Archive for August, 2006

Thoughts about the Google and eBay cooperation announcement

August 29, 2006

– from a hardware accessory vendor perspective

Click to see the official announcement

Will it make a hardware accessory vendors’ life any easier?

No. The possible interpreter that would be coming for Skype and Google Talk will just work on a software-to-software level, but not to the hardware made for one software application but not the other. The hardware accessory vendors will still need to cope with different standards set by Skype and Google Talk for their products, especially if they want extra features – call/hang-up buttons, up/down navigation buttons, or number pads on the USB phone – to work.

We currently see that one of the accessory vendors, Yealink, has already spent the time needed to make their products compatible for both Skype and Goggle Talk and they have published supporting software/firmware for their products, specially designed for each program (Skypemate for Skype, GoogleTalkMate for Google Talk). Users need to run the appropriate version of software if they want to use Yealink’s product with Skype or Google Talk.

Wanting to display your online Google Talk buddy list on your Skype USB phone, or vise versa?

There are several ways to have your contact list show up on the device. One way is that Skype and Google Talk can add a field in their contact list database structure to index the user account information within the other program. The USB phone can then get the contact list from the program it logs into, no matter if it logs into Skype or Google Talk. Another method could be that Skype and Google Talk need to generate a procedure to let users retrieve their contact list without logging-into their account, then the USB phone can go through that same procedure to get the contact list from the other program, which it is not currently logging into.

There aren’t many Google Talk-compatible devices currently out on the market. Will this cooperation announcement encourage the accessory vendors to build more GoogleTalk devices?

Yes and no. Actually, before the announcement was made, the Skype accessory vendors had already checked into the possibility of supporting Google Talk. Additionally, Google Talk has also secured a deal with the D-Link group, to design a Wi-Fi phone (See the news announcement here) . The buzz will definitely arouse more interest. However, Google Talk needs to do more. For starters, they can offer the same services that Skype is doing right now, such as the Skype hardware certify program, online accessory store, and distribution channels for accessories to move into different regions.

Click to see can Skype USB phones work with Google Talk

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Happy Third Birthday Skype!

August 28, 2006

Happy Third Birthday Skype!

Tomorrow, 8/29, is Skype’s 3rd birthday. Happy birthday, Skype! It is amazing to see how fast you grow.

Skype Blog is currently holding a contest.

“If you want to celebrate our 3rd birthday with us, you don’t have to send us expensive gifts or flowers. But you can send a birthday card. Please e-mail your birthday card to happybirthday@skype.net. It can be a picture, photo, video, just written wishes, anything really. If it’s a picture or video, you can put it on Flickr, YouTube or any other of those Internet things and just send us the link. Please include your Skype Name.”

See the original post at: Skype Blog

Amperordirect.com is glad that we can offer help to this birthday card contest. The winner of the contest will receive a fabulous DUALPhone (a $120 value) from Amperordirect.com. So, let’s bring on your creative hat and send Skype a birthday card!

Here is the birthday card from Amperordirect.com.

The avatars are created by using the Portrait Illustion Maker at http://illustmaker.abi-station.com/index_en.shtml

Click to see some Do_Yo_Know of DUALPhone

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Can Skype USB Phones work with Google Talk?

August 25, 2006

Devices to enhance the Google Talk experience:

Google Talk is becoming more and more popular of late, especially among students. We tested several USB phones and adapters while trying to find accessories that will enhance the Google Talk experience. We know that some people prefer to speak through an old-fashioned, regular home phone or cell phone-like device, and we also know that others like to have the freedom to move around while talking.

The compatibility test results so far don’t look very good with the devices we had on hand to test. Like the Google Talk application itself, the supporting software for the devices we used is currently in the early beta-test stage. You can definitely use the USB phones as a microphone and speaker like a normal phone and the volume control buttons on the phones will usually work because they are a hardware switch for the device itself. For some phones, you can even use the call button to make a call, but for most of the devices you still need to operate most of the Google Talk functions from the application on the computer itself.

