Cardo Packtalk Bold Review
Helmet-to-helmet and smartphone-to-helmet communications have grown in importance to motorcycle riders over the last decade. We constantly want to be in touch with each other, as well as the outside world. Our expectations for entertainment are higher, and we demand a variety of choices.
Still a relatively new moto-product, helmet-mounted communications devices are enjoying impressive improvements, and the Cardo Packtalk Bold is one of the most capable devices.
A leading feature of the Cardo Packtalk Bold is that it can connect up to 15 riders using wireless mesh network technology. However, as we usually don’t have 15 units at our disposal to test its capabilities, we typically write about the interconnection of two devices. Cardo bravely assembled a few flocks of moto-reporters to show us how well the Packtalk Bold’s mesh technology works.
The group I was in consisted of eight riders. A Cardo leader triggered what Cardo describes as DMC Intercom Grouping. To do so was shockingly easy, and anyone who has used these sorts of communications devices knows that pairing can sometimes be a frustrating experience.
The group administrator and the group members all push a button on their Cardo Packtalk Bold until a light begins rapidly flashing. Then, one at a time, group members join by putting the device next to the group administrator’s unit. The mesh technology joined eight riders completely drama-free.
For an entire ride, the eight Cardo Packtalk Bold units were linked. Should one rider lag behind, that was no problem. Once the unit was back within range, reconnection seamlessly occurred. It is about as close to magic as it gets. This is a fantastic tool for groups of riders who want to communicate on an outing.
Should a rider want to take a phone call or listen to music, it only takes some manipulation of the volume wheel. To rejoin, move the volume wheel in the other direction quickly and rejoining occurs. A private chat with a group member is a bit more complicated, as it requires accessing a mobile app.
The Cardo Packtalk Bold can be used for four-rider groups with compatible non-Cardo units, though it does require a bit more button-pushing. We haven’t tried that, however, and how it works would also depend on the performance of competitive brands.
Pairing with a mobile device doesn’t take much work, as Bluetooth is a robust technology. A Cardo Packtalk Bold can also be paired with a GPS unit at the same time as a phone. Answering a call is easy—push any of three buttons—and you can reject a call by pressing any of the buttons for a couple of seconds. A tap on a button ends a call.
There is voice dialing, but I found the voice recognition function to be frustrating. Voice recognition may improve as you better learn how to speak in a manner that suits the Cardo Packtalk Bold.
Other features include a built-in FM radio and the ability to listen to music, as well as skip or replay songs on your playlist, as needed.
The music options are a reminder that the latest Cardo Packtalk Bold units have a pair of 40mm JBL speakers. The sound is top-notch if you position the speakers in your helmet correctly. That great sound extends to the intercom and phone features. You can turn it up loud enough using the unit-mounted roller that it overcomes hearing-saving earplugs. The microphone is part of the sound equation, and it does its job unobtrusively.
The battery lasts for an all-day ride with lots of chatter—Cardo claims 13 hours of talk time, but we haven’t ridden quite that long in one day. Also, the Packtalk Bold is chargeable by a portable battery or onboard 12 V charger on the motorcycle should you forget to charge it overnight.
The most important feature on any motorcycle helmet communications device is ease of use. If it’s challenging to operate, range and sound don’t seem that important. The Cardo Packtalk Bold has excellent software, an intuitive interface, and hardware that matches. At $340 per unit (or $600 for a pair), it is a premium communications device that earns its keep.