Skype is used by a lot of computer users, but if you use it a lot then you really shouldn't be crouched over your keyboard with a sweaty headset on. Why not add some class to your Skype experience and check out our video review of the Webt@lker 5000 from Topcom.
Update: I wanted to add something I forgot to mention in the video review (silly me), the most important part. The Webt@lker 5000 has a fantastic quality screen, probably the best I have seen on this type of product. It is very sharp and the colours are great. Call quality was equally superb, this probably had something to do with it being hard-wired (rather than a wireless device), but the voice clarity was very noticeable.
The Netgear SPH200D is a cordless phone that allows you to make calls via Skype without the need to have your PC switched on. Yes, I know I have been bringing you a lot of these different solutions lately, but this offering from Netgear takes things one step further…
OK, so over the past month we have looked at a cordless Skype handset from Belkin, a handset that incorporated wireless calls with a mobile phone from Tovo, and now Netgear have the SPH200D, which is brand new to the market.
The SPH200D allows you to make those all important and often free Skype calls, but it also incorporates a DECT handset, so you can make normal landline calls via your regular provider (eg. BT).
What you get in this package is pretty impressive. You get the handset itself, which is a really nice white and silver affair. It sports a full colour screen, nice backlit buttons, and a four way rocker button. There are additional buttons for intercom, mute and the built in speakerphone. Also in the box you get a receiver module, it looks like a mini ethernet hub. You plug this into a power socket, then one cable goes into your router, or ethernet network, and the other cable connects to a spare phone socket. The last nice addition to this package is a docking station. You can locate this pretty much anywhere in your house, as long as you can plug it in with the supplied power adapter. This dock is where you sit your handset when not in use, and it keeps the juice topped up too.
When the handset first powers up, all you have to do is sign into your Skype account. You then have access to all your contacts, call history, and you can set your status, in exactly the same way as you do on your computer based Skype application. You can also change the ring tones, display brightness and contrast, in pretty much the same way as you would a mobile phone. If you are calling a Skype contact, then the call is free, completely free. Or you can call a regular phone through your Skype account. This is called a SkypeOut call and depending on what subscription or promotion you are on, there may be a small charge.
Now for what makes the SPH200D really useful…>>> the DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Communications) capability. Most households have cordless DECT phones nowadays. The SPH200D has this too and it makes this a really invaluable package. When you dial in a number or choose to call a regular landline or mobile phone from your contacts, you are given an option. You simply select to either make a SkypeOut call or a Landline call. This is brilliant, because now you have the best of both worlds. You can use Skype when it is cheapest for you to do so, and make regular calls when Skype is not the best option.
Before I tell you that you MUST buy this product, just a little snippet about Skype. I am currently on a promotion where I get totally free national calls in the UK for the next six months. If you are not on this promotion then regular Skype works like this.
If you are calling a Skype user, for example someone who has Skype on their Mac or PC, then the call is free. However, if you are calling a mobile, landline or an international number, then you will be charged. You basically have to keep your Skype credit topped up. The rates are very good though, especially on international calls.
There is also a new service called Skype Pro. An initial 5 month subscription will cost £9.20 which includes approximately £3.40 of calling credit, after the 5 months introductory period is over £1.50 per month is deducted from your Skype credit.
The Pro benefits are that you only pay a 3p connection fee per call to UK landlines, with nothing extra for the minutes you use. You also get free voicemail, plus a discount on a SkypeIn number. The regular Skype-to-Skype computer based calls remain free.
OK, so enough on Skype, back to the Netgear SPH200D. This is the best combination product I have seen so far and it has got me really excited. Since I have had it to review it has worked flawlessly and has not failed me once. The design is awesome, with a crisp glossy white finish. You can even expand the system with up to three additional SPH150D handsets (£65-£70), so you can have Skype and DECT in every room. The average street price is around £105 though I have seen it dip under the £100 mark if you shop around. This pricing is very good and buys you a top class product that is not only a real pleasure to use, but will also save you a lot of money.