Test Results:

USB phones from Atcom:

Atcom has not published any software to support Google Talk, yet. Therefore, we can only use the AU-100 and AU-200 as an external sound card. The volume control buttons do work, however the others – such as call, hang-up, and key buttons – don’t work.

USB Phones from Yealink:

Yealink has published the beta version of their GoogleTalkMate software, which works with the P1K. The up-and-down navigation buttons can make the Google Talk application perform a contact search on the computer screen. The call/hang-up buttons will work without any problems.

For other USB phones from Yealink – such as P5D, P8D, and W1D – they can work simply as an external microphone/speaker combination. The call, hang-up, and number buttons on the keypad don’t work at this time with the GoogleTalkMate software.

USB-to-RJ11 phone adapters from Yealink:

The beta version of the GoogleTalkMate software can support the basic device functions, and transfer Skype calls from the computer to a regular phone with the Yealink B2K and B3K(G) units. However, the other functions – such as changing default channels between a PSTN and USB line, or the call forwarding feature in the B3K(G) that can be used while using the Skype application – are not available.

Cordless phones:

Both the RTX DUALPhone and the Linksys CIT200 don’t support Google Talk at all.

Polycomm communicator:

The Polycomm communicator will work as an external microphone/speaker combination, the volume up/down buttons will function, but the other buttons on the communicator won’t.

Conclusion:

Currently the Yealink P1K USB phone is the best Google Talk accessory on the market that we have tested. We can use the buttons on the phone itself to perform most of the functions within Google Talk, but since Google Talk does not have phone numbers to dial, the number pad is not necessary. In addition, the voice quality is very good. We will keep monitoring the progress of both GoogleTalk and the devices, and update the test results here as they become available. Keep in touch!

Click here to see some tips to use USB phone with Skype

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SMC Skype Wi-Fi Phone – Preview part III

August 24, 2006

Wish list

Here is our wish list for the final release SMC Skype Wi-Fi phone in US (or maybe in the next generation). According to our article: Overseas Source confirms WiFi Phone Shipment for Skype, all four Skype announced Wi-Fi phone (Netgear, SMC, Belkin, and EdgeCore) are using the same Accton’s design. Therefore, this wish list can be applied to all four different brand name Skype Wi-Fi phones.

Must have:

* Built-in web browsers – In order to connect to most HotSpots available in US, offering a built-in web browser is a must.

* Display Battery life during a conversation – A battery capacity bar shown on the screen during the talk time would be very helpful in avoiding sudden power outage.

Desired features:

* Desktop recharge cradle – Since the phone needs to be recharged every day, a desktop recharge cradle would ease the hassle in finding the AC adapter each time and help reduce cable clutter. See the picture of the Edgecore’s Skype Wi-Fi phone desktop recharge cradle. We hope the phones from all four vendors can come with a cradle like this.

* Carrying pouch / accessory – This phone is designed for people on the move. We wish we can find a carrying pouch to protect and easily take this phone with us.

* Car charger / accessory – Again, this phone is for people on the move. A way to charge the phone in the car would be a big help.

* Longer battery life (48 Hrs standby time, 6~8 Hrs talk time) – We hope the phone can match the basic battery capacity standard of a cell phone.

* Portable battery / emergency charge accessory – If the Wi-Fi transmitter power consumption cannot be improved in the near future, a portable battery or emergency charge accessory is needed.

* Bluetooth enabled – If we can use a Bluetooth headset with the phone, it would be easier to move around. However, we also know that Bluetooth technology is another power hog, too.

Click to see the SMC Skype Wi-Fi phone preview – part I – General test

Click to see the SMC Skype Wi-Fi phone preview – part II – Battery life test

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SMC Skype Wi-Fi Phone – Preview Part II

August 24, 2006

Part II – Battery Life test

Click here to see the phone spec on AmperorDirect.com

Stand-by time

In order to test the stand-by time, we turned on the SMC Skype Wi-Fi phone at 10:00 in the morning and placed it about 30” away from our 802.11g D-Link Wi-Fi router in our office. The product spec says that the phone is designed with 30 Hrs of stand-by time, so we expect to catch the phone running out of battery power on the second day of testing around lunch time. However, when we got into the office at about 8:30am the next day, the battery on the phone had already been drained, showing that the stand-by time of the sample phone is less than 24 Hrs.

