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Hands-on: The COROS Omni Smart Helmet

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It’s been one year since COROS burst onto the scene with their COROS Linx Smart helmet.  The main appeal of the helmet was that it had not only jawbone conduction speakers built into the straps (which don’t block outside noise), but it also had a wind-protected microphone.  Oh, and it was Strava orange.  Or Zwift orange.  Or Dutch orange I suppose.  Either way, orange.

Actually, it also came in black as well as white, but that’s boring.

In any event, they delivered their crowd-funded wares roughly on time, a rarity in the industry.  They then did some confusing corporate re-org stuff with the company and started shipping out units again last spring.  All’s well though, and now here they are with a secondary product – the COROS Omni.  This new helmet retains all of the previous goodness of the existing helmet and adds lasers.

Actually, it doesn’t add lasers, but it adds lights.  Which are almost as cool as lasers.

Minus the fact that it’s somehow not orange anymore.

Which, is a good time to move onto the next section.

The Tech Inside:

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Now, as I was saying before I got distracted with flippin’ lasers, is that the new unit retains all of the previous audio focused goodness.  So to briefly recap all of that, here’s the key baseline goodness from my last review of the Linx helmet (why yes, I’m glad you asked, check out that in-depth review):

– Jawbone conduction audio
– Bluetooth connectivity for music playback and phone calls
– Microphone built into upper front edge for phone calls
– Connectivity to smartphone app for configuration
– Had a remote control for volume and call control
– You could in theory do turn by turn navigation with it
– It had an app for tracking rides
– It was Strava/Zwift/Dutch orange
– One could actually upload to Strava from your helmet, sorta.

Anyway, that’s all the existing unit, what about the new one?  Well, it’s added:

– Lights on the back of the helmet
– Crash detection algorithms in helmet (used to be just on app)
– Crash notification to emergency contacts
– It’s got a visor option for mountain biking
– They’ve redesigned the app
– It’s black, red, white, or blue
– It’s not Strava/Zwift/Dutch orange

So in a nutshell, the key takeaway here is that it’s got lights on the back of it.  To dive straight into the tech, these LED lights have three settings: On, Off, or Auto.  In the auto configuration, they illuminate based on how dark it is.  If it’s not dark out, they’ll basically be off.  If it’s dark out, then they’ll stay on.

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This setting, along with other settings, are found in the redesigned app, after you pair the helmet via Bluetooth Smart.  You’ll also pair the helmet via regular Bluetooth for audio playback.

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The redesigned app feels like the company wants to become some sort of health and fitness hub with now more pronounced aspects like tracking calories and steps, which is honestly a horrible idea (versus just rides before).  Hopefully they’ll re-focus on being a bike helmet company.  Still, if you want to track your rides using their app you can with their app.  It uses your phone’s GPS though, and then afterwards you can upload to Strava.  I’m not sure clear on why you’d use this app versus Strava’s app, since Strava’s app has so much more functionality.

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The one benefit however to their app though is the crash detection piece.  If the helmet detects a g-force of 1G or more, it’ll trigger notifications to your predefined contacts via text messages.  And within the app you can pair the remote to the helmet as well.

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Of course, the main feature is still there – the Bluetooth connected audio components.  This includes the jawbone conduction speakers, as well as the microphone.  For those familiar with jawbone conduction, the main appeal is that if resting against your jawbone, it’ll deliver more clear sound that isn’t impacted by wind.

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Meanwhile, the microphone sits just up under the front lip of the helmet, out of the wind:

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Both of these use standard Bluetooth audio services, so they’ll work with any phone.  Both of these features were in the previous COROS Linx helmet, and both worked pretty darn well.  From a battery standpoint, the unit claims about 8 hours of battery life.

When it comes to weight, the new unit is actually lighter than the existing one.  The Omni weighs 343g, versus the 411g for the Linx:

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From a size standpoint though, while they look almost identical in width, the new one just looks wider to me.  I think the flatter design makes it look like a squished turtle, versus the more aero look of the Linx (orange awesomeness one):

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Still, different looks for different folks.  Of course, the helmet is heavier than a non-smart helmet.  Obviously you’ve got to account for the weight of the electronics/lights/batteries/etc… But it’s still pretty lightweight and I don’t really notice it. Let’s get into a test ride.

(P.S. – For lack of anywhere else to stick it, the helmet is certified within the US, Europe, Australia, and N.Z.)

Test Rides:

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I’ve been using the helmet on various rides since October, both as a regular helmet (without connectivity) as well as in a connected sense.  In both aspects, it’s worked great.  I’ve technically had two helmets, a pre-production and the final production model.  The only difference being that on the pre-prod unit one of the speaker pods was broken, but on the production unit that was resolved.  Both units connected to and played back music just fine.

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Speaking of which, from a music quality standpoint (as in, how well you can hear it), it’s pretty good.  But it’ll depend on the fit.  If the pods float too far away from your face you’ll lose audio volume (it won’t sound as loud).  Ideally, they’re snug against your jawbone, thus allowing the bone conduction magic to do its work.

