DriveNTalk Coda One review $99.99
15th Jan 2013 | 21:12
A hands-free Bluetooth speaker for more than just your car
The Coda One ably does its primary job of acting as a Bluetooth speaker for smartphones, and allows access to Siri or third-party app Vlingo with a single button to allow voice dialing, searching, and more. The slim and sleek Coda One also doubles as a portable speaker for music and movies, and offers solid performance in that regard considering its size.
And in an interesting twist, the dual-speaker device can also be switched to handset mode and held to your face like a standard phone to allow for private conversations. While not essential for phone users (who could simply pick up the actual paired device), it's a helpful addition that can be used for VOIP calls on tablets, bringing you closer to a traditional phone experience.
As a wider array of increasingly smart and agile devices enter our lives, we need accessories that likewise keep up with the action. Wireless, hands-free Bluetooth speaker boxes for cars aren't exactly a new development, but the flexibility of DriveNTalk 's Coda One makes it much more appealing than the average peripheral.
Viewed from its side, the Coda One actually looks like a traditional phone, albeit significantly slimmed-down and streamlined so that its two speakers only jut out slightly from the base candy bar-style design.
Between the two speakers, you'll find one large indented button: the multi-function button, which allows you to accept, reject, and end calls, activate Siri or Vlingo, and activate pairing mode. Above it are light-up indicators that show whether or not a device is paired, if it's in handset mode, whether mute is on, and if the battery is low. On the right side are separate up and down volume buttons, along with the mode button, which triggers the private handset option.
Over on the left side is a physical power button, along with a covered micro-USB port, which allows the Coda One to be charged via computer or car using the included vehicle charger. A full charge takes only a couple of hours and claims to allow 20 hours of talk time and 40 days of standby time. Rubberized feet on this side also allow the device to be stood up at a slight angle during non-car use.
The back is smooth, but hides the very handy perk of a strong magnet, which lets the Coda One quickly attach to the included visor clip, which has a soft felt backing to help avoid scratching the device. It offers a serious pull: just enough to keep it in place, but with enough give to let you grab it without straining.
The Coda One pairs easily via Bluetooth 3.0 and remembers the last eight devices it paired with, allowing you to use it with a range of family and friends' phones and tablets. When a paired device is in range, a female voice announces that it is successfully paired, and the leftmost light on the Coda One will blink steadily as a result.
Learning the initial uses for the multi-function (MFB) and mode buttons may result in a few rejected calls or accidental handset mode triggers, as the included instruction manual is a bit sparse. Once past the learning curve, though, we found the Coda One to be very versatile and easy to use while concentrating on the road.
A single tap of the MFB will answer or reject a call, while holding it down pops up Siri or Vlingo. Additionally, when placing or receiving a call, you're given the option on the iPhone to use the Coda One or the device itself, should you not be driving or simply prefer not to use the Bluetooth speaker.
While driving, the call reception using an iPhone 5 was very clear via the Coda One speaker, with the quality similar to using speakerphone on the device – albeit louder and on the visor directly ahead. The caller reported similar clarity coming through on the other line.
We tested the Coda One extensively with Siri and found that the results varied depending on location. In a quiet home office, Siri did a great job of recognizing our search and call requests via the Coda One, but while traveling in a car, our queries were at times misinterpreted. In both cases, we occasionally noticed some volume discrepancies using Siri, wherein the voice would be difficult to hear, especially while driving.
As a Bluetooth speaker for listening to music and other media, the Coda One is solid for its size, though not at all meant as a replacement for dedicated home speakers. Its best advantage is its sleek design, as the device can be kept in a bag or briefcase and popped out as needed for playback. It's a great perk to have that option of playback anywhere with ease.
Switching to handset mode during any call requires only a tap of the mode button, and though its use might be marginal for phone users, it makes the Coda One a great option for those who do a lot of Skype or other VOIP calls on a tablet. Pairing the Coda One offers the option of private conversation versus using the tablet's speaker, and the handset mode sound quality is very good.
Capable wireless Bluetooth car speakers can be found for less than the Coda One's $99.99 asking price, but it's the myriad advanced and extra features that make this a standout option.
We found the call quality coming through the Coda One to be loud and clear, and the slim design and magnetic clip are both appreciated.
But the Coda One is not just a car device: it's a helpful accessory for wherever you are, as the slim speakers produce solid playback for the size, and the handset mode allows for private conversation with VOIP calls when paired with a tablet, in addition to standard phone use
Using Siri with it was a little inconsistent, though, especially while driving. Also, the controls take some getting used. Finally, at $99 it's not cheap.
With relatively easy and comfortable use, not to mention a bevy of features, DriveNTalk's Coda One is well worth the expense for those seeking a more advanced and versatile portable Bluetooth speaker for car, home, and everywhere in between.