Cardo Packtalk Edge Review [Testing the Production Version]

Cardo Packtalk Edge Review: Bluetooth intercom

The Cardo Packtalk Edge—the latest iteration of a long lineage of advancing technology Cardo Systems communication units—is for those riders who want to connect to people, music, and technology. However, if you are a Then Came Bronson type, it still might be for you.

We had tested a pre-production Cardo Packtalk Edge, and now it’s time to dive into a unit with all the features active.

I use my Edge to stay linked to my riding partners, passenger, iPhone, and GPS. There are 25 spoken phrases the Edge recognizes, plus multiple combinations of three summer-glove-pressable buttons and a roller wheel.

To utilize the Edge to its fullest capabilities—especially if you plan on interacting with many other Cardo and non-Cardo riders—you should be comfortable using your smartphone and the Cardo Connect app. There are features of the Edge that can only be accessed or activated from the app. The 30-page downloadable manual explains all the features and how to access them. Cardo Systems’ YouTube channel has a very helpful installation and operation instruction video.

The Cardo Packtalk Edge installation kit provides all the components needed for 3/4, full-face, and modular helmet installations. If you ride with a half-helmet, Cardo offers you a $46 microphone adapter kit.

Each Edge kit contains a choice of a clip-on mount or stick-on mount. Use the included boom mic if you have a modular or open-face helmet. A full-face helmet can use the wired mic or the boom.

I lay a folded towel on my working table and pull out the cheek pads and crown before installing a new com unit. The HJC i100 modular helmet used for this test allows using the slip-on mount.

Once the mic, speakers, and mount are installed, it is time to mount the Edge unit. Cardo uses a proprietary magnetic mount that self-aligns the unit and holds it in place with mounting clips. For removal, the clips release by pressing down on the front tongue of the mounting plate. You finish by pushing the Edge forward off the plate. Although the Edge unit clips in with a magnet, you cannot get it off the mount without pushing down on the tongue to release the holding prongs.

The first time you turn the Edge on and connect to the Cardo Connect app, it will do a wireless firmware update. The app tells you when a new update is available and when you accept, it updates wirelessly.

If you purchase the Cardo Packtalk Edge Duo Pack, the two units are already paired. Just mount them to your helmets, and you are ready to communicate via a mesh network—Cardo calls its protocol Dynamic Mesh Communication (DMC).

To connect to any other Cardo unit in DMC mode the first time, you must be within 15 feet of the other units when creating the new group. To create a group, participants press their unit’s Intercom button at the same time, or press the appropriate icon on the Cardo Connect app simultaneously. Once linked, you and the other connected riders will always re-connect when in range, to a maximum of 15 units at a time.

You can create an unlimited number of individually named groups, such as Street Group, Dirt Riding Group, or Touring Group. You use the app to move between your groups, and your Edge will remember your last selection.

There are a few points to be aware of when creating or using DMC in a group. The Cardo DMC system always creates an Administrator when it creates a group. The person who taps the intercom button a second time after everyone joins the new group becomes the Administrator.

After the initial mesh connection of the original members of the group, a new member can only be added to that group if the Administrator is present. The Administrator adds a new unit by pressing an icon in the Admin’s Cardo Connect app.

If your Touring Group is meeting up at the local breakfast café with a new rider, and the Administrator doesn’t show up, a new group will have to be created for the new rider to be part of the mesh connection. You also have to create a new group if any member of the previously established group doesn’t show up, even with the Administrator present.

While none of these points are deal breakers, I mention them so you don’t waste time trying to figure out why the group mesh connection that worked before lunch isn’t working after lunch. It can be as simple as someone rode away or a unit’s battery died, or they are simply slow to leave the restaurant.

Interestingly, if the battery dies or they physically ride out of range when already connected to the group, the group DMC continues. However, it can’t start without all members initially.

The Cardo Packtalk Edge is completely compatible with the entire Packtalk line of communication devices. The Edge is also backward compatible with older Cardo Bluetooth-only units, and allows you to communicate with Bluetooth units made by other manufacturers. An older Cardo unit connects as a Bluetooth intercom partner while maintaining all its other capabilities.

Non-Cardo units connect to the Edge using a Bluethooth phone pairing connection, so those units give up both distance and the use of their phone while connected. Still, you both can talk—one of the primary reasons to have a com unit.