Talk time

We used the following testing setup to test the talk time of the SMC Skype Wi-Fi phone.

a. We called the SMC Skype Wi-Fi phone from a computer, and used Pretty May to play non-stop background music to simulate a conversation.

b. We occasionally talked on the phone to activate the microphone.

c. The SMC Skype Wi-fi phone was placed about 30” away from our 802.11g Wi-Fi router.

d. The phone was set at the default volume (3 bars).

The above setup is doing more of testing the battery performance in extreme usage than on-again/off-again calls. Streaming music by Wi-Fi definitely consumes more power than transmitting a normal conversation because the silence that happens in a normal conversation would not be happening in the music streaming. However, the test should still give us a feeling of about how the battery performance should be in the final released phone.

The phone was put in this non-stop talk mode which lasted for 3.5 Hrs before the battery ran down.

During the test, we also noticed several interesting things:

a. The LCD display can turn itself off during the conversation. This is a good power-saving feature that helps in saving some juice.

b. During the conversation, we can active two functions: hold the phone and mute the microphone. We have not found a way to show the remaining battery capacity on the screen during a conversation.

c. After 30 minutes of non-stop use, the phone became a little warm.

d. This phone does a good job of keeping the Wi-Fi connection. In the entire 3.5 hour testing period, the phone only dropped the connection once.

Conclusion for today

The battery life on the SMC Skype Wi-Fi phone sample we have did work close to the manufacturer’s specs. As we all know, to broadcast over Wi-Fi – just like a cell phone over a cell network – the transmitter consumes a lot of power. People who want to use this phone should understand that they need to perform a re-charge to the phone daily.

Click to see the SMC Skype Wi-Fi phone preview – part I – General test

Click to see the SMC Skype Wi-Fi phone preview – part III – Wish list

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SMC WiFi Skype Phone – Preview Part I

August 24, 2006

A product with a bright future… Currently, it is a good phone for travelers who know where to find a Wi-Fi HotSpot that does not require a web browser in order to connect to the network.

Click here to see the phone spec on AmperorDirect.com

Product Preview

The Wi-Fi stand-alone phone is probably the most anticipated product within the Skype community. Skypers are hoping the PC-less and Wi-Fi functions will free them from their computers and finally reach the Skype promised land: “…talk to anyone, ANYWHERE, for free.”

Through our oversea department, we were able to get our hands on a non-beta, Asia release version of the SMC Skype Wi-Fi Phone. As written in our posting at here, all four Wi-Fi phones that have been announced are using designs by Accton, therefore our peview of this phone should be fairly accurate in showing what you will see in the final US Skype Wi-Fi phone versions.

Items included in the box:

• One Skype Wi-Fi Phone (VM1185T)
• One Lithium-Ion Battery
• One White Headset
• One White Mini USB Cable
• One AC Power Charger (with Mini USB Output Tip)
• One Quick Installation Guide
• One User Guide CD

Installation – A True PC-less Experience:

With the software already being pre-installed, use of the phone is a breeze. The phone will automatically detect any available Wi-Fi networks, ask for the encryption key for the selected one – if necessary, connect to the selected network, and then prompt you for your Skype account information. After signing in, the phone will automatically grab your Skype contacts through the Wi-Fi network from Skype, then be ready for you to make a Skype call. The whole process is completed quickly, and without having to connect the phone to a computer at any time.

Control Interface:

The 1.5” x 1.25” LCD color display is at a comfortable light setting by default for indoor usage, but while still readable (at the highest light level), is not very clear while under the hot Houston sun. The display also has a privacy feature in that it is best seen and read from while looking directly at it, but if you are someone trying to read the list from the side, you would not be able to see much on the screen.

