We hate to admit it, but office duties at the magazine mean Kent and Bradley are rarely ever without their work phone. Testing duties generally leave our duo out on the road together — and thus out of the office — as well, oftentimes for hours on end. Bluetooth intercoms have proven a good solution for the crew’s electronic dependency and need for testing debriefs. The Interphone F5 in particular has been mounted to Bradley’s and Kento’s lids for over a month now, and have proven a big help during road tests and longer commutes.
The F5 is an improvement on the Interphone F4 and utilizes a new button interface that’s a quick indication of the intercom’s update. Five buttons replace the F4’s three and allow the user to manipulate the newer intercom’s in-depth menu. Among the popular additions to the F5 is the eight-bike pairing capability and built-in FM radio, which allows the user to store up to eight stations. Navigation updates, voice call/answer functions and MP3 Bluetooth are all carryovers.
The Interphone F5 weighs less than two ounces, meaning you don’t feel a difference weight-wise once it’s mounted to your helmet. An adhesive mount is provided in addition to a clip-type mount; we opted for the clip-on type, and found the mounting process to be relatively easy. Finding a helmet that mated well with the F5’s left and right headphones was more of a chore, and we noticed that not every helmet had adequate room for the admittedly thick headphones. A few of the lids we tried the Interphone with include the Shoei X-Twelve and Arai Corsair-V, both of which caused pain to our ears when fitted with the F5 and its accompanying headphones. Our Shoei RF-1100 had the perfect pad-free zone for the F5 speakers, however, allowing us to ride for hours without added pressure on our ears. Even still, it’s important to note that not all helmets will provide similar ear-pleasing comfort when equipped with the F5. In rebuttal, a headset connector is available separately and allows you to do away with the standard speakers, potentially increasing comfort.
The F5’s user manual is no less than 100 pages long and seemingly written to give you a headache, thus familiarizing yourself with the Interphone is more of a learn-as-you-go process. It took us a few hours to get comfortable with the F5’s in-depth menu and multitude of options, but once we got the hang of it, searching through the selections became second nature. Pairing the Interphone F5 to other F5 units and our cell phone was simple enough, and the unit stores these connections for easy pairing later on, which proved convenient.
The intercom, Bluetooth and FM radio functions were the three features that we used regularly, and each performed modestly well. The FM radio has decent sound quality, for instance, although the feed would cut out in remote areas. In its defense, we often found the scenery and roads in these areas to be more exciting than any amount of music. The sound quality when paired to other F5 units is just a tick above mediocre as well and not as crisp as some other intercom units.
Two Interphone F5 units are rated to work as far as .8 miles from each other and we found this to be true so long as there was no interference between the F5s — a cliff-lined bend in the road for instance. Battery life when using the intercoms regularly is respectable and we averaged around 10 hours on a full charge.
As a whole, the Interphone F5 has proven extremely beneficial during road tests, allowing Kento and Bradley to debrief without stopping and pulling their helmets off to talk. The unit isn’t without its own downsides of course, the sound quality and bulky speakers being the major gripes. Fortunately for us, however, we had a helmet (the RF-1100) that worked perfectly with the F5 speakers, meaning we’ve been cruising in ear-pleasing comfort for month’s now. The surplus of functions offered by the F5 overpower the few downfalls as well, and so chances are you’ll be seeing more of the F5 in upcoming issues.
** Interphone F5 Intercom
Retail: $259.99 (single kit)/ $449.99 (twin kit)
**WHAT WE'RE TESTING
** **Schuberth S2
** Schuberth’s ties to carbon fiber Formula 1 helmets initially sparked our interest in the company’s S2 helmet, but the manufacturer’s stringent testing methods are equally as impressive. You’ll see more of Kento sporting the S2 in forthcoming tests.
**A TWIST OF WRIST II
** A Twist of the Wrist II builds on Keith Code’s famous riding instruction book and is currently loaded in our DVD player. The film has 105 minutes ofonboard shots, CG animations and hi-def footage, providing enough entertainment for a Friday night learning session.