Riding with the Packtalk Edge in a group in Dynamic Mesh Communication mode, the intercom is always open for speaking with all the riders in the group. If you have activated music or the FM radio, you can hear your music playing in the background when anyone is talking. It is very convenient not to have to switch between music and intercom and back to music and back to intercom. As long as all your connected devices support parallel audio streaming, you will hear GPS instructions over intercom chatter, and intercom chatter over music. If you answer your phone, all other audio will mute, except GPS instructions.

With multiple Cardo DMC units in loose formation riding down the freeway, you can expect everyone to remain connected if everyone can see others either in front or in their mirrors. While Cardo says up to the range of coverage is five miles in perfect conditions, I suggest that everyone stay within line of sight to stay connected.

One handy feature to use in a group ride scenario is Private Chat. If you find yourself on a group ride where you want to have a private conversation with a specific rider or your passenger, select the desired Cardo DMC unit from the Cardo Connect app. Any time you tap the intercom button twice, you will go into or out of Private mode with that specific, selected Cardo unit. The Edge remembers your last choice of Private Chat partner.

Another useful feature is muting your mic and speakers from the entire mesh group so you can talk to a gas station cashier or avoid sharing your visit to the bathroom. Remember that anything you say, or sing, goes out your live DMC intercom. You can mute your mic by saying, “Hey Cardo, mute microphone.” However, everyone will hear the command, or any other Hey Cardo natural voice command, unless you mute your mic with a two-button press.

The Edge readily recognizes its list of spoken commands, so you don’t have to rely on the smartphone app while riding—a dangerous practice. The only unit button-press I have needed was to enter or leave Private Chat. Otherwise, my eyes stay on the road, and my hands remain on the grips. The three control buttons are spaced far enough apart that, even with my thick winter gloves on, I can find and press the correct button.

Cardo has teamed up with industry leader JBL to enhance the sound features of the Packtalk Edge. The sound is high quality when on the intercom, talking on the phone, and listening to music. Cardo has incorporated an audio processor that gives you control over the profile of what you want to listen to. You can tune your speakers on the fly through Cardo Connect to provide higher vocal quality, bass boost, or high volume.

To ensure you send out a superior signal, the Cardo Packtalk Edge has an upgraded noise-canceling microphone. Wind noise has always been an issue for me riding with a partner using an open-face helmet. The Edge does a great job of recognizing continuous wind noise and filtering it out.

It takes about two hours to fully charge the Edge after running out of juice after six hours of DMC talk time or 12 hours of Bluetooth intercom use, per our testing. If your Edge’s battery is running low—check battery status via voice instruction—20 minutes of charge will give you as much as two hours of chat time. You can run the Edge off any power source using your USB-C cable indefinitely if you are on an Iron Butt ride.

Even Jim Bronson slept in motels occasionally. When he was wet and cold, ready to call ahead for a room, Bronson would have appreciated the Cardo Packtalk Edge being waterproof and working at sub-zero temperatures. “Hey Siri” and “Hey Google” are always live in your Edge’s vocabulary and make quick work of finding food, gas, lodging, messaging, or phoning.

There is just one basic question to ask yourself before starting your search for a helmet-to-helmet communications unit—what will I use it for? There are many possible answers—chatting with other riders, talking with my passenger, listening to music/podcasts, talking on the phone, turn-by-turn instructions from my GPS, and listening to FM radio. The Cardo Packtalk Edge with JBL sound excels at all of them thanks to Cardo’s technical excellence born of 17 years of experience. Cardo and the other major players in the communication space haven’t settled on a universal mesh protocol, so if all your riding partners are sporting Cardo units, the Edge is an outstanding choice.

Cardo Packtalk Edge Specs

PERFORMANCE

  • Talk time: Up to 13 hours
  • Standby time: 10 days
  • Battery charge time: 2 hours
  • Fast charging time: 2 hours after 20 minutes of charge
  • Mesh range: 1 mile (5 miles with a group)
  • Maximum group size: 15 units

SOFTWARE

  • 2nd gen DMC intercom
  • Universal Bluetooth intercom
  • TFT connectivity
  • Bluetooth 5.2

MAIN UNIT and SPEAKER DIMENSIONS

  • Height: 1.8 inches
  • Width: 3.3 inches
  • Depth: 0.9 inches
  • Weight: 1.7 ounces
  • Speaker diameter: 1.6 inches
  • Speaker depth: 0.4 inches

Cardo Packtalk Edge Single Pack Price: $390 MSRP (Duo: $560)

Cardo Packtalk Edge Review Photo Gallery