Reviews Matter

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

So I’ve decided this time William Morrow isn’t going to send me a free copy of the latest Neal Stephenson tome, so I hop on over to Amazon to order it. It’s only $16.47, so I open up my wish list to see what else I should add to make the supersaver shipping threshold. I’m almost ready to pop down $299.99 for Dragon Naturally Speaking Preferred Wireless when I notice the review:

1.0 out of 5 stars
Beware the Bluetooth, and the treacherous Tenth Dragon., August 28, 2008
Paul Tynegate (New Smyrna, FL)

I have just upgraded from Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 to 10. I am happy to report that so far, after a couple of days trial, this upgrade seems to have been well worth it in terms of increased accuracy. (BUT SEE LATER!) At the same time I was tempted into purchasing the alleged integrated Calisto Bluetooth microphone, attracted by the special price, the convenience of a wireless headset, and the promise of increased accuracy.

However, I have run into two problems, either of which makes the Calisto currently useless. In the first place, the Bluetooth insert device for the USB port cuts out after an hour or two of usage. Its function is only restored after completely rebooting the computer.

The second problem is far more serious. Once the Plantronics Calisto is activated, Dragon Naturally Speaking demands that you ” prepare this user for dictation”. You would probably be encouraged to note that the accuracy level of the new Calisto is rated very high. You are then required to read a passage from a selected text. When Dragon is satisfied with your reading, it will present you with a dialogue box telling you to wait while your user files are being adjusted for your reading. In my case my computer then simply hung up, and could not be started up again without a complete reboot. Two different Dragon phone techs attempted to solve the problem unavailingly, the second one promising I would get a call back from a top expert capable of solving the problem. No reply over the last two days, and similarly no reply yet to an email I sent them yesterday informing them of the Bluetooth insert failure.

I started dictating this review with DNS 10, but, sadly it first began reverting to a habit Id seen before with DNS 9, that is, starting up a new sentence or phase one letter too early. Finally, it gave up altogether and refused to accept any dictation from my old and otherwise commendable Plantronic DSP 400 mic.

So I can hardly recommend purchase of any of this Nuance equipment right now unless you’re willing to pay good money for what amounts to a rather unpromising Beta version. But if they had waited to get the bugs out first, they might well have something really to get excited about. Maybe wait six months, a year?

Lesson: I should have paid attention to earlier negative Amazon reviews. (I trusted Nuance on the basis of good experience with earlier versions.)

(more…)