As a voice service, Skype is different from other VoIP (voice over IP) services such as Vonage because it usually requires you to be attached to your computer either on a headset or using your onboard microphone and speakers. This “tied down” factor is what motivated Skype to partner with hardware manufacturers to take Skype beyond the computer.
There are handsets that plug in to your USB port that look like a traditional wireline phone along with units that use your wireless network and look like a cell phone. However Philips took a different approach with their VOIP841 product. It looks like a very stylish traditional cordless phone but features a color LCD screen that features the normal Skype look and feel.
The VOIP841 can make calls over traditional landline and via Skype by connecting directly to your broadband access point, not the computer.
One major advantage for web workers the VOIP841 presents is the ability to make global calls at Skype’s ridiculously cheap prices. Currently to call most places in Europe, their rate is around 2 cents a minute.
Opening the box
When you open the box, you see the base for the VOIP841 which is shiny piano black and about the size of a small wireless router. Additionally you get the cordless handset itself, a charging base, and all the necessary cabling. Simply plug the base into the wall and into one of the Ethernet ports on your router or cable modem, and theVOIP841 automatically attaches to your network and connects with Skype. Optionally, you can connect a normal phone wire into the base station as well if you’d like to use the VOIP841 on your normal landline.
Setup and configuration was remarkably easy with the VOIP841. The package includes documentation, but I was easily able to connect the device to the Skype network successfully by just following the on-screen menus. After charging the handset and connecting all the cables to the base station, you’re ready to go. As the base powers up, the LEDs light up on the base and you’ll hear a pleasant tone as the base connects to the handset.
The on-screen menu will prompt you to enter in your Skype user name and password. If you don’t already have one, you can sign up for a Skype account right from the handset. The menus, icons, and user experience is much like using Skype on a normal computer.
Usage and Performance
The VoIP841 is incredibly easy to use. From the home menu of the handset you can click “Contacts” and see which of your Skype contacts are available and what their status is. When you enter in a normal landline phone number, the handset asks you if you’d like to make the call via your landline or SkypeOut. You can set this preference permanently by setting a preference in the Settings menu. Call quality, depending on the quality of your broadband connection, was stellar with the VOIP841. My Skype callers reported that I sounded like I was on a headset. To me, the callers, both Skype calls and SkypeOut calls, was on-par with any traditional landline call.
Because the phone uses DECT technology, there will be no interference with your microwave or Wi-Fi network. Philips has done a fantastic job incorporating most of the added Skype features. Voicemail is supported as the phone features an LED indicating when you have a voicemail. Also you can get calls via SkypeIn, and of course through SkypeOut (as noted above). Ringtones can be purchased, however I found the melodic ringtones that the handset has out of the box were fantastic. The handset’ speakerphone sounded great to both me and my callers.
The VOIP841 is an incredibly useful tool for web workers. It takes Skype away from the computer and will allow you to access your Skype contacts in a new way. If you have a business call to make and you just can’t be in front of your computer, the VOIP841 will make Skype just accessible as your regular cordless phone. Skype has very affordable international calling rates, and for those who have contacts around the globe, the VOIP841 makes calling them incredibly cheap.
I have found my usage model for Skype has changed by using this Philips Skype phone. Skype is no longer just an IM/VoIP application that runs on my computer. Rather, its one of my phone services I have available to me because I can carry the handset it any room with me. In fact, I’m considering dropping my other phone services altogether.
The VOIP841 is a stylish and attractive phone that combines a great user experience with fantastic Skype and landline call quality.
The VOIP841 has a list price of $149 but hovers around $110 on Amazon.com.