Friday, September 15, 2006

IPEVO free-1 Skype phone review

Ever tried explaining Skype to your dad? It's like trying to explain it to Alexander Graham Bell himself.

My initial experience with Skype was patchy. This was entirely down to the hardware i.e. not having a mic/headset combo at either end and relying on the iMac and iBook's inbuilt mic and speakers. Feedback ahoy!

Anyway, I ordered the Ipevo free-1 Skype handset as it looked the part and was allegedly Mac compatible.

Out of the box, the Ipevo is a lot smaller than you are led to believe from pictures on the net. This is not a bad thing - the handset is well made if a little lightweight. Oh and it's NOT made from glossy Mac material as the pictures suggest - it's kind of satin textured plastic - all in all quite pleasing, if not totally Mac-like.

The strange shape of the mouthpiece is just that - strange. It doesn't do anything other than make a design statement. Which is OK in my book. The little number buttons are clear shiny domes with both numbers and letters printed on them. The keypad does not light up like a mobile phone - a shame really, but then this is a 20 quid handset.

Along with the number buttons, there are the usual make and break call buttons, a dedicated Skype button, a 'Skypeout' button (puts the '+' sign in for you) and a list button that brings up your Skype contacts list. The green toggle between the make/break navigates up and down any Skype list you happen to be looking at. There are also three Playstationesque function keys. These can be assigned functions like redial, change ringtone (yes, there are even ringtones), hold and change status. Finally, on the side of the handset, there are volume buttons and a mute button. It's pretty complete button-wise. The more buttons the merrier, I say.

One issue that other reviewers have noted, is that the Mac 'driver' exists as a discrete application that has to be run in conjunction with Skype for the handset to work. This isn't too bad - it just means you need to put it in your startup items if you expect the phone to work. The developers need to make it a Prefs item for more seamless integration.

Using Skype, as many will attest, is NOT like using two cans and some string. This technology works rather well. Pressing any button on the phone pulls Skype to the front - you need to press the Skype button if Skype itself is not running. You can either navigate using the handset or mouse, or key in a phone number before pressing call. It all works as expected. Like a phone, unsurprisingly.

Receiving calls again is boringly like receiving calls on a regular phone. The call quality is on a par with that of a mobile phone, which is to say, pretty good.

I tried the handset on my USB 1.1 iBook and it worked perfectly.

Overall I'm impressed not only with the little Ipevo handset, but with Skype in general. It's still cheaper for me to make off-peak calls using my inclusive minutes on my mobile, but for long distance, Skype to Skype calls, it's a real alternative to international call charges.

Going Live

So you like what you read here? Can't be bothered to wait for an update? (There's one coming shortly, promise!)

Then why not subscribe to my RSS feed, courtesy of Feedburner.


PS Look for the RSS icon below right ;-)