The buttons on the keypad are well designed, in that the navigation stick can be used in 4-directions when you move it around, and pressing it straight in will act as a confirm. This makes the navigation stick a very helpful tool for navigating around the different functions. The alpha-numeric buttons are built-in with enough feedback force and a loud touch tone for you to know when a button has been pressed. Except for the smaller button size than a normal phone, we had no difficulties in using them.

Abundant Features:

Surprisingly, the phone comes with loads more features than we would expect to see from a first-generation Skype Wi-Fi phone. Some examples of what it can do includes:
• Displaying the Skype contact list with online/offline status.
• Saving the network encryption keys and Skype account ID and password for future use.
• Having call blocking and call forwarding features.
• Can store Skype voicemail, receive SkypeIn and make SkypeOut calls.
• Has three built-in ring-tones, and can be in silent or vibrate mode.
• Can also change network proxy settings and set up ports for Skype.

Voice Quality:

Before using for the first time, we highly recommend that the first thing done is to do a software update on the phone. This can be performed from Menu > Settings > General > Software Updates. The old software that comes with the phone will create a 1 sec delay in voice transmissions, while the latest version (V 1.0.0.0) will greatly reduce the delay.

The communication quality is acceptable, while occasionally we can hear short periods of voice distortion or silence – especially when the call is first connected. However, this is not much different than what sometimes happens with cell calls, too. The distortion period is short enough that you sometimes notice it, but not enough for you to loose track of the conversation.

Known Issues:

Need a web browser:

First we used the phone in our office where we were able to connect to our Wi-Fi network with our normal connection settings provided by our network administrator. Then, we took the phone on the road to try out in different Wi-Fi HotSpots. This is where we found our first problem for the phone: most HotSpot providers, such as T-Mobile and AT&T, need to initiate an account ID and password check through a web browser before the network will allow full connectivity. Because of the lack of a built-in web browser, there is currently no way to connect the phone to those types of HotSpots.

Need to fine-tune the mode transfer timing:

Our next problem came in the form of automatic volume control. SMC needs to fine-tune the timing when transferring the phone from “ringing” mode into the “speaking” mode. For example, when the phone rings for an incoming call, the volume is automatically turned up very high to ensure that you can hear it from across the room, etc. After you pick up the call, the phone is supposed to lower the volume to a non-ear-bleeding level for your conversation, but doesn’t seem to manage it until after the first couple of words have been exchanged. When we called Skype echo123 testing center to try things out for the first time, the first incoming word (“Hello”) after the call was picked up was actually played at the same level as the ring-tone. The “Hello” was so loud that it hurt my ear!

Conclusion for today:

As a first-generation Wi-Fi phone, the sample we received exceeded our expectations. It is packed with loads of features, and provides acceptable sound quality. Furthermore, it deserves the PC-less title without a doubt. If the released US version can include a built-in web browser for paid Wi-Fi network connections, and can solve the volume timing issue we ran into, then it can finally free Skypers like us, from our computer.

Keep in touch. We’re going to test the battery capacity next and publish more thoughts about this phone as we continue to use it.

(Product ID: 10003/1.0.0.0/SMC. Software Version: V1.0.0.0. Software Date: 2006/06/21. Hardware version: R03)

Click to see the SMC Skype Wi-Fi phone preview – part II – Battery life test

Click to see the SMC Skype Wi-Fi phone preview – part III – Wish list

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Philips VOIP321 – wait to see the driver update

August 24, 2006

A product with potential… but lacks quality software support.

Click to download the Philips VOIP321 US version V3.7.0 driver

The wait is over…

The Philips VOIP321 is a highly anticipated dual-function cordless phone in the Skype community that offers the convenience to handle traditional landline calls and the latest Skype technology all in one unit. Additionally, the overall design should meet the needs of many people wanting an “old school” feeling to their phone for their daily VoIP communications. We, AmperorDirect, also want the Philips VOIP321 to eventually get into our product offering line as an alternative Skype cordless phone that offers more features, such as hands-free speakerphone and conference function.