You can adjust the fit a bit to find the right spot, so you’ll want to do that.  Oddly though, the helmet doesn’t seem to come with any little strap mini rubber band holder thingy.  So the extra length of strap floats about some.  Though you can easily DIY a solution here for a few pennies probably (small kids hair elastics).

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From a quality standpoint, I had no issues with the audio quality.  The playback of music was good and loud enough, and more importantly, it doesn’t overtake the sound around me.  You can watch my video from last year on how that all works below.  Exact same technology, just in a different helmet body:

Like before, the remote control is used for increasing/decreasing the volume, as well as accepting or hanging up a call.  Though oddly the remote didn’t come with the required CR2032 coin cell battery.  No biggie, I have a few hundred of them.

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On the lighting side, it’s literally fire and forget.  You turn it on, and it just does its lighting thing behind you (facing backwards) – there are no front facing lights.  You can’t control directions as if it were a turn signal, and honestly, I don’t think cars would get that anyway.

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One slightly missed opportunity here is adding in automated ANT+ Lighting Profile connectivity.  With more and more companies starting to adopt that (Cycliq, Bontrager, See.Sense, and of course Garmin), it would have sorta been the most brilliant thing to just have the lights connected to the bike computer and turn on automatically (without you having to press the button on the back).  Perhaps their chipset allows for them to enable ANT+, I’m not sure.

Either way, functionally speaking, everything works good for me at this point with the rides I’ve done.

Wrap-Up:

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Of course, not everyone needs or wants a smart helmet.  If you don’t care about music or safety lights, then there’s little reason to get this helmet.  The crash detection feature is potentially useful to some, though there are also free apps that do that anyway (and you have to use your phone regardless for the crash detection feature to work).

Over the last year I’ve used the COROS Linx helmet (which I bought with my own money), and liked it quite a bit.  I don’t often use the music, ironically enough, but when I do, it’s nice to have (I’ve primarily used it on long slow climbs in the mountains).  I’ve long adjusted to the slight increase in weight, so much so that it’s not even a consideration for me.

As for Omni though, personally I’m not a fan of the appearance on my head.  I just happen to like the slightly more aero look of the Linx instead (and the color orange).  Of course, it’s not really designed as a 100% road helmet given the visor option, but rather meant to be more multipurpose.  Thus, to each their own.

Still, from a tech standpoint, it’s cool.  The pricing on Indiegogo is $99 right now, versus the $199 retail.  The company is basically just using the crowd-funded platform for marketing, since the helmets are already manufactured and in process of being shipped across the oceans (basically just like they did last time).  So your risk here is pretty low.  On the flip side, if you want a helmet immediately sans-lights the existing Linx has been on sale recently, and it sounds like it’s set to go back on sale for $119 shortly.  So there’s an instant gratification element there, plus, it’s orange.

With that – thanks for reading!

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49 Comments

  1. John

    Surprised these aren’t available in a bright “safety” yellow…

  2. Michael Coyne

    Just making this comment because the “Submit Now!” button for submitting this comment is a really nice color. Such a nice color that I couldn’t help wanting to click on it. What color exactly would you call it, Ray?

  3. Alexis Michael

    Post not showing on main page ;-)

  4. Steven

    How’s the outgoing audio quality?

    • Surprisingly good. I tested it with The Girl yesterday via phone call, and while she said it wasn’t quite as good as native call connectivity, it was quite functional. I did a similar test in the video up above.

  5. Guillaume

    No MIPS yet?

  6. peter crimmin

    I’m curious about waterproofing and washing… can the helmet go into the shower with me for periodic de-salination?

  7. Charlie Anderson

    No embedded HR? That would be more cool.

  8. Nemo

    But will they finally make it in a size Small? That’s the main reason I didn’t get the last version.

  9. TheBoxers

    I’d buy one, but I have the same problem as last time. They don’t do a 64/65/XL size. They will eventually get caught up to the fact that us bigheads need crash helmets too, just like the motorcycle helmet suppliers.

    Maybe in the next version they’ll make them available.

  10. Zach S.

    Hey Ray,

    Impulse bought the original on Cyber Monday due to your high praise of it. It’s a bit chilly in New England so I haven’t worn it yet. Is the new one worth returning the old on Amazon and picking up the new one on Indiegogo?

    Seems to me the pros are: LED lights, lighter (no pun intended), and the cons are: not orange, squished turtle.

    Am I missing anything?

  11. Andrew

    Anyone making helmets with a built in camera to work the same as a FLY6?

  12. Dave Lusty

    Did you mean 10G force for the crash detection? 1G is normal gravity so would probably be a bit too sensitive, if the helmet were dropped for instance it would go off before hitting the ground!

  13. Alan

    Thanks for pointing out it has AU certification just assumed it wouldn’t and it’s illegal to ride without a certified helmet here

  14. Gene Yanku

    Could the speakers be linked to a GPS’ bike route apps, for turn-by-turn audio alerts?

