The Callpod Dragon Bluetooth headset may look unassuming at first, but a glance at its technical specifications reveals that this is no ordinary Bluetooth headset. For starters, the Dragon is a Class 1 Bluetooth device, which means its supported range is around 100 meters (more on that later.) There are only a small number of Class 1 Bluetooth headsets on the market at this point, so there are a few kinks with the Dragon that are to be expected in a cutting-edge device. There are also, however, major problems with the Dragon’s ergonomics that make it difficult to use. This is an average headset by normal standards, but its extended range and additional features could make it appealing to a wide variety of specialized applications- as long as comfort isn’t an issue.
The Dragon certainly looks different from any Bluetooth headset we've tested. Its orb-shaped body sports the requisite microphone and call control button, as well as an ear loop for secure attachment. The circular design of the Dragon is definitely stylish, but it makes several compromises to achieve its unique look. First, the fact that the device is a circle makes it hard to orient it on your ear when you first pull it out of your pocket. With a traditional Bluetooth headset, the microphone is on one end and the ear loop is on the other, but the shape of the Dragon hides their locations. The circular shape serves no real purpose, so it's perplexing as to why Callpod decided to stray from the tried-and-true headset design. The Dragon's call control button is easy enough to find and use, as it is located dead-center in the middle of the headset—but it gives no additional clues about the headset’s orientation. Even after a few weeks of using the headset, we were constantly mixing up its orientation once in a while.
To make matters worse, the Dragon is a pain to wear. It can supposedly be worn with or without the earloop, but we don't recommend you forgo the ear loop unless you plan on using it over soft, headset-friendly surfaces. The Dragon does have an extended ear canal tunnel, but all it takes is a soft shake of the head to make the headset fall off. Since Callpod decided to make the earloop removable, they had to find a way to attach and detach it from the headset, and the way they chose to implement this is unwieldy at best. The ear loop attaches to the ear tunnel by means of friction alone, and can be removed by the most careless actions. It's even difficult to put the device on your ear without making the ear loop snap off. This mechanism severely hinders the use of the headset. Hopefully, Callpod will refine this design in future iterations of the Dragon headset.
Pairing and Features
As far as features go, the Dragon works exactly as we expected- it lets you pick up and end calls, adjust the headset's volume, and dial numbers from your phonebook using your voice. In addition, the Dragon has some interesting features that let you use the headset in conference mode and pair with another headset, walkie-talkie style. We were not able to test this feature, as we only had one Dragon headset. The function is not compatible with other devices.
The Dragon is easy to pair. When you first turn on the headset, it automatically goes into pairing mode, making the whole process much smoother. After that, the headset and phone remain connected until one is turned off.
Voice Quality and Range
The Dragon's voice quality is a two-sided issue. On our side of the conversation, the other party came across as clear and easy to hear. Also, the noise-reduction features work well when listening to callers, but we suppose the extended ear canal tunnel plays a part in this as well. The people we were calling had a different experience. They all reported either an echoing effect or a faint static sound throughout the call. That said, none of our callers reported that hearing us was made impossible by any of these faults.
The Dragon's range was, as expected, quite impressive. We tried the headset outdoors, and were able to get a range of around 60 feet. Indoors, the range is understandably impaired by walls and other obstruction, but we were nonetheless able to put five or six walls between ourselves and our phone before static started taking over. That said, we weren’t able to get anywhere near the advertised range of 100 meters.
It was easy to pair the Callpod Dragon with our iPhone, but we had difficulty re-connecting the Dragon to the phone after charging the headset or turning it off. Re-connecting the Dragon basically forced us to start from scratch and pair the headset all over again. Range was satisfactory- we got 55 feet outdoors and approximately 20 feet indoors (separated by five walls).
Pairing is usually a breeze when using Sony Ericsson phones, and the Callpod Dragon was no exception. Unlike the iPhone, the S710a detected the Dragon automatically whenever we turned it on after, say, an overnight charge. Range was slightly better as well- we got 65 feet outdoors and 23 feet indoors.
Once we got past BlackBerry’s cryptic “Bluetooth Connections” menu, pairing went smoothly. Range was average- we got 60 feet outdoors and 18 feet indoors.
When working with Motorola RIZR
The Callpod Dragon worked exceptionally well with the Motorola RIZR. Motorola’s no-nonsense menu interface has us chatting away in a matter of seconds. Our only gripe was the RIZR’s inability to detect when the Dragon had gone out of range, as this forced us to re-connect the headset each time. Range was very good- 70 feet outdoors and 27 feet indoors.
The Callpod Dragon is an interesting headset with several unique features and an impressive range. However, it's hard to recommend a device that is difficult to wear and had poor outgoing sound quality- especially when the device is marketed as performing those functions well. The Dragon certainly has its place in specialized applications. For example, two motorcycle riders or sports coaches could pair their headsets in walkie-talkie mode and communicate with each other without incurring cell phone fees. For the rest of us, though, a traditional Bluetooth headset like the Plantronics Voyager 520 would work much better.
Pro -Outstanding range
-Prone to falling off
-Poor sound quality