We received a Philips VOIP321 sample last week. Our first impression of the phone was: it has a decent look. The fact that its base unit is separated from the handset cradle is a plus. We can leave the base unit close to the computer and have the handset/cradle placed where it is used the most. The base unit uses DECT technology to communicate with the handset which reduces the chance for this phone to interfere with a Wi-Fi router or other cordless home devices.

The paper manual that comes with the unit covers the installation and basic operations, but for a detailed user guide, we need to look to the CD to find it. The Philips VOIP321 is a USB plug-and-play device so it’s not difficult to follow the on-screen installation wizard and go through the whole setup process. During the install, we found that a potential issue may be that the wizard points us to the official Skype site to download the latest version of the Skype software. If Philips cannot keep up with the speed that Skype updates its software – and we know how often that is – it could be a problem.

DualPhone Features and Quality

The first thing we tested was the phone’s ability to make landline calls. The communication quality is almost identical to my Panasonics KX-T7453, which is a proven digital desktop phone solution. The voice quality is good and the person we are talking to can hear our voice very clearly. We also compared the hands-free speakerphone performance of the Philips VOIP321 to the Panasonic KX-T7453. Although the speakerphone on the latter is a little louder, the overall performance is the same.

Then, we moved on to test the Philips VOIP321’s ability to make Skype calls. We wanted to call the Skype echo123 testing center to run a basic test, however, things started to go downhill from here. The Philips VOIP321 can show all of your online Skype contacts on the handset screen, but it cannot pick up a call that was started through the computer itself. If the call was not started through the phone, the phone does not acknowledge that it exists. So, we needed to add the Skype testing center into my contact list on my computer. However, the newly added contact won’t show up on the handset screen until we restart the computer. (We’ve waited for 5 minutes and it still did not re-synchronize.) It sounds to us like the phone is not setup to check for updates in the Skype contact list in the computer very often.

RTX’s DUALPhone still King… for now.

The worst thing of all during our testing happened when we finally went through the whole adding-a-contact-and-restart-computer process. The Skype call would go through, the person on the other side could hear our voice, but we could not hear anything through the handset. All the sound device settings on the Windows control panel and the Skype tool bar are pointed to the Philips VOIP321, and are not muted. WE JUST COULD NOT HEAR ANYTHING THROUGH THE HANDSET! We have tried several things, such as removing the VOIP321 application from the computer start-up list, run the program manually both before Skype started on a re-boot, and after Skype started from a clean boot, or quit-and-re-load Skype while the phone was connected. Even after all of that, only one thing would make the phone work: On boot, un-plugging the USB connector of the phone from the computer and re-connecting it again. This is very inconvenient indeed to a user whose computer’s USB port is not easy to get to.

What makes the situation even worse is that after we checked the Philips support page, the drivers on the site are an older version: V3.5.0 (The driver on the installation CD is V3.7.0) so there is no hope of solving the problem from the manufacturer’s site just yet.

The voice quality of the Skype calls is actually fairly good, but after we cycled the USB connection and made the phone work. It is slightly below the high standards set by the RTX DUALphone, but can match the Linksys CIT200 for voice quality. Philips just needs to fix the issues we ran into before it will become a good alternative to making Skype calls. However, until Philips fixes the problem, it would be better to buy an RTX DUALphone if you really want a 2-in-1 Skype phone.

(The testing computer has Windows XP SP2, Skype 2.5.130, and Philips VOIP321 V3.7.0 driver installed.)

Click here to go to RTX DUALphone product page.

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Satisfaction

August 23, 2006

Yesterday, on my way back home, the classic rock station was playing “Satisfaction” from the Rolling Stones. It is one of my all time favorites. When I reached my home, I saw a soft-phone commercial on my TV screen. $24.99 pre month! Yes, $24.99.

