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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

ASUS wireless Skype phone

Final Words

What else can we say about this phone? What most users will expect is the ability to pick up the phone, receive a call or dial a number, maintain a good connection, and offer acceptable audio quality. The ASUS AiGuru S1 provides these basics and offers the opportunity for a Skype user to break free of the headset or microphone requirement for communicating with their friends, family, or business associates. This has been one of our main issues with Skype since we first started using the program as you were tied to the computer the program was loaded on. This is no longer an issue and we look forward to our new found freedom and no longer have to worry about missing a call because we stepped into the next room. However, we did find the ability to control playback functions within Windows Media Player and to sync a play list along with audio playback on the phone to be more of gimmick than a useful feature.

The performance of the phone in daily operations was very good to excellent with the latest version of Skype for Windows XP. The phone lived up to its specifications by providing right over two hours of talk time and approximately twenty eight hours of standby time during our testing. The audio clarity was better than our analog line the majority of the time and at times exceeded that of our headset. However, we noticed during heavy network traffic that the unit would not sync properly and left us sounding like a cat on a hot tin roof in one conversation. This is something to be aware of as connection quality is not always consistent, but overall the audio clarity did surprise us as we were expecting something more along the lines of a cellular phone.

The phone always connected properly when dialing or receiving a phone call from another Skype user or from our associates with both landline and mobile phones. Our only issue, and this occurred about five times out of thirty, is that it took about five to seven seconds for the phone to sync with our voice when we were answering a call from a landline or mobile phone. Once our voice was synched properly with the outbound signal we did not notice any further issues during conversations that sometimes lasted over one hour. We also noticed the signal and audio quality would slowly start to deteriorate about 75 feet from our base station until the phone was not useable at about 100 feet. We did not have any issues in a two story complex as long as we stayed within 75 feet of the base station.

We tried an interesting experiment by attaching the Wireless Link module to our test notebook and then traveling down to the local Barnes and Noble that supported a Skype WiFi hotspot. We were able to successfully dial out and receive calls with the phone while our notebook was connected via the 802.11G protocol within the hotspot. We noticed during our WiFi connection status checks that the phone generally had a connection rate of 48Mbps. We were able to keep an acceptable connection up to an estimated 40 feet with this configuration. We might have been able to go further but did not trust our ability to outrun the person who kept a keen eye on our notebook while inching closer to our table during extended distance testing.

Overall, we are impressed with the ASUS phone, but when looking at the specification sheets of upcoming Skype phones from the likes of NETGEAR we are definitely interested in features like full color LCD screens, icon based menus, the ability to see the actual online status of our contacts, full chat capability, and the ability to use the phone in hotspot locations without lugging your system with you. However, upon noticing the price differences we are brought back to Earth for the time being and recognize the ASUS AiGuru S1 is a good deal for someone looking at a Skype based phone at this time. We recommend this product currently based upon its performance but are anxious to review other Skype specific phones before declaring the ASUS phone to be a bargain or even the best unit available.


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