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Trendnet - Test And Verdict

We found the software for the ClearSky handset easy to install and use. As with the Iogear setup, we had to first install Skype on our test machine, then install the drivers, and finally plug the handset in to charge it. Once charged up and powered on, it found its Bluetooth receiver immediately, and we were able to begin making and receiving calls within the Skype interface. When placing and listening to the Skype test message that's a part of routine set-up, we initially encountered terrible problems with signal quality, but were soon able to remedy that situation and begin using the device in earnest.

There is one interesting thing about the ClearSky handset that may be of particular interest to notebook PC users: the device charges through a USB cable, not from a wall socket adapter. This means that as long as your notebook has sufficient spare juice to power up the handset's 3.7 V 700mA battery - and most notebook batteries will - you can stay connected for as long as your notebook does.

We followed the vendor's recommendations and let the battery charge from a desktop PC for six hours before using the handset. Nevertheless, we found that talk time didn't extend much past four hours, rather than the six hours promised in the vendor literature. Even so, battery life shouldn't be a problem for this unit. (We didn't test the 60 hour standby power claim.)

The handset communicated well with the Bluetooth dongle anywhere inside our test building, except when we got close to anything with a transformer. The unit also worked equally well through a Bluetooth receiver we had set up for a Dell Axim x51v. Because our test machine used a CRT, we quickly learned that installing a two-foot USB extension cable would remedy the overwhelming hum that the dongle otherwise picked up from that display's transformer.

As we walked around the building, we also noticed a similar but less powerful hum any time we got within 10 feet of a fluorescent light. Walking down the street from the building, we maintained clear voice communications up to about almost 100 feet (30 meters) away; transmissions dropped out altogether at 165 feet (50 meters). Though this doesn't match the 330 feet (100 m) promised in the vendor literature, that claim also indicates that actual distance will vary depending on the environment in which it's used. In any case, even 100 feet is plenty for most users who want a phone to keep working as they wander or work away from their desks within the confines of a small building.

Figure 7 shows a close-up of the handset display, which provides resolution of 96x64 pixels for four lines of text display, including control icons. The display uses dark characters on a light background, and is quite clear in office lighting or daylight situations, but showed the occasional tendency to blur just a little. In dark environments, the display is backlit only when dialing a number or managing the handset's controls, which should likewise be sufficient for the needs of most users.

Figure 7: The TRENDnet handset can display up to four lines of text, including a top line of control icons, but showed the occasional tendency to blur just a little

Figure 7: Trendnet handset display

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