; we would suggest waiting on something more sleek and with better sound quality.