——————————————————-

I can’t get no satisfaction
I can’t get no satisfaction
‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
I can’t get no, I can’t get no

When I’m sittin’ in my chair
And a man comes on the commercial
He’s telling me more and more
About some useless information
Supposed to fire my imagination
I can’t get no, oh no no no
Hey hey hey, that’s what I say

I can’t get no satisfaction
I can’t get no satisfaction
‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
I can’t get no, I can’t get no

When I’m chewing my mail-box
And a man comes on to tell me
How low my phone-bill can be
But he can’t be that sure ’cause he doesn’t Skype
The same Skyper as me
I can’t get no, oh no no no
Hey hey hey, that’s what I say

I can’t get no satisfaction
I can’t get no girlie action
‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
I can’t get no, I can’t get no

When I’m surfin’ on the net
And I’m clickin’ this and I’m sharing that
And I’m tryin’ to chat some girl
Who implies me baby better come back using ‘other ID
‘Cause you see I’m on losing streak
I can’t get no, a no no no
Hey hey hey, that’s what I say

I can’t get no, I can’t get no
I can’t get no satisfaction
No satisfaction, no satisfaction, no satisfaction

——————————————————-

Skype / eBay needs to do more marketing in the US. They have this wonderful service, but few people know about it.

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D-Link DPH-50U, VoSky Internet Phone Wizard, or Yealink B3K

August 23, 2006

They are all USB-to-RJ11 phone adapters (telbox, diverter, convert, jumper… whatever you call it.)

A realworld user post his experience with these three devices on the Internet. http://flashhq.net/d-link/. We found it because we see traffic coming in to Amperordirect.com from there.

We are happy to know that we can help him (or her) out.

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Polycom Communicator – The Best Skype Small Conference Room Solution, for Now

August 23, 2006

A great Skype conference phone, that may actually work too well!

Click here to go to Polycom Communicator product page.

See the Review on its Direct Competitor, IPEVO TRIO.

Packaging


The Polycom Communicator (C100S) comes in a four color box that prominently displays the Skype logo. Although not the most attractive packaging, the box does list package contents, features, and requirements.

Items included in the box:

* Polycom Communicator
* Integrated USB Cable
* Setup Wizard CD
* User Guide
* Carry Case
* 30 SkypeOut Minutes

Installation

Installation of this phone was not the most intuitive setup we have seen. First gripe is that the CD auto start did not load properly on our Windows XP test machine — testing on other computers worked perfectly. We had to manually explore the CD. However, come to find out the software needs to be downloaded off the internet anyhow. So lets us help you out a bit and provide the necessary links:

* Download Latest Skype Software
* Download Latest Polycom Communicator Software

Polycom Communicator USB Skype Phone Review

Advertised as the ‘ultimate hands-free’ Skype experience, we have to give the Polycom Communicator (C100S) 1 1/2 thumbs up. The unit is spectacular in its compact appearance, ease of use (after installation), and quality build. However, the range of the two microphones might just be too good — more on this to come.

The USB Skype phone we tested is Polycom Communicator C100S (Dark).

Polycom Communicator (C100S) comes with an integrated USB cable. Our second gripe is that the USB cord is way too short. Our test desktop is located on the floor, and the USB cable (3 ft) barely made the connection. If you plan on having the laptop or PC away from the Communicator, you just might have to buy an inexpensive USB extension cable.

The Polycom Communicator has 5 buttons on the face of the unit and one headset input on the right side. There are (2) volume control buttons, a mute button, a button that opens and closes Skype, and one that initiates a call or accepts an incoming call. The unit has a stand that folds open to support the phone. Nice overall design. Incorporating a caller ID LCD display in future models would be an attractive upgrade.

