Setup - more
History—The SOLO History menu lets you manage your calls. You can view all, incoming, outgoing, or missed calls (shown in Figure 5), Skype Voicemail (if you’ve subscribed), and contact requests. For each of the call types, you have the option of calling, sending a voice mail, viewing details of the call, deleting the entry, viewing the profile of the caller, adding the caller to your contacts, or clearing the list.
Figure 5: Example of a missed call
Settings—This menu has the most settings of any menu on the SOLO.
Figure 6: Settings Menu on the SOLO Skype Desktop Phone
In addition to the submenus shown in Figure 6, above, if you scroll down, there are additional submenus for Network, Phone Settings (screen brightness/timeout) and Advanced (Software updates, proxy settings, and configuring Skype ports)
About—information only menu that shows the current version of software/firmware
Contacts—This menu (Figure 7) shows your contact list. Since your contact list is stored online, it is identical to what you’d see on the PC Client. Your online Skype contacts are shown at the top of the list with the corresponding Skype symbols for Online, unavailable, DND, etc. Next, your SkypeOut contacts are listed, followed by Offline Skype contacts.
Unlike the PC client that lets you check when offline contacts were last seen (hover the mouse over the offline contact), with the SOLO, you only see the offline status. For each contact, the options menu lets you call, send a voicemail (if the contact has voicemail), view their profile, rename, remove, block/unblock, add a contact, or assign to one of the three speed dial keys.
Figure 7: SOLO Contact screen showing my Skye Clients
As you can tell from the menus and descriptions above, the SOLO is quite simple to configure and use. Though you can certainly search and add new Skype contacts using the options and the dial pad, you probably would want to populate your contacts list using the PC-based client. It’s a lot easier inputting names using a keyboard rather than a dial pad, and the search features are much more robust using the PC Client.
I made a number of calls to my Skype contacts to test voice quality. Each reported that the audio was crisp and clear, and of "communications" quality. By communications quality, I mean that the frequency response is not full fidelity—as you would get using a headset. My callers also noted that the speakerphone sounded very good with very little echo.
At $169.99 (available only through the IPEVO online storefront), the SOLO Skype Desktop phone is somewhat pricey. However, I like the fact that it’s an appliance that stays connected to Skype whether or not my computer is turned on. However, while it performs most of the functions of the Skype PC client, it’s lacking a few critical features, which, depending on how you use Skype, might disqualify it from your consideration.
First, it doesn’t support Skype Video. I’ve spent a number of enjoyable hours using Skype video to stay in touch with relatives who live "on the other coast." With the recent improvements in the PC Skype client, the video is better than ever. Perhaps IPEVO will come out with a new model with an embedded webcam. It only makes sense, since the SOLO has a nice color screen.
Secondly, it doesn’t support Skype conference calls, while the Skype PC Client supports up to nine participants in a conference call. Using the SOLO, you also give up the Skype Chat function. Frankly, that makes sense, as chatting with a dial pad is awkward. (I know—thousands of SMS-crazed teenagers would disagree with me.) Finally, as noted previously, my "perfect Skype phone" would also include support for a POTS line so that I would only need one device on my desk for both traditional landline calls and Skype calls.
As for alternatives, the NETGEAR SPH200D (reviewed here) and Linksys CIT400 both provide "dual-mode" calling and offer the additional convenience of being cordless. In addition, they are both available from a variety of online and brick-and-mortar merchants, with current pricing as low as $120 for the CIT400 and $124 for the SPH200D.