  15. Marc

    I suggest a new product category for “smart helmets”: Coros, Lumos, Livall.

    I’ve been looking for a helmet with audio (music/calls) and lights, but I still haven’t found a definitive choice.

  16. I used your review of the first generation and got it. Just want to note that podcasts don’t sound as loud as music and so if you want to listen to podcasts on those long rides, I wouldn’t recommend this or the previous version. I’ve found bone conduction doesn’t work easily as the pods are hard to keep in place, for me.

    • Yup, I’d agree there. Nothing much has changed and voice related stuff (no vocals) is tougher to hear in general while moving.

    • Bruce Burkhalter

      Thanks Gordon and Ray. I listen to podcasts and not music on rides/commutes. If that does sound good then no reason to get this. Too bad. With all the gear to charge, bring, set up, etc. would be nice to have those built into the helmet.

    • Patrick

      I listen to podcasts also and had the same volume problem. Solved it by downloading Overcast for listening to podcasts – it has a setting that boosts volume output.

  17. Samuel

    I wonder if there is any ‘smart hemlet’ that can connect to a garmin/wahoo computer for routes (or parse over a .gpx route from their app) and can show to the left/right lights before a turn or a roundabout for the cars or a group ride behind you.

  18. Nicholas

    Out of curiosity, can you use the remote to control the music on your phone when paired with a different bluetooth headset?

  19. Scott E

    Sorry Ray, but I can’t take your opinion on this. Last time The Girl weighed in on the looks of the Linx. Did she share any thoughts?

    No worries, I’m not great with style decisions myself. But The Girl is sure to call out something that is dorky.

    • She still hates the look of the Linx. She was displeased I wore it in a recent magazine photo shoot. :)

      I’ll ask her to respond here on style related aspects…currently she’s picking out an approved outfit for me to wear for Christmas photos tomorrow.

  20. portemat

    If you want “little strap mini rubber band holder thingy”, I reckon that cutting an old inner-tube would be an even cheaper & green alternative to a kiddies hair band.

  21. Richard S

    So I’m curious Ray, how do you feel about the lack of an Orange option, you’ve given no clear indication of that? :-)

  22. Alberto

    I prefer the older one, from a size point, but I guess is not available for sale.

    Also: What Bluetooth Standard do they use? (I use an “older” phone as media player with just 3.0, no, not BLE).

    • Olly

      @Alberto: I have two “on stock” in case you’re interested. One has been used by me once and the other is unused. Large version is black and medium version is white.

  23. Marc

    I suggest a new product category on smart helmets. I’ve been looking for one with audio (calls&music) and lights (safety) but I haven’t found a final decisión (Coros, Lumos, Livall, Sena).

    It would be great to have a comparation between some of them.

  24. Georges T.

    Hi Ray, great review.
    I have the Lynx. Overall it’s a fine helmet, my only gripe is that you can’t use the yellow button to activate Siri/Google Assistant to make a voice call. Super annoying when you have multiple layers and a phone in a Ziploc.
    Have they fixed this on the Omni?

    thanks

  25. Jan

    Robbie McEwen wearing a Coros helmet! link to youtube.com Around 2:04 mins in… Though the straps are pretty loose :-)

  26. John P.

    I like the idea of a helmet with lights… I just don’t trust myself with the functionality to listen to music or take phone calls. I know I’ll get distracted one day and slam into a turning vehicle or something. So, I did some looking around and found the Lumos helmet. I just ordered one and can give my two cents once I receive it. Ray… perhaps you would like to give it a proper review? It’s got a remote, turn signals, and an accelerometer that turns on brake lights when it senses you are stopping. Could be pretty handy. Plus it has lights in the front and back and looks a bit brighter than the Coros. Honestly, I have no affiliation with the company. I’m just an Ironman age grouper that spends way too much time alone on the bike. Link: https://www.lumoshelmet.co Cheers!

  27. Tim_RPM

    I can’t believe there’s not even the option to use the lights as turn indicators. Seems such an obvious use. They sure as heck LOOK like them.

  28. Anthony

    To me, the Coros Linx version doesn’t have many holes for airflow and feels too warm in the summer. Isn’t the new Omni version also solving that issue, at least partly?

    My tip for improving the sound is to wear the sunglasses on top of the helmet straps. That way, the speakers stays tight against the jawbone.

    Thanks for all your fantastic reviews and letting me discover the Coros products.

  29. Mike

    Very cool tech. I truly like the concept. That being said, just nothing I feel I would need right now. I have bike lights, I like my helmet, and I have bluetooth headphones which work well enough for music or podcasts. Good review and really cool concept, though!

  30. Mike

    If I listen to anything when I ride, it’s normally some sort of podcast or audiobook. Any indication about how this helmet/”headphones” do with that type of media?

  31. John

    Do you feel like the lights are bright enough to be used on its own for safety at night? Or do you think you’d still need a normal bike light on the back as well? How does the overall brightness compare to say the Cycliq for instance?