Today I am taking a look at the Belkin Wi-Fi phone for Skype... Skype, Skype, Skype, I always sing the praises of Skype. For those of you who do not know, Skype allows you to use your broadband connection to make voice and video calls to other users Macs or PCs, so long as they have Skype installed. In addition to this, you can also make what are called SkypeOut calls to regular landlines and mobile phones. These cost a small amount of money, but in my case I am on one of the many promotions Skype run from time to time, so I get my landline calls free until May 2007.
The only downside of Skype is being tied to a computer. You need to have your Skype application running and logged in... that is until now! Over the past few months Skype handsets have been appearing. No, I don't mean the wired handsets that cost around £15, this new breed use Wi-Fi to connect to your wireless router and then to the outside world.
Sorry for the long introduction, back to the Belkin Wi-Fi phone. In the box you get a USB cable (for charging from a computer), a mains powered charger, a manual on CD-Rom, a Quick Start Guide and the handset itself. The handset looks very smooth, comparable in to a medium sized mobile phone. It has a numeric keypad, two soft keys, call start and end, plus a four-way navigation key. The screen is full colour and a nice size, with a nice crisp display. The feel of the handset is great, it has a smooth rubberised feel to it, very nice in the hand.
Setting up couldn't be easier. After the initial charge, you switch the handset on, set the language, and it then searches for wireless networks. Picking the network you want to connect to will ask for a password (if it is protected). This is asked for as a hexdecimal string, so if you network is protected by WEP for example, do a quick google search for a converter to convert from WEP to HEX. With the security part out of the way you will be asked to either sign into Skype or create a new account. Assuming you already have Skype, typing in your username and password is all that is needed. You can then access you contacts list, set your status to online, away, busy etc, and make calls to other users computers or SkypeOut calls to landlines and mobiles. Navigating the menus and setting up other aspects of the handset is just as easy. You can even change your ring tone (three to choose from) and set the handset to vibrate on an incoming call…
The beauty of the Belkin Wi-Fi phone is that now you can leave it connected to Skype all the time. You will get a lot more use out of it because it is just so natural to pick up a phone and dial. Of note, if you switch your computer on and sign in to Skype, your Belkin connection remains unaffected, so in theory two people could use one Skype account at the same time.
Call quality varied, but this happens even when calls are made via a computer. I would say that 80% of calls I made with the handset were absolutely fine, crystal clear. 10% were acceptable, perhaps sounding more like mobile phone quality. The remaining 10% were a bit choppy, due to network traffic or moving a bit too far away from my wireless router. So, in the house, this handset was already proving its worth, but what about if I was out and about? Well, if you have an account with The Cloud, BT Openzone or another provider, then so long as you are within range of a hotspot, you can connect and make calls. I tested this at a local Cloud hotspot and connected successfully first time. The call quality was great and I was so pleased that I had made a totally free call.
Incoming calls are also possible. If someone has you in their Skype contact list, then they can easily call you from their computer. If you want people to be able to ring you from a regular handset then you would need to subscribe to another service. You can get a SkypeIn number, which can be based in various UK towns and cities (what I mean by this is, that even if you don't live in London, you can have a London based SkypeIn number). This costs around £23 per year, but can be had cheaper if combined with other services. A SkypeIn number also gets you access to voicemail services, so callers can leave you messages. The fact that people can call you, makes the Belkin handset an even more viable proposition.
Should you buy one? is very easy to answer. If you already have Skype, then yes, invest in one of these. If you don't have Skype, then get it and start experiencing the world of free or cheaper calls. I do not think that the Belkin Wi-Fi phone for Skype could replace a mobile phone, but if you are up for the challenge or live in an area with a lot of hotspots you could easily reduce your mobile bill. The only thing I would like to see is a docking station to charge the handset whilst indoors, other than that the Belkin handset is faultless.