Firebox – VoIP Cyberphone with Skype review

free phone calls with a real phone handset
Photo of Firebox – VoIP Cyberphone with Skype

Voice over IP is increasingly popular and it’s not difficult to see why. Get yourself some free software and a headset of some kind, and you can make free calls to anyone, anywhere, over the Internet.

For some people, though, setting up software and hardware can be daunting. If you are looking for a low cost way to give VoIP a try, Firebox has come up with this VoIP Cyberphone.

For £29.95 you get a handset that connects to your computer via USB, a copy of the Skype software, and additional programming that lets software and hardware talk to each other. To make calls to other Internet users with Skype on their computers, nothing more is needed. To make (low cost) calls to landlines you need to upgrade to the SkypeOut software and prepay for the calls. Check the Skype web site for charges.

We did have some initial trouble setting up the Skype software. Our problem was to do with having to find the startup software on the install CD because a shortcut that was automatically placed on our desktop didn’t work.

With that problem solved, the software installed easily, our Rock laptop recognised the handset when we plugged it in and we were in business. You’ll probably need to set aside about 20 minutes from start to end, which includes some time to set up a Skype account for yourself and put a couple of contacts into the software.

As well as a number pad, which you use with the SkypeOut software, the phone has some buttons you can use with the supplied Internet telephony software to scroll through contacts, start and end calls and mute your own voice. It’s very easy to use.

These buttons replicate features within the Skype software itself, but the benefit of having a handset that looks ‘normal’ should make the process of Internet telephony easier for some who might otherwise be a bit daunted by the prospect.

But if you are used to a cordless phone, it does feel odd to be tethered again, the wires adding more clutter to our already messy desk. In addition, the handset needs a USB port on our two-port laptop (true, we could use a hub) and the phone itself is, well, not really designed to our taste.

All that noted, though, we are very much in favour. Our little flutter with installation was soon forgotten as we were calling people for free. We reckon we’ll get that £30 back in no time.

Company: Firebox

Contact: 0870 241 4289

Some time before this year is out we are hopeful that we'll see Wi-Fi built into DECT phones, which should make using VoIP a real no-brainer. For now, any home user looking to venture into the world of VoIP who'd rather not wear a call-centre style headset should consider giving this option the once-over.