Skype is a genius technology, especially for anyone who has friends or family living overseas, as it slashes the costs of phoning them, from extortionate to free. The simplest way to use Skype is with a headset that plugs into your laptop or PC, but the obvious downside is that you are tied to your computer for the duration of the call.
Some networking vendors supply a £100 Wi-Fi handset that looks like a mobile phone and connects to your wireless router, but the battery life and audio quality on the samples that we have seen have been a bit dodgy. The other problem is that a Wi-Fi phone is perceived as a geeky gadget, when it is clear that Skype and IP telephony is going to be mainstream technology sooner rather than later.
Panasonic has come up with a simple gadget that is sure to help speed up the progress of Skype. The KX-TG915OES phone is effectively the Panasonic KX-TG9120 phone, which typically costs £75, with the addition of a Skype adapter that is part number TGA915ES. Although we can’t find the adapter on sale separately, a quick bit of maths tells us that it’s about £20-worth.
Installation is simple. Unpack the Panasonic phone, charge the battery and plug in the phone line, just as you do with any new phone. Now install Skype on your Windows 2000 or XP computer and create a user name. Run the driver CD and plug in the USB 1.1 Skype adapter and bingo, the handset doubles up as both a regular phone and also as a wireless Skype handset.
Connection distance is the same as any DECT handset so you can wander around the house during a call, and the stand-by time of up to 240 hours and talk time of 15 hours are also par for the course. The illuminated key pad means that you can use the Panasonic when the lights are low. Although the colour 1.5-inch screen is nice and bright and the 128×128 resolution displays a handful of icons quite clearly, we found that the layout is far from intuitive. This is disappointingly common with phones, and so too is the rotten selection of 14 ring tones.
We didn’t get the Panasonic as a loan sample from the manufacturer but instead bought it as a regular retail purchase to keep in touch with the in-laws in Australia and it’s fulfilled that task admirably. In time we may push the boat out and spend £57 on an optional KX-TGA914ES camera which is operated by sound and would allow us to do the full video phone bit. Then again, what with the time difference, one or other party in the call would be in their pyjamas, so perhaps that’s not such a great idea.
Contact: 08700 100076