New toys - USB Skype phone

I've just received an evaluation unit of the SkyTone USB Phone (RST102), a conventional looking handset with a USB cord.

RST102UsbPhone.jpg
I've been testing an evaluation unit of the SkyTone USB Phone (RST102) from Radian Technologies, a conventional looking telephony handset with a USB cord designed to be used with Skype. It works very well and, based on feedback from dozens of people I spoke to using it, the sound quality is somewhere between "sounds just fine" to "crystal clear". Much of that variance is the whim of the Skype gods of course.

Installation was drop-dead simple. Pop in the included CD to load a driver, plug the phone into a USB port, and you're ready to go. The handset displays your Skype contact list and making a SkypeOut call is just like using a "real" phone. The handset is lightweight and compact enough that tossing it into your bag is no problem. In fact, on my last trip, I was sitting in the terminal at Las Vegas' airport using my Treo's EVDO connection to get online and the Skytone to chat with friends while waiting for my flight home. At least half a dozen people came up to me and asked me about the Skytone and how I was able to plug a phone into my laptop.

In the course of using the Skytone, I had a tiny epiphany though. I really prefer using a headset to talk on Skype. Holding a phone to my head is something I've never much liked. I use a Bluetooth headset with my Treo (BTW, I recently got a new Treo 700p which I will be posting about soon) and have had some success doing the same with my notebook.

For Skype (and Dragon NaturallySpeaking), I prefer a headset. The freedom to work with both hands is too valuable to give up and I found myself cradling the Skytone between my head and shoulder while I was using it, leading to all sorts of unnatural contortions and a stiff neck after a lengthy chat.

My daughter, on the other hand, is excited as can be about the Skytone and has no such issues. She calls me a dork on a regular basis when she walks by and sees me talking to thin air while wearing either my wired or BT headsets. "He's mad, I tell you... mad. Why he sits there talking to himself all the time!"

If you're looking for a way to normalize the Skype experience, this is a great device. If you're a dork (like me), your mileage may vary. 

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