Lets begin by talking about how good a new device would have to be in order to get me off my current platform. I have long been a fan of Sena because Chatterbox, CB radio and other communication methods were far worse. My main concern with the Sena is they are not Dust resistant or Water Proof. I have fried multiple Sena’s (SMH10 and 20s EVO’s) due to heavy rain and having had replaced the guts of a 20S EVO due to a tremendous amount of dust then months later to toss the whole unit in the trash after a long rain day. I had been on the lookout for something that had all the features I had grown accustomed to with Bluetooth communicators but would also be Water proof (preferably with an IP6 rating). This is where I found the Cardo Packtalk bold and on paper it looked like everything I could have wanted.
This article took longer then a normal article because when it comes to electronic devices we all love them in the first two weeks of the relationship. I wanted to give this device a bit longer of a testing cycle and see if I still liked it months later and specifically to see how it held up in very wet conditions.
The helmet setup is almost identical to Sena but simpler because doesn’t require two screws and so no chance of over tightening making the Cardo the clear winner as far as setup time.
I very much like the Cardo mounting system compared to the Sena mount. The Sena’s 20 mount set very low below the helmet and on the bottom of the mount has a “Ambient Mode Button” which can hit the jacket collar and activate and its random and distracting and I hated it. The Cardo mount by contrast doesn’t really extend down past the helmet and as a result the helmet supports itself when setting on tables vs setting directly on the Bluetooth device, which means the helmet sets more level.
I should also point out that the Cardo PackTalk Bold control wheel is protected and doesn’t interfere with anything and does not randomly get interfered with; I like the Cardo wheel much more then I anticipated.
The charging port is a micro USB connection but I will say that all my Sena devices have a rather soft closing port cover while the Cardo is obviously more waterproof and dust proof as the USB charging cover actually securely covers the port when not charging.
App seems about the same:
- Set phone number
- Set radio stations
- JBL sound profiles
- Naming the device
The phone app doesn’t flash the BIOS, but it does notify you if there is a new version out. The updating is a little less clunky then Sena but its not all that much better. So essentially the app helps you configure the device and other than that is not really all that needed and doesn’t update the device. The one thing I use the app for is the help file to remind me what the voice commands are.
Something I am not happy about with the Cardo that I really liked on the Sena is the number of preset phone numbers for speed dial. On the Sena it was 3 and and on the Cardo it is 1. The Cardo software had multiple phone numbers to enter but would not call them. I opened a support ticket to find out they are removing the additional phone numbers option as it never worked and they suggest you just have Siri make your phone calls. My problem with that is my phone has to be unlocked for Siri to make calls for me or times where you have phone coverage but not data coverage Siri doesn’t work. So if your work locks down your phone then count on only having 1 preset phone number to call with the Cardo.
Voice control – “Hey Cardo” is a cool feature that almost didn’t work for me.
I was testing it at the house (before I took it on the road) and I could not get “Hey Cardo” to work at all. I opened a couple of help desk tickets trying to figure out what the problem could be. It now works about 95% of the time – let me tell you what the differences where that worked for me.
Step 1 – get out on the open road – the voice recognition actually works better with lots of background noise
Step 2 – don’t talk like Elmer Fudd “Hey CaWdoo” I’m huntin Wabbits…
You need to say the word Cardo as if you were addressing Ricardo Montalbán. Almost roll the R’s and think “RiCARDO” with a silent Ri.
99% of the time I need skip song, replay song, volume up and volume down. The voice commands work very well for that now that I know how it wants me to pronounce it I use it a lot. There have been hours on the bike where the only thing I have spoken to is my Cardo unit.
Sound quality seems good – like the fact that it doesn’t take control of the volume on the phone. So you can set the max sound on the phone and then the device ranges from there.
Answering and ignoring calls takes a little bit more training and other then the problem of only having 1 preset speed dial number the phone feature works pretty well and the “Hey Siri” works well for selecting different songs or playlists.
The written instructions on the quick guide are cryptic and I did not find them to be very useful. The good news is that Cardo has a whole website full of instructional videos and the videos are very good and I had very good success doing the configurations while watching the videos.
Is it really waterproof? I had taken it into a light rain and had no issues but was not totally convinced. However a few weeks ago I was on a little 400 mile trip and got absolutely soaked. The type of rain you see in the distance so you pull over and put on your rain gear thinking/hoping it will clear by the time you get there. It did not clear and the rain was coming down in buckets – so much that cars started slowing way down then I noticed cars stopped on the side of the road and I was thinking “come on its not that bad” and that is when the hail started smacking into me. I took the next exit waited for it to clear (and by clear I mean no more hail and just rain). I rode several hours soaking wet and the Cardo did not flip out; even more its been several weeks since that and everything is still just working fine.
Final thoughts on the Cardo Pack talk bold. Well I was unable to test its range as a communication device where they claim 15 riders and1,600 meter range. I typically only talk to 1-2 other riders when I can see them so even if the specs are 1/2 of what they advertise they are still more then I will need. I wish is had a few more preset speed dial numbers but the fact its waterproof and has the voice commands has me hooked! The Cardo PackTalk BOLD is my new default and long distance and over landing Bluetooth device!