By Peter Griffin
Most people on Skype talk through computer headsets, which are cheap and can also be used for gaming and listening to music.
But if you're going to be spending any serious amount of time on Skype you need to invest in an internet phone handset. It also needs to be wireless unless you want to spend hours hunched over your computer keyboard. I've tried several wired versions that plug into my computer's USB port.
They do a good job, but the Linksys CIT200 is something else.
As a Skype phone, it's so good it may make it into my top-three list of gadgets for the year. For one, it is wireless, but it also wins because it is tightly integrated with Skype, which makes setting it up a breeze, even for the non-technically minded.
The handset looks like a slim-line cordless phones and runs on three triple-A rechargable batteries. It gets about 120 hours of standby time and 10 hours of talk time.
The CIT200 talks to a small base station plugged into the computer, which can support up to four handsets.
It has all the buttons you'd expect of a phone as well as a Skype button, which activates Skype and updates the user's contact list. The handset's colour screen then displays contacts and whether they are online. It's all done seamlessly.
Users can make and receive calls via the handset as long as their computer is running and connected to the internet. Skype voice mail can also be accessed through the handset.
For high-speed internet users, the sound quality is as good as that on a decent cordless phone. Skype is, however, susceptible to the fluctuating traffic loads of the internet, but the national and international calls I made on the CIT200 were crisp and clear.
Through the Skype-out service, which allows users to call regular fixed-line and mobile phone numbers, the results were similarly pleasing. It also helps that the CIT200 comes with 60 free Skype-out minutes thrown in as a sweetener.
The phone's range is quite good. I used it happily all over my house and maintained a strong signal. It also operates at a frequency that doesn't interfere with wireless networks, so it won't disrupt network connectivity.
Skype is also testing a Skype-in service, which allows users to have their own number that can be called from a regular phone. It's early days for Skype-in, but it's shaping up to be an attractive option.
I've got a mobile phone, a fixed-line phone and a Skype phone. In the end, one of the three will have to go. It won't be my mobile and I don't think it will be Skype.
Pros: Good range; easy to install; clear menus.
Cons: A touch pricey.
Herald rating: 9/10
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