Basic Features: Skype

After downloading Skype, you simply install it, create a user account, and in a matter of a few minutes you can be calling or chatting with friends, family, or business associates anywhere in the world. We will give a brief rundown of the major Skype features and will follow up with a comparison of Skype to other VoIP services in the near future.


This is the main Skype panel where the contact list, dial out program, and history of phone calls or chat times are listed under individual tabs in the center section. The icons next to each contact name signify the Skype status of each contact, and they also indicate if the user has SkypeOut. The activity based icons are located in the main tool bar along with additional options that are available from the drop down menu selections.


The chat session works like most IM programs and you can also talk with the person while chatting. You simply choose the contact you want to chat with and click on the chat icon. If the person is not online your chat message is held in a pending status until they log on or change their online status. You can have up to 100 people in a chat session at one time, save chat group profiles, and the program will save your chat history for viewing at a later date.


The conference call section is very easy to use. You simply click on the Conference icon on the main toolbar which brings up the secondary window where you add the contacts you wish to conference with at the start of the call. You are allowed up to nine attendees in version 2.5 for Windows XP at this time. You can also conference in various contacts (not to exceed nine)while you are on a call with another contact.


The file upload program works in much the same way as a typical P2P or FTP application does at this time. The user simply clicks on the Send File icon on the main toolbar that will bring up (in this example) the Windows Explorer window where you select the file or files you want to send, click on Open, and the file or files is now ready for delivery once the receiving contact accepts the download. Once the contact accepts receipt of the file or files, the upload/download process begins, and then completes once the file or files are delivered. Alternatively, you can simply drag and drop files onto the chat/conversation window to send them. The speed of the connection is based upon your internet connection and network traffic. We find the speeds to be very acceptable during most transfers and equal that of email, P2P, and FTP applications the majority of time.


The dial out section can be reached by clicking on the Dial tab in the main window, the Call Phones icon on the main toolbar, or if you already have a SkypeOut contact setup then you can double click on the contact's name to start the call or click on the name and then the call button. The SkypeOut function is designed to call landline or mobile phones and requires that you purchase Skype credits as the call time is charged on a minute basis unless you are currently a US or Canadian user calling within either country until the end of 2006.

Overall, our experience with Skype has been very positive -- unless of course our Internet connection is unavailable. The audio quality is very good and at times rivals or exceeds that of analog phone lines when using decent quality headphones. We have found the Logitech USB 250 headset to offer excellent performance, although we still have audio out glitches using this headset and our 5.1 audio output on the Audigy X-FI sound card. Now that we've covered the basics of Skype, let's take a look at the ASUS AiGuru S1 Skype phone.

Index ASUS AiGuru S1: Features
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  • PokerGuy - Tuesday, July 18, 2006 - link

    Thanks for the article, I'm glad to see this kind of review on my favorite tech site. There's a lot of interest in VoIP and Skype and lots of products are hitting the market now: we need AT to help us figure out what's junk and what really works.

    Also, another product that you might want to review is the Vosky Call Center (from Actiontec). It's basically a little box that plugs into the USB port on the PC and allows you to simply plug your own analog cordless phone (5.8ghz, 2.4ghz or 900mhz) into the box. That way, you use a 'regular' phone with skype, and you can make calls uing both skype or your regular landline with a single cordless phone anywhere in the house. Very convenient.
    Reply
  • jamawass - Wednesday, July 12, 2006 - link

    The review doesn't address whether you can do all skype functionality with the phone. ie do all skype contacts appear in the phone's address book, does skype to skype calling function the same way as skypeout? Can one chat with this phone? Also do all the pc sounds go through this phone? One problem I have with skype is that I can't listen or watch anything else on my pc as all the sounds are transmitted over line. Does the phone have this problem? Reply
  • budsan - Wednesday, July 12, 2006 - link

    This was the most comprehensive and fascinating article on Skype and this new phone by ASUS. I am looking forward to more reviews from you on other Wifi phones. For those that are unfamiliar with VOIP technology, you made it a pleasure to read! Reply
  • soydios - Tuesday, July 11, 2006 - link

    "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."

    =D

    Good article, especially for people like me who haven't looked much into Skype.
    Reply
  • Schugy - Tuesday, July 11, 2006 - link

    I would call these things Peripherals.

    I think a phone is something like the Siemens C450 IP (+Router) or the AVM FT 7150 D.

    Then you don't need a PC, save 150W energy and you have talk times between 10 and 17 hours.
    Reply
  • JNo - Wednesday, July 12, 2006 - link

    unfortunately, Skype uses proprietary protocol, not VOIP SIPs like other providers, and so wouldn't work with the Siemens C450 IP etc as it only supports VOIP SIPS Reply
  • Schugy - Wednesday, July 12, 2006 - link

    But using SIPS is one of the biggest advantages. If your provider has problems or bad support you can easily change it. There's maximum competition.

    But what is when Skype makes trouble and you have paid 300$ for a phone (this isn't a PC independent phone anyway) that you can't use with others? Well, I prefer throwing a 300$ phone out of the window over being locked into skype.

    Reply
  • heulenwolf - Tuesday, July 11, 2006 - link

    I'm a bit confused about the wireless connection. Does the USB dongle connect to the phone over its own, separate 802.11g connection? Living in a densely populated neighborhood, there are already more 802.11g networks in my area than there are non-interfering channels and interference is a significant problem. Would the phone-computer connection add yet another wireless network to the mix or would it work over my pre-existing 802.11g network? When testing the phone, how many pre-existing wireless networks were there? Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, July 11, 2006 - link

    The USB Wireless Link from Asus is a separate 802.11G connection. It will not work over an existing wireless network as the interface between the phone and the wireless link dongle is proprietary. In regards to the testing, there was an active 802.11G network via our DSL modem, an active Draft-N wireless network being tested, and a wireless 802.11G network in the building next door. We did not experience any cross-talk or interference during testing with the other networks. I will retest tomorrow with two active 802.11G routers in the same room. Reply
  • Gigahertz19 - Tuesday, July 11, 2006 - link

    Glad to see a review like this, I'm moving into a new house this Thursday and have to set up a phone service. Not sure to go with Skype or Vonage, no more standard expensive phone service for me. So Gary could you see this phone replace your landline as a permanent solution?

    Only thing I wish they could somehow do is find a way to still use Skype on your phone without your computer always turned on. That's why Vonage might be a little more attractive as a permanent solution. They need to come out with a adapter to plug into your router or something for Skype, that would be nice.
    Reply

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