PhoneSkype SK-04 review
If you want to use VoIP on a regular basis to replace landline calls, a handset is a wise investment. By buying credit from a service like Skype or MSN Messenger you can take advantage of cheap calls to UK landlines, mobiles or even phones abroad – calling an Australian landline can cost just 1p per minute. Plus, you can pay a yearly fee of €30 to have your own VoIP phone number, so people can call you from a regular landline or mobile.
Here, we’ve rounded up a selection of handsets to use with Skype or your choice of software. The Ipevo Free-1 is a Skype-certified handset that’s both stylish and affordable. It’s lightweight yet solidly built and seamlessly integrates with the Skype software. You have to install the Ipevo software first, but after that the number pad allows you to make outgoing calls just like a normal phone – there are mobile-style answer and hang-up buttons, plus volume and mute controls. The volume control doubles as a scroll button to select contacts before a call – just note the lack of screen. One plus point is that the Free-1 doesn’t hijack your PC or notebook’s sound card, so you can still listen to music while on a call. Call quality was fine – we heard echoing only when the volume was set too high. At £23, it isn’t overpriced, but it does tie you to Skype.
The PhoneSkype SK-04 looks more like a traditional phone, save for the garish logo. It doesn’t have the quality feel of the Ipevo, but it costs £2 less. However, the real disadvantage is that it uses your existing sound card for calls. There are USB, microphone and headphone sockets on the back, but you only need to use a USB cable: the mini-jacks are for a separate headset.
PhoneSkype boasts that no drivers are needed, but before you can use the control buttons on the phone – such as Answer and Hangup – you have to set global hotkeys within Skype, which is a chore. Thankfully, you can download a utility to make the process automatic. Audio quality wasn’t the best, but this isn’t the reason we’d avoid the SK-04 – it’s simply that there are better-quality handsets around for similar money that don’t hijack your sound card.
The Sedna SE-P31SP is one such handset. For only £5 more than the SK-04, you get a more attractive phone that incorporates a large, backlit LCD. This displays the date and time when idle, but shows caller ID and dialled numbers when active. After installing the SkypeMate software (which gives total integration with Skype), you can use the SE-P31SP like a normal phone, so long as your PC is switched on. Fortunately, the phone doesn’t tie you exclusively to using Skype: it’s also compatible with VoipCheap and Tesco’s VoIP service.
You can set up speed dials, or use the scroll button to navigate through your contacts list onscreen. Plus, it’s one of the few handsets to have A-Z lettering on the keys (useful for dialling by name) rather than just the numbers. Thanks to echo cancellation, voice quality is good, and there’s also a speakerphone function that’s ideal for conference calls. The Sedna is just about as close as you can get to using a regular phone without breaking the bank.
If your budget requires you to spend as little as possible, the Tesco Internet Phone costs just £9.98 inc VAT. It may feel a little lightweight and fragile, but it has an almost identical LCD to the Sedna (although not backlit) and a similar keypad layout. Integration with Skype is excellent: you can navigate through contacts and the various tabs using the handset.