Holiday Buyer's Guide 2005

DUALPhone Cordless For Skype

The DUALPhone cordless phone works not only with the increasingly popular Skype IP-based phone service, it also provides a port for a single POTS line as well. This means the handset switches easily between a Skype-based IP phone line for long-distance or in-network calls, and a conventional phone line for local calls or as a fallback should your Internet link go down. And of course, the IP side works with the for-a-fee SkypeIn and SkypeOut services, so IP phone users can receive and place calls outside the Skype network as needed (Skype-to-Skype calls are always free).

The handset is compact, and loaded with great features. These include caller or Skype ID on a back-lit, 3-line, 16-character wide alphanumeric display, a 30 entry redial log, call history and incoming call list, and a 160-entry phone book. The base station for the handset integrates easily and automatically with a PC through a USB connector, and all the drivers you need to get up and running are on the CD that ships with the unit. Users on any handset can dial out on the conventional POTS line (but only one at a time), or they can get as many as two IP calls running in parallel. There's also a handy intercom feature, so that handset-to-handset communication can occur among units tied to a single base station.

Sound quality is good, and the phone can roam up to 150 feet from the base station indoors and up to 1,000 feet outdoors. Talk time is over 6 hours, and standby time an astonishing 100 hours. It even handles a conventional mini-jack headset for those who'd rather clip the phone to a belt and use it hands-free.

Unfortunately, this unit works only with Windows 2000, Windows XP (home and professional) and Windows 2003 computers - no Mac OS, Linux, or Pocket PC systems, as is true for other Skype situations that combine a computer and a plug-in headset rather than a complete phone like the DUALPhone. Installation can also be a little tricky - pay attention to those error messages - and daily use requires learning how to coordinate the Skype interface on the PC and the button interface on the DUALPhone. A bit of learning is required, and some modest troubleshooting may occasionally be necessary, but it's not terribly onerous. In general, the phone is a pleasure to use, but we found a headset helped to boost sound quality, simply because it's hard to position the handset properly on your ear without some fiddling about.

This is a great unit for committed Skype users, or for those looking for a reason to start Skyping, especially now that additional DUALPhone handsets are also available. Each base station supports up to 4 handsets, but two is probably a more practical number. The first handset with base station costs about $140 (MSRP), while each additional handset runs about $60 (MSRP). This is a great gift for yourself or anybody else you're inclined to spend this kind of money on, as long as you (or they) have a broadband Internet connection suitable for IP telephony.

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.