BlueAnt Q3 review: Hands-free features galore, call quality not so hot

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A perforated surface acts to block wind noise. Sarah Tew/CNET

The Q3 also connects to free BlueAnt Android and iOS apps. It lets you activate the headset's ability to read text messages out loud as your phone receives them, plus have a reference to the various voice commands the device accepts. BlueAnt also says the Q3 is compatible with Siri and Google Voice Actions. I have to say that, in practice, I had a mixed experience with both features.

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Toggle settings and see voice command options in the companion app. Screenshot by Brian Bennett/CNET

When paired to my HTC One (unlocked) test phone running Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, I successfully used the Q3 to launch Google searches with my voice via the Google Now app. Still, when I spoke the command "Phone commands" to kick-start Google Now (or double tapping the command button), I heard the Q3's robotic voice announce that, "This feature is not supported on the connected phone." The same malfunction occurred when the headset was paired with an LG Nexus 4 running Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. Additionally, the Q3 would not read text messages out loud automatically when linked to the HTC One, even when I double-checked that the setting was enabled within the mobile application. The Q3 did manage to read incoming texts to when connected to the Nexus 4.

Sound quality of test calls was decent but not stellar. On bustling New York City streets, wind didn't affect audio negatively but callers reported that they heard plenty of distracting ambient noise such as the screeching of car brakes, construction din, and babble from nearby conversations. In contrast, calls made with the Plantronics Voyager Legend at the same location and time were clearer with less background sounds -- apparently having a third mic does help.

BlueAnt rates the Q3 to provide a talk time of five hours, which is in line with my anecdotal experience during my test period. On the flipside, the Voyager Legend offers slightly more longevity, with a rated talk time of seven hours.

I had high hopes for the BlueAnt Q3 since it's billed as a premium headset by its manufacturer, but $100 is a lot to pay for a smartphone accessory. It's hard to swallow the device's high price, especially when other Bluetooth headsets deliver better performance for the same amount of cash. That's why I recommend buying the $99 Plantronics Voyager Legend over the Q3. While the Legend is bigger, it offers superior call quality, longer battery life, and controls that are easier to manipulate. Of course, if portability is what you desire above all else, then the BlueAnt Q3 is worth a look.

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