Gadling gear review – IPEVO S0-20 WiFi Skype phone

In this product review, I’m going to introduce you to the IPEVO S0-20 WiFi Skype phone. The S0-20 is a very compact phone, weighing in at just 80 grams/ 2.7 ounces.

The S0-20 connects to Skype over WiFi, and allows you to make and receive calls, manage your Skype contacts, view call history, listen to voicemail and even search for Skype users. The entire user interface looks and feels just like Skype on your desktop, so operating the phone couldn’t be easier.
Connecting to a WiFi network is simple – you let the phone search for available networks, enter any network keys (if required). The WiFi system can connect to any 802.11 B or G network, and it supports WEP, WPA and WPA2 encryption, which means it’ll work on almost any WiFi network you can fine.

Sadly, the phone does run into a problem when you connect to WiFi that requires you to log in through a web page.

Voice quality is fantastic – I tested the S0-20 in a variety of situations, and each time I made a call, the connection was established right away.

This speaks well for the quality of Skype and of the S0-20. Of course, the phone supports Skype to Skype calls, as well as Skype In and Skype Out calling. When calling “out” to a landline, Skype sent my user ID as the Caller ID name – a very cool feature.

The S0-20 comes well equipped – inside the box is the phone, battery, desktop charging cradle and an AC charger.

The phone and desktop cradle use a MiniUSB charging plug. On the side of the S0-20 is a 2.5mm headphone jack, and a headset is included.

I also tested the IPEVO S0-20 in two different situations. The first allows you to connect the phone to a wired network. For this, I used a Trendnet TEW-654TR pocket WiFi router. With this setup, you simply plug the router in a wired network port, and then connect the Skype phone to the wireless network being broadcast by the router.

The next setup is even cooler – it allowed me to create my own WiFi hotspot anywhere I was in range of the Verizon Wireless broadband network (which covers a huge portion of the country).

With the Verizon Wireless MiFi 2200, I was able to make a Skype call with perfect quality in the middle of a forest preserve. Of course, I could have also installed a Skype client on my smartphone, but being able to use the S0-20 with the MiFi does show how flexible the device is.

Final thoughts

I love that the S0-20 features a very familiar interface – it looks and feels just like the desktop version of Skype, down to the connection sound. Connecting to a hotspot is simple, though some users will run into problems with browser login enhanced sites. Call quality is excellent, which speaks well for the phone and for Skype itself.

Of course, readers with a phone or PDA that supports Skype may not see any need for the IPEVO S0-20, but there are still plenty of people without a smartphone. One major advantage of the S0-20 is that it doesn’t require any monthly charges, like you’ll find on most smartphones (for their data plan).

PROS: Excellent interface, good hardware, good sound quality

CONS: Security key entry can be cumbersome, no support for browser login on hotspots

The IPEVO S0-20 WiFi Skype phone costs $139.99, and is available directly from IPEVO. Shipping is free (promotion till October 31st).

Gadling gear review – IPEVO Skype and VOIP handsets

In this 3-in-1 review, I’m going to show off three different Skype/VOIP handsets for your computer. IPEVO, the company behind these three handsets has been producing some of the best selling VOIP equipment on the market for several years, so it makes sense to take a close look at what they have to offer.

In the review, I’ll show you the ST-4RT.1 universal VOIP handset, the FR-33.1 Skype USB handset and the TR-10 Speakerphone/handset.
IPEVO ST-4RT.1 Universal VOIP handset

The ST-4RT.1 is the simplest of the three phones on review today. It isn’t much more than a lightweight handset with headset/microphone connectors. That said, at just $14.99 (with free shipping), VOIP handsets don’t get much cheaper than this.

It features a volume control dial, and 2 color coded plugs. You don’t need to install any special software, and don’t need to make any changes to your audio setup, with the possible exception of fine-tuning the microphone. It weighs just 2.1 ounces, making it ideal for any carry-on bag.

Sound quality is perfect for VOIP calls, and since it doesn’t rely on software, you can use it with any VOIP application, including Skype and Magicjack.

IPEVO is currently running a promotion on this handset – if you order a two pack of them, you’ll only pay $20, or just $23.99 for three!

IPEVO FR-33.1 USB Skype handset

The FR-33.1 is the best selling USB Skype handset in the world – and rightfully so. This thing is a real treat to use. With the FR-33.1 you don’t need to touch anything on your PC to make a Skype call. The IPEVO software communicates with your Skype installation, and the keys on the handset provide full control. You can dial, browse speed dials, control volume and more.

