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Trendnet - Test And Verdict, Continued

As we reached the limits of the signaling range of the handset, signal quality began to fade, and we observed various types of noise. Some of it sounded like typical interference or signal degradation, but as distances increased we also picked up what sounded like crosstalk. Ordinary wireless phones also operate at that frequency range, so those were probably starting to bleed into our reception as the Bluetooth dongle strained to pick up a clear signal. Of course, it's always possible that other Bluetooth voice devices were also in use in our neighborhood.

In working with the handset, except for occasional issues with signal strength or interference that diminished voice quality, the ClearSky device worked well; calls were audible and intelligible. Though sound quality wasn't as good as on the Iogear unit, that's to be expected with a small, low-powered wireless device like this one. Volume controls were easy to use and adjust, and we had no trouble hearing calls at the default settings.

Unfortunately, the handset leaves something to be desired in terms of Skype integration. While you can check SkypeOut credit levels from the phone, your ability to interact with Skype itself from the phone is more limited than you might think. If the idea behind a wireless handset is to let users leave their desks, it would stand to reason that the handset would permit its users to navigate around inside the Skype interface. As long as Skype IDs or phone numbers are present in history records, you can access them through the handset. But if you want to search for somebody's Skype ID, add or edit a Skype contact entry, or access Skype voicemail, you must return to your PC.

In terms of look and feel, the handset resembles a late 90s cellphone, before the days of small clamshells with integrated digital cameras and color displays. The ClearSky handset certainly wins no design prizes, being rather plain and boxy. Its all-plastic construction also feels a little flimsy in the hand, though it stood up well to a week's worth of casual use during testing.

The unit supports only four distinct ringtones, including no plain-vanilla bell ring. Neither the ringtones themselves nor the ringtone volume can be changed on the unit, either. And while it incorporates a 2.5 mm cellphone headset jack, the vendor didn't see fit to include even a cheap earbud with the unit; nor did they provide a belt clip or holster to make it easy to carry the handset on your person instead of in your hand.

At a street price in the $85 to $90 range, this unit offers decent functionality for a pretty reasonable price. But conventional wireless handsets cost about the same, and cellular phones go for even lower prices as long as you sign up for a calling plan. Thus, you should buy this unit only if Skype is your primary calling tool, and if you need modest but workable mobility.

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