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In Use, Continued

Making PSTN calls is as easy as pressing the Phone key, punching in the number and talking. You can also enter up to 160 numbers in the internal phone book and select one of those, or scroll through the last 30 received calls in the Log or last 30 outgoing calls in the redial list and dial one of those. Note that all these stored-call features work for both Skype and PSTN calls, except you can't store Skype Contacts in the phone book.

To call a Skype user for the first time, i.e. not from the Log, they'll need to be in your Skype Contacts list and online. Pressing the PC key lets you scroll through a list of online users, select one and dial. Note that you won't be able to tell if an online contact is "Away" or in any other of the Skype on-line states from this list.

RTX said they originally included Contacts' status info in the PC dial list, but that users found the symbols used to be too cryptic. But if a Contact is in your redial list or Log, you'll see the little (undocumented) symbols that you can compare to the status info in the Skype GUI to figure out what they mean.

Finally, SkypeOut calls are made by keying in the desired number first, then pressing the PC key.

While all this sounds complicated, it actually isn't too bad in day-to-day use. It took some getting used to the phone's display briefly lighting up every time a Contact came on line, but I can see how that would be comforting to true Skype addicts who just have to know what their buddies are up to. You can also have the handset beep each time a Contact comes online, but after briefly trying it, I found it too annoying and shut it off.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Skype calls have the same fidelity as those made with a PC-connected headset. PSTN calls, however, sounded as they normally do, since the network, not the phone limits, the transmission of higher frequencies in order to save bandwidth. I also liked that the phone automatically reverted to PSTN-only mode and indicated that the PC wasn't available in the handset's display when the PC running Skype was turned off. I'm a light phone user so didn't really fully test battery life, but I purposely left it out of its charger overnight a few times and had never had the phone go dead on me or indicate that it neede charging.

Range was comparable to my 900MHz (so as not to interfere with my 11b/g wireless gear) cordless phones, but that brings me to another advantage of the DUALphone, regardless of its Skype capabilities. Because it uses a U.S.-blessed flavor of DECT that operates between 1.920 and 1.930GHz, it stays clear of interference from the overcrowded 2.4GHz band. This means that the DUALphone and microwaves, baby monitors, 802.11b/g gear, etc. will stay out of each other's way.

My biggest problem was that throughout my test period I still found myself staring at the Phone, PC and "Red Phone" keys each time I had to make or receive a call. Maybe part of this is that I'm partly red / green color blind and focused on the similar icons instead of the colors that were intended to guide me. At any rate, I think I'd rather see an End instead of the "Red Phone" key to hang up a call.

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