It weighs just 3.5 ounces and retails for $29.99. This really is the handset you’ll want if you make a lot of Skype calls on the road. I found that while the handset is designed for Skype, that you can still use it for any VOIP application, as it just shows up as an audio device. The keys will only work with Skype though.

Like on the previous handset, IPEVO is also running a promotion on this one – a two pack is currently on sale for just $43.99.

IPEVO TR-10 Portable conference phone

The third and final handset in this lineup is the TR-10. This curious looking handset does several things in a single device – it is a normal phone handset, a portable speakerphone and a USB computer speaker.

It is in its element as a speakerphone, and really will allow you to make conference calls with surprisingly good quality. Stuck in your hotel room with 6 others, and need to make a call back to your office? This $59.99 is on par with those $500 conference phones found at most upscale offices.

On the front of the TR-10 are controls for volume, mute, call control and on the side you’ll find a button for switching between handset mode and conference phone. Inside the phone is a DSP chip which cancels out background noise, making the call sound much better for all participants. In addition to this, the TR-10 comes with audio recording software, capable of recording your call. On the unit itself, and buttons for controlling the software.

Since the TR-10 installs as a regular audio device, you can even use it for music or movies – and it will almost always sound better than the tiny speakers in your laptop.

The TR-10 is also included in an IPEVO promotion – a two pack is on sale for $99.99.

Final thoughts

Each of these three phones has a different target audience – the $14.99 ST-4RT.1 is ideal for anyone looking for a very basic high quality handset. The FR-33.1 is great for heavy Skype users and the TR-10 is great for all-rounders – it’ll be in its element as a business phone or if you just need a good handset for calling friends and family.

The real winner here is the TR-10. This may be the bulkiest of the three handsets, but I’m loving the ability to use it as a handset, speakerphone and PC speaker. I was not expecting the speakerphone quality to be as impressive as it is – people on the other end of my call could not hear I was sitting back in my chair talking handsfree.

Next week, I’ll be reviewing two more products from IPEVO, their WiFi Skype Phone and a very neat WiFi enabled photo frame – so stay tuned!

Gadling Gear Review – Callpod Drone Bluetooth adapter

In this product review I’m going to introduce you to another product from the clever people at Callpod. Previously, I reviewed their excellent Chargepod charger and the Dragon V2 Bluetooth headset.

The Drone is a USB Bluetooth adapter. At $49.95 it is quite a bit pricier than most other Bluetooth adapters on the market, but the Drone is an adapter with a twist.

In fact, the Drone has several twists that make it well worth the price in my opinion. For starters – the Callpod Drone actually works as an audio adapter when first installed. This may not mean much to you, but if you just need a Bluetooth adapter to use for a (stereo) headset, then why bother installing a large package of software when you only need a tiny portion of it?
Another advantage of not having to deal with software is quite simple – not all computers allow it. Many work laptops are locked down against installations, and most public Internet terminals may have open USB ports, but also have software installs blocked. In many cases, the Drone can simply bypass this.

When you plug the Drone into your computer, it installs in seconds, and shows up in your device manager as a standard USB audio device. USB audio support has been built into all Windows versions since XP, so no drivers or other settings are required.

To use a Bluetooth headset with the Drone, you simply place it in “pairing mode” by pressing its only button, and you instantly have a Bluetooth audio connection with your PC. This is of course ideal for Skype or any other voice application, but it also works very well if you pair it with a stereo headset.

The Drone also offers a much larger range than most other Bluetooth adapters. In my not-so-scientific trials, I was able to reach twice as far in my house using the Drone than I normally can with the built in Bluetooth on my computer. The manufacturer rated range for the Drone is 100 meters, which I can confirm is accurate.

When you pair the Drone with the Callpod Dragon Bluetooth headset, you get to take advantage of the extended range in both devices. This combination let me walk out to the end of my back yard without a single crackle or drop in the Bluetooth connection.

Users who still want to use the adapter as a regular Bluetooth device, can switch it to “software mode” by holding down the button on the device. Of course, this also means you’ll need to install the 60MB software package, offered for free by Callpod on their site. Vista and Windows 7 users won’t need the software – Bluetooth support is built into their operating system.

All in all a very nice little device that finally makes Bluetooth hassle free. At $49.95 it may seem overpriced when compared to other Bluetooth adapters, but its additional features make it well worth the price if you often find yourself in need of no-fuss Bluetooth audio or an extended range Bluetooth signal.
The Callpod Drone is available directly from Callpod ($49.95) or from Amazon ($33.07).