Incoming voice quality on the Polycom Communicator (C100S) is great — providing an echo free, crisp, no/low noise conversation. The two microphones, located at the bottom of the unit are another story. They work too well! On our test calls, our phone companions were able to hear conversations occurring 25-30 feet away. Also, because the USB cable is so short, the two microphones are located close to our keyboard. Many of our test callers complained that they could hear (loudly) the typing of the keyboard. Polycom – please extend the USB cable! 😉

The headset input is great when you want to keep conversations private. Tested with a Skype starter kit headphone, the unit work flawlessly.

[Note: This phone was tested using Skype 2.5.0.122 and Polycom’s Communicator 1.01 software]

Conclusion

Overall, we are quite pleased with the build and sound quality of the Polycom Communicator (C100S). If you plan on using this phone as a conference phone, we are confident it will meet and probably beat any expectation you have regarding Skype phone call quality. The Communicator is a great purchase for a quality conference phone with a middle of the road price.

However, if you plan on using it as a laptop/desktop Skype companion in a noisy office/home environment, the microphone sensitivity might be too great. Which is sad, because I was looking forward to keeping this phone on my desk awhile.

Interested in buying one? Click Here.

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Plantronics Voyager 510 – Fantastic Bluetooth Headset

August 23, 2006

Plantronics Voyager 510 is simply the best Bluetooth headset on the market for this price range.

Click here to go to Plantronics Voyager 510 product page.

Click to get the coupon code for this fantastic Bluetooth headset

Click to see how to use call buttons on the Plantronics Voyager 510 to answer Skype calls 

Pros: Comfortable on the ear, even after being used for a long time. Terrific built-in noise canceling microphone. Multipoint technology is very helpful.

Cons: Control buttons are tiny, but is something that can be learned to deal with.

Package List:

The Plantronics Voyager 510 retail box comes with the following items:

* Headset main body
* AC power adapter
* Bag of ear-buds
* Supporting documents

Physical Design:

Plantronics does a great job on the Voyager 510 physical outline. It provides an unmatched comfortable wearing experience.

* 0.7 Ounces, Super Light-Weight Design

The Plantronics voyager 510 is super light-weight at 0.7 ounces. It makes the headset suitable for long-time use. I can even wear it all day without creating any sore spots or any uncomfortable feelings on my ear.

* Flexible Ear Clip

The rubber material of the ear clip is soft and smooth on the surface. It won’t create that metallic, sharp, and cold touch on the ear. The ear clip is also designed to be flexible so that it can fit perfectly on different sizes of ears. I have tried to use while walking, mild running, and head knocking about like crazy when listening to Bon Jovi. It always stays on my ear.

* Includes Different Size Ear-buds to Snap into the Headset

The Ear-bud adds more security for holding the headset on the ear. Plantronics is considerate to include three different-sized ear-buds in the box: large, medium, and small for different people.

Pairing Ability:

Pairing Plantronics Voyager 510 is a breeze. Just hold the call control and the volume up button simultaneously; the headset will go into the pairing mode. I have successfully paired Plantronics Voyager 510 with many devices, such as my cell phone (Nokia 6260), my PDA (Dell Axim x510), and my Bluetooth USB dongle for my laptop. They can all be paired on the first try.

Control Interface:

There are four control buttons on the headset: call control, power/mute, volume up, and volume down. Having a call control button sitting on the microphone leg and away from the other three buttons is a plus. I never need to worry about pushing the wrong button when I answer a call. The other three buttons are small in size which makes it kind of difficult to operate them when the headset is on the ear. But, it is something I can learn to deal with. Besides, I usually pair the headset when it is off my ear, anyway. After pairing and putting it on the ear, I seldom need to push these buttons again.

Plantronics Voyager 510 uses the LED on the microphone leg to indicate the operation status. The red / blue LED is crisp and clear and can be easily seen in sunlight.

Voice Quality:

What makes the Plantronics Voyager 510 stand out is its excellent voice quality. It offers two features which are seldomly seen on a Bluetooth headset within this price range.

