It’s been nearly three years since we tested the BlueAnt Q2, and a lot has changed since then. We’ve seen some great, and some not-so-great new Bluetooth headsets, and we’ve seen major advances in voice control through apps like Google Voice and Siri. The BlueAnt Q3 ($99 direct) is the company’s new high-end headset offering, which seems designed to keep up with the times, rather than continue to push them forward. It’s a solid Bluetooth headset, but it doesn’t offer any significant improvements over the competition.
Design, Fit, and Call Quality
One thing hasn’t changed much over the last few years: The Q3′s design. Like the Q2, this iteration looks like it’s styled more for the boardroom than the commute. But for a headset that looks so buttoned up, it has a surprisingly flimsy feel, made of standard black plastic that flexes to the touch. I reviewed the all-black model, but the platinum edition trades the shiny black detailing on the sides, buttons, and grille for silver.
There are three controls on the headset: a power switch on the inside, a volume rocker on the back, and a multi-function Command button on the outside. The Command button is easy to access and press, but I found the volume control a little too close to my ear to operate comfortably, and it was a bit finicky, too. The button controls the overall volume when you’re on a call, but only the volume of the headset itself while you’re streaming content over A2DP, which I’ll touch on further in the next section.
BlueAnt includes five rubber eartips and a removable earhook with the headset. I found the hook to be somewhat cumbersome, but the headset fit securely without it while using one of the larger tips. BlueAnt includes instructions for wearing the headset, and to get the best fit you must angle the earbud about 45 degrees so that it fits into your ear while the headset points toward your mouth. The Q3 is extremely light, and once I got a good fit it was very comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
The first time you use the Q3, it automatically enters pairing mode and walks you through the process with voice prompts, which is helpful for new users. For subsequent pairings, all you have to do is press the Command button and say “pair me.” For this review, I paired the Q3 with an Apple iPhone 5 and a Sony Xperia ZL.
Voice quality for phone calls is good, but not outstanding. Voices sound relatively full and easy to hear through the headset, but a little fuzzy and muffled. On the other end, the Q3 employs dual microphones and what BlueAnt calls Wind Armour technology to keep things clear. Calls made using the Q3 sounded a little low and somewhat digitized, but excellent noise cancellation let just a little bit of noise through, but always kept the caller’s voice front and center. It still isn’t as good as our Editors’ Choice, the Jawbone Era, but it did block out noise a little better than the Plantronics Voyager Legend.
A2DP, Additional Features, and Conclusions
Unfortunately, A2DP sound quality doesn’t fare as well. Now, I know most people probably aren’t buying a mono headset to listen to music, but that doesn’t mean it should sound as tinny and anemic as it does here. The overall volume can get pretty loud, though as I mentioned earlier, you need to turn it up on both the headset and your phone separately. But higher volume doesn’t make up for lackluster bass response and an overall lack of oomph. It sounds okay for, say, podcasts, but if you’re looking for a mono headset that doubles as a decent music player, your best bet is the Bose Bluetooth Headset Series 2.
Like with the Q2, once you press the Command button you are given a wide range of voice controls. Until you remember what they are, simply ask “What can I say?” and the Q3 will give you a rundown. “Am I connected?” will check if your phone is paired, and attempt to connect if not. In a pretty funny gaffe, if you are connected, the headset will tell you that “Your Bluehead headset is connected.”
“Call back” will redial the last incoming call. “Check battery” will tell you both the headset’s battery life, as well as the battery life of your connected phone, which is a nice touch. If you’re connected to an iPhone, an additional battery life meter will appear at the top of your screen for the Q3. BlueAnt estimates up to 7 hours of talk time; I got an even 6 hours and 30 minutes at full volume, which is pretty close. Range is also good. I was able to clear a solid 20 feet from a connected phone before audio started to drop.
“Phone commands” activates your phone’s voice dialing feature, which includes Google Voice and Siri. I had no trouble using the headset to control either, whether to open apps or to make voice calls.
You can connect up to two different phones at a time. If either phone rings, you can answer it using the headset, but if you want to make a call, it will take place on the primary phone, which is the one that connected to the headset first. Call waiting is as simple as holding down the Command button, and if your phone and network support it, the Q3 can add up to four callers to a conference call by holding down the Command button for three seconds.
If you’re using an Android phone, the Q3 can automatically read back incoming text messages for you, which is useful. You have to download the BlueAnt app from the Google Play store, and then it works automatically. And you can use the app to set the speed at which the message is read.
The BlueAnt Q3 is a solid Bluetooth headset with a nice range of advanced features, but many of them have been commonplace for quite some time. And at $99, the Q3 is in direct competition with some other top-performing headsets. Our Editors’ Choice remains the Jawbone Era, which has a higher-quality build and better sound quality than the Q3 all around. The Plantronics Voyager Legend is another top choice, with exceptional controls and a very comfortable, if somewhat large, design. And if you’re looking for something less expensive, the Plantronics M55 offers a great fit, battery life, and sound quality for about half the price, though you lose out on some of the Q3′s features.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc