Problems and niggles
Unfortunately no voice recognition system is ever perfect. Despite all the improvements in 11.5, making complex edits to sentences and paragraphs you have already spoken (particularly to sentences higher up a document) can take longer than simply returning to the keyboard and doing it manually. Patience is also required in the first few days, when NaturallySpeaking is still learning your voice and detecting the moments when you say certain common words in slightly different ways or tones, but persistence is well-rewarded.
We also found that while the ease and practicality of using the iPhone app makes us use NaturallySpeaking far more, for the best results you do need to keep the microphone within 30 cm of your mouth and talk towards it (albeit not in a forced or unnatural tone). This means using it like a handheld microphone rather than something you can put down and walk around.
Another issue is the app pairs to your Wi-Fi network not specifically to your computer. This means should you travel you will have to pair the app with each new Wi-Fi network you use. This will be a notable hassle for businessmen looking to dictate in hotels or conference rooms, but for those planning to use it primarily in one or two locations having the range of Wi-Fi means you don't have to be close to your computer all the time.
Where NaturallySpeaking's accuracy does drop is in transcription. This is understandable given the original recordings often contain background noise and multiple or different voices not trained to be used by Nuance. It is a good way to cut down time spent on unimportant work, but we found it too unreliable for interviews. NaturallySpeaking always works best in a quiet environment, and accuracy dropped to around 80-85 per cent when used with the iRobot Roomba 780 robot vacuum operating in the same room. Admittedly this is still a pretty good figure.
All of which brings us to value. This is subjective depending on how much you need to use voice dictation and the environment you work in, but the version we used (Premium) is available from £120, which means it is no impulse buy, despite the bundled headset and that the iOS app is free. There are two other primary versions. Cheaper is 'Home' (£70-£80) - this gives up transcription (not a great loss) but also, frustratingly, access to the smartphone app (and Nuance has announced other platforms will soon be supported). At the other end of the scale is the £400 'Professional' edition, but the additional administrative tools will not be necessary for the vast majority of users. On the plus side, all 11.0 uses will get 11.5 for free.
Cost aside, it is undeniable Nuance has produced by far and away the most accurate and intuitive speech recognition software ever released. Need further proof? We wrote this review using it.
Nuance NaturallySpeaking 11.5 delivers far more than its incremental version number would suggest. The addition of social networking support and compatibility with new programs and services is clever, but the show stealer remains its jaw-droppingly accurate speech recognition. Initial setup now takes less than five minutes and within a few days accuracy levels of 99 per cent and above are achievable. Being able to use your smartphone as a wireless microphone is the icing on the cake. Price remains a significant consideration, but NaturallySpeaking 11.5 will prove invaluable to all who take the time to harness it.