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Iogear - Test And Verdict

This product is a good one in most of the aspects that matter. It's incredibly easy to install and use, as long as you follow the instructions on the driver CD's readme file. In particular, make sure to install the most current version of Skype before installing the drivers, and set up the drivers before plugging the device into your PC. The whole process took less than two minutes to complete - primarily because we already had the most current version of Skype - and worked without a hitch.

Once setup was done, we were immediately able to start using the headset and dialpad to place and receive Skype calls. Incoming sound quality was quite good, on par with that of the Plantronics Persono D200 headset we normally use. Those who took our test calls reported equally good sound quality on their ends. In fact, as long as you stay in-network on Skype, you'll find the calling kit to be a great tool and a definite productivity enhancer.

Update 5/11/2006 One minor issue is that the keypad is missing the "+" key that you need to start a SkypeOut dial string. I initially worked around this by jumping over to my regular keyboard to enter the "+", after checking with Iogear to see if they had a work-around (they didn't). But a helpful reader pointed out that entering a double zero "00" will also do the trick. So now I'm the wiser and so is Iogear!

The number pad is great other than that omission, and because it's laid out just like the keys on an ordinary telephone dialpad, it feels pretty familiar. But alas, its keys are stiff and require real effort to depress, which resulted in dropped numbers when we didn't watch the screen to make sure all the digits actually "took." The other controls work well, and the dialpad layout and functions are sensible.

The other gotcha we discovered with this product became obvious when we tested its speakerphone capabilities. If you want to use external speakers through the dialpad itself, you must either switch the microphone jack for your headset around to the other side of the unit when you make the audio A/B switch, or you must use a separate microphone to pick up your own voice input. Iogear might have considered designing this unit to permit speaker and microphone changes to occur independently.

That way, for example, you could keep the headset on and play incoming audio through the loudspeakers, while continuing to use the microphone on the headset to speak. This is actually a minor nit, however, because you can easily configure Skype to play audio through the external speakers, while also using the microphone on the headset for audio input, as the screenshot in Figure 4 clearly illustrates.

Figure 4: To use the headset mike and external speakers inside Skype, pick Generic USB Audio Device for Audio In, and your external speaker device for Audio Out

Figure 4: To use the headset mike and external speakers inside Skype, pick Generic USB Audio Device for Audio In, and your external speaker device for Audio Out

As a USB hub, the dialpad also performed well. We tried it with a USB flash drive and a CompactFlash card reader, and it worked the same as if we'd hooked those devices right up to our PCs. We didn't notice any degradation in sound quality for Skype calls, even when simultaneously transferring large files to our high speed (120x) Memina Rocket drive.

With a street price of $55-60, this package costs about as much as our Plantronics headset. While it lacks that unit's stereo sound and hi-fi capabilities, it is about equal in the area of telephone voice quality, and you get extra USB ports thrown in at no extra charge. For regular Skype users, this one's definitely worth considering, and perhaps buying!

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