Sunday, February 24, 2008

Review: Creative DECT Skype Phone

In anticipation of our move to Munich, we are switching over to Skype as our land-line provider. Buying Skype service for a year (including Skype Pro and SkypeIn) costs about $60. Yes, I know that Skype is fairly evil as far as taking over your machine while it is running (one way Skype reduces costs is to turn each of its clients' hosts into a router), but the prevalence of hardware support is quite important.

My cousin, Tom, told me that Fry's on-line had the Creative Cordless phone for a paltry $17.99 + tax and shipping. This made it a screaming deal, so I bought it despite already having purchased a Philips USB Skype handset, which will get relegated to travel service.

The Creative phone comes with a single piece of paper for a manual, a disk, a USB dongle that serves as the base station for the phone, a handset, a charger, and 2 NiMH 750mAH AAA batteries. Since we already had 2 NiMH batteries fully charged at home, I just popped those in and avoided the 14 hour wait and put the batteries into our fast charger. This use of standard components is a plus, since it means that if you lose the charger or the batteries wear out, you can just get more NiMH batteries and pop them in.

The software installed just fine on both my Mac Mini and my EEE PC, both of which were running Windows XP Professional. Plugging in the dongle and getting it to recognize it was easy in both cases, and the sound quality to my ear was quite good.

The user interface on the handset leaves much to be desired, however --- I actually had to read the manual to learn how to dial out: you have to push the call button, dial 00 + country code + phone #. (US phone numbers meant: 001 + area code + phone #) Fortunately, this is mitigated by the fact that you can use the Skype contacts list on your PC. Incoming calls ring the phone just fine (you have a choice of four different ring tones), and there's a button on the dongle that you can push so you can find the handset if you were to misplace it. The handset also allows you to set up a conference call (with 3 way calling, etc), but good luck remembering how to use it --- you are probably better off doing sophisticated duties like that from your computer.

For the price ($25 shipped in California), this is a great deal and comes highly recommended. Lisa's been using this every day, and she's satisfied with both the sound quality and the service. We will cut off our land-line at our next bill. As everyone knows, you can't rely on Skype or other internet phones in an emergency, and in the case of an earthquake, cell towers might also be down, so only do this if you're willing to bear the risks involved.
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