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Wi-Fi Skype Phones - ASUS AiGuru S1 vs. Netgear SPH101 - ASUS AiGuru S1

We check out a couple wireless capable Skype phones from ASUS and Netgear and try and work out which is the best.

| Network Phones in Networking | Posted: Feb 13, 2007 5:00 am

ASUS AiGuru S1

 

 

First up is the ASUS AiGuru S1, which is the more basic of the two handsets on review, but it comes with the most accessories in the box. Beyond the handset itself, ASUS supplies a USB Wi-Fi dongle, a small USB extension cable - although this one has a flexible metal neck that means you can position the USB dongle in a suitable angle - a charging cradle and a wall power charger and finally a USB to mini USB cable. Not a bad package all in all. One thing to note is that the plastic material used with the AiGuru S1 is the same that is used with Apple's iPod - it does feel good.

 

 

The handset is fairly basic with a small monochrome display with a blue back light. Size wise it's pretty comparable to a standard cordless phone and it feels quite comfortable to hold and it measures 117 x 46 x 23mm (H x W x D). The screen has a fairly low resolution of 128 x 64 pixels which means that there's a limit to how much information that can be displayed at once. Below the screen is the keypad - beyond the normal numerical keypad, it features an up and down rocker button, two soft keys and a call and end call button. The top left hand side is home to the power button and on the right side is a 3.5mm headphone jack. At the bottom are two charge points and a mini USB port. Finally around the back is a small 0.5 wattage speaker and the battery compartment. The battery is of Li-ion type and is rated at 3.7V and 750mAh which looks like something from a cordless phone rather than a cell phone as it connects via a small wire.

 

Using the AiGuru S1 is a rather different experience and we had some problems getting it up and running to start with. This could be because we used an ASUS P5B Deluxe Wi-Fi motherboard, as it and the supplied USB dongle use the same ASUS WLAN software. This meant that it took forever to install the software and once we finally got it working, only 1/3 of the AiGuru S1 utility was displayed. This happened repeatedly, even after downloading the latest version and upgrading the handsets firmware to the latest version. A quick exit and restart of the software seemed to solve this problem every time. None the less, this is very frustrating and even more so considering that it was used on an ASUS motherboard. There's also no option to install the software without the dongle drives in case your ASUS motherboard already had a compatible Wi-Fi solution.

 

 

ASUS claims 25 hours standby or 2.5 hours talk time per charge and a full charge should take around 3 hours, not terrible, but hardly impressive compared to a normal cordless phone. This is the downside of using Wi-Fi over a digital cordless phone technology such as DECT. You can charge the handset by either plugging the power cable charger into the back of the charging cradle then placing the handset in the cradle or by plugging the power cable charger into the bottom of the handset itself.

 

The AiGuru S1 has some special features beyond just being able to make Skype phone calls which we'll cover before we talk about how good or bad it is to use with Skype. First of all you can't manually configure the AiGuru S1, which is rather odd, instead you have to plug it into your PC via the mini USB cable and press the configure button in the software. Although this makes it dead easy to configure the handset, it also means that it's not practical to take with you on say a business trip as you can't use it (without a notebook and ASUS software installed) with a public wireless access point in Star Bucks, for instance. Once configured the handset will reboot and connect to your PC. The soft keys now have a menu option each, the right one simply says Menu and the left one says Skype.

 

Press the Menu button and you're greeted by a selection of options which are Wi-Fi Music, Phone Settings, Keypad Lock, Wi-Fi Status, Mac Address and Software Version. Let's start with the Phone Settings which enables you to change the language - the options are English, German, French and Chinese - set the ring volume, adjust the display and load the default settings. Apart from the Wi-Fi Music option, all the other ones do exactly what they say and only display information, as there's nothing you can change under those menus. The Wi-Fi Music option is rather interesting though, especially if you plug in a pair of headphones to the 3.5mm audio jack, as this allow you to stream music from your PC to the AiGuru S1, but you can also use the built in speaker. The audio quality is rather good as well, but you won't have much battery left for any calls if you use it this way. You have to select the music in the AiGuru S1 Utility, which is rather annoying, especially as you can't select multiple files or folders in the current version of the software. You can skip between tracks by using the 1 and 3 key on the keypad, although there's a bit of a delay when you skip tracks.

 

The reason why you can't use the AiGuru S1 with a wireless access point is because it's actually using the version of Skype that's installed on your computer, which means that it pulls all the information from your PC. This works pretty well, although it means that the functionality of the handset is quite limited. Call quality was good, on both ends of the call and pressing the up and down jog key allows you to increase or decrease the volume of the call.

 

 

Overall the ASUS AiGuru S1 is a decent entry level wireless Skype handset with some extra functionality. It's also a steal at $130 AUD (roughly $95 USD) compared to other similar devices, especially as you get a free USB Wi-Fi dongle as part of the package.

NetGear SPH101 IP Wireless Phone

 

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