* Noise Canceling Microphone:

The Plantronics Voyager 510 features a noise canceling microphone. In my 2-months of experience using this with a cell phone or online chatting, it can effectively block the background noise around me. I have called people with this headset near my very loud desktop computer (with fan noise), in my car (with engine noise), on the street (with car passing noise), and in my office (with air conditioning noise). When I checked with the person I was talking to, they always said that they could barely hear what was going on in the background.

* Wind-Smart Technology:

Plantronics also features Wind-Smart technology for outdoor use. It can reduce the noise created by the blowing wind to some degree. However, my experience has been that the headset will still pick up some wind noise. Besides, the listener on the other end can still tell that the caller is outside.

Multipoint Technology:

The Voyager 510 features the Plantronics exclusive multipoint technology which can let me pair the headset to my PC and my cell phone at the same time without having to go through the pairing process each time I want to use it with a new device. By doing so, I can listen to the music on my PC through the headset, and pick up an incoming cell phone call by pushing the call control button twice.

To do this properly, there is a procedure that users need to follow when using multipoint technology. The headset needs to be paired up with the cell phone first before the PC.

Talk time and Stand-by Time:

Plantronics Voyager 510 offers 6 hours of talk time and 4 days of stand-by time. It meets the current industry standards.

Using Voyager 510 with Skype:

I have tried to use several different Bluetooth headsets with my PC and PDA to make Skype calls. By far, the Plantronics Voyager 510 offers the most satisfactory experience of the bunch. Three major reasons for this are:

* The terrific noise canceling microphone offers a much better communication quality.
* The multipoint technology will allow me to switch from a Skype call to cell phone calls quickly and easily.
* Plantronics Voyager 510 is so comfortable on the ear that I can use it to make long Skype calls.

Conclusion:

The Plantronics Voyager 510 offers comfortable and excellent voice quality. The built-in multipoint technology makes it possible to switch between PC and cell phone easily. It also provides a decent talk time (6 Hrs) and stand-by time (4 days). With the $60- (MSRP: $99) price-range on the market, it is a prefect choice for adding hands-free features into your daily communications.

Want to buy one? Check out Amperordirect product page.

Click to get the coupon code for this fantastic Bluetooth headset

Click to see how to use call buttons on the Plantronics Voyager 510 to answer Skype calls

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Yealink P4K – A Solid Desktop Skype Phone

August 23, 2006

A solid Skype USB telephone that actually works exactly as advertised!

Click here to go to P4K product page.

Packaging

The Yealink P4K USB Skype phone comes in a nicely (secure) four color cardboard box. Unlike some OEM boxes, this box is ready for gift giving! Items included in the box:

* P4K Desktop USB Phone
* USB Cable
* CD Drivers and Software
* Installation/Instruction Manual

Installation

The phone we tested is two-toned (dark gray and light gray) and would fit perfectly within any professional setting.

The P4K USB phone also comes with a long 6 ft. USB cable. This allows the phone to be place away from your computer without any problems.

Immediately noticeable is the big two-line LCD display. Included in the display is the month, date, time and running clock. If a Skype call comes in the display changes color and the callerID is shown. Very nicely done!

Speaker and Mic volumes are fine out of the box, but you might need to tweak SkypeMate to meet your own personal requirements. However, the base feature of ‘mic’ and ‘headset’ are fine in this phone — there is no noticeable noise or echo issues.

So, are there any negatives? Not many, and you might think we nitpick. The first improvement we would suggest would be a higher sound level for playing Skype voicemail. Pushing the ‘VOL+’ button helps, but it seems that the setting is not kept each time you play voice mail.

Also, the telephone cord seems to tangle a bit faster than we have seen on other phones — but this is probably a result of how often we have used this phone.

[Note: This phone was tested using Skype 2.5.0.113 and Yealink’s SkypeMate 3.0.1.26 software]

Conclusion

We are beyond happy with the Yealink P4K telephone — including the look and feel, sound quality, and overall experience. If you need a good desktop kitchen or professional office phone, the P4K is a solid solution. (Just make sure to download the latest Yealink Software!)

Click here to go to Amperordirect product page.

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