Holiday Buyer's Guide 2005

Actiontec Internet Phone Wizard

Now that you have your network together, you'll need a few applications to run over all that broadband goodness. With VoIP's ability to drastically downsize long-distance bills, its popularity is skyrocketing, as more consumers than ever ponder IP telephony at home. Finding an appropriate VoIP handset can be a mind-numbing chore, and it is not always cost effective to toss all your regular, old-fashioned POTS phones. Enter the Actiontec Internet Phone Wizard, a simple solution that's quick and easy to put to work.

The Phone Wizard simplifies adding IP capability to existing POTS phones. Instead of buying a unit that can handle both POTS (plain old telephone service) and VoIP calls, this device transforms any POTS handset into an Internet-capable VoIP phone! It works with hard-wired and cordless phones with equal flair, and at an MSRP of only $69.99, this box is hard to beat.

Ease of installation and use is the Phone Wizard's main game. The device includes two RJ-11 ports for POTS - one for the handset, the other for the incoming analog line - plus a single USB connection for connecting to a PC; the Internet link-up comes courtesy of that PC, so it also needs an Internet link, preferably broadband. Using the Phone Wizard's I-Phone Switch, users can toggle between Internet and regular phone calls. The device also provides call waiting, echo cancellation, speed-dial integration with Skype, and conference calling. Furthermore, it requires no external power, since it draws 5V through the USB connection, which means no extra wires nor bulky transformer plugs.

The best thing about the Internet Phone Wizard is its ability to handle both Internet and analog phone calls using any RJ-11 analog handset. If you already have a phone you like, you can forget finding an affordable VoIP phone that matches its capabilities. Simply use your old favorite as-is with the Internet Phone Wizard. Problem solved.

For the price of a decent cordless phone, you can keep your current handset and extend your phone service to add IP phone services to your existing POTS service. Because the Internet Phone Wizard works with Skype, you'll be happy to learn that all Skype-to-Skype calls are free anywhere in the world. In addition, the for-a-fee SkypeIn (so callers outside the network can call your Skype number) and SkypeOut (so you can call outside the network from a Skype line) services are priced modestly enough to drive long distance charges way down compared to what most consumers currently pay. That should put a little extra twinkle in Santa's eye this year.

Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a long-time IT writer, researcher and consultant, and occasional contributor to Tom’s Hardware. A Windows Insider MVP since 2018, he likes to cover OS-related driver, troubleshooting, and security topics.