3 star rating

Biscotti TV Phone Review

$199.00
Pros: Quick and easy setup; Intuitive interface; Compatible with Google Talk; Wide field of view
Cons: Images slightly pixelated; Might not fit on your thin TV; HDMI cables not included;
The Verdict: The Biscotti TV Phone can turn a TV into a video calling center, making it a solid choice for families.

REVIEW

SPECIFICATIONS

Video chat has come a long way since the days of choppy video and out-of-sync audio. Today, nearly every laptop features a webcam, and services like Skype are helping people virtually connect with family and friends. But using such services requires at least some technical knowledge. That's where Biscotti TV Phone comes in.

Article Continued Below

A fully functional webcam, the $199 Biscotti eliminates the need for a computer or third-party software, by connecting directly to your TV. The system works with both Biscotti's network and Google Talk. Best of all, every call is free. Read on to find how well this gadget lets you reach out and see someone.

Design

Biscotti TV PhoneWeighing no more than three ounces, the 0.75 x 5.9 x 0.94-inch crescent-shaped Biscotti could easily pass as one of the Italian cookies it takes its name from. Of course, the grill on top of the unit, and its glossy exterior, are dead giveaways that this is no bakery item. The Biscotti's face features an infrared sensor on its left side and an indicator light on its right. Front and center is Biscotti's 5-megapixel webcam, situated just above the company's logo printed in white cursive. Around back are HDMI In, HDMI Out and power ports.

Biscotti's roughly three-inch remote features four navigation buttons, a back button and a select button. Each of the buttons are covered in a comfortable rubberized material and sport Biscotti's yellow-and-black color scheme. The bottom of the remote features the same glossy black paint job found on the Biscotti webcam.

Setup

Setting up the Biscotti was extremely easy, taking just 10 minutes from the time we opened the box until we were chatting with a friend. You take the Biscotti out of the box, plug in its power adapter, connect it to your television via an HDMI cable, and you're set.

Note that Biscotti doesn't provide you with an HDMI cable. And if you want to get the most out of the device, you'll need a second HDMI cable to make Biscotti automatically alert you if you have an incoming call when you're watching TV. The first cable is needed to connect the webcam to your television, while the second connects the webcam to your cable box. In other words, that $199 price is misleading.

Users who have very thin televisions will also run into problems while setting up their Biscotti. That's because the company suggests attaching the webcam to the top of your television using two included plastic straps that have an adhesive backing. This may prove difficult for some LED televisions and LCD displays, whose top edges may be too thin to properly mount the device. Of course, most users will probably be able to find a place for the device next to or below their televisions, but for those users who have less available space, this can be an inconvenience.

Biscotti TV PhoneConfiguring our Biscotti for our television was just as easy as setting it up. After plugging in the device, we simply had to turn on our TV and make our way through the account setup. Since the Biscotti doesn't have an Ethernet port, you'll have to ensure you have an available Wi-Fi connection. Once connected to the Web, you'll be asked to create a Biscotti ID, username, password and profile picture.

Entering our user information was more time consuming than we would have liked. In order to input our information we had to navigate an alphanumeric grid, using the Biscotti's remote. That in itself wasn't so bad, but when you throw in the noticeable half-second delay for our inputs to register, entering our information felt like a real hassle. Thankfully, you'll only have to enter your profile data once.

User Interface

Biscotti went out of its way to make navigating its user interface intuitive, which will be attractive for grandparents and other users who would rather not fire up a PC to video chat.

The red-and-yellow color scheme and large, easy-to-read text make the interface feel open and inviting. On the left side of the main homescreen you'll find your profile picture, and underneath that you'll see tabs for your contacts, call history, settings, and a status indicator for your wireless connection.

To call a friend from the contacts list, simply highlight his or her name and press the select button on your remote. Press the right-directional button while a contact is highlighted and you can choose to make a voice call to your contact, set your Biscotti to automatically answer when they call you, or delete their information.

Biscotti features two forms of auto answer. The first will cause the device's status light to blink when you receive a call from a contact, and will automatically connect you with them when you turn on your TV. You can also set Biscotti to automatically turn on your TV when you receive a call from a select contact.

Despite its relatively Spartan interface, Biscotti provides users with a decent amount of configuration options. From the settings menu, users can choose from five tabs, including Camera, Wi-Fi, Language, Restart, Erase and About. The Camera tab allows users to adjust the camera in order to ensure it provides the best view of a given room, while the Wi-Fi and Language tabs allow you to choose a new Wi-Fi connection and change the display language for the device.

The Restart tab, as its name implies, lets you restart your Biscotti, a nice feature since there is no physical off button. The Erase tab lets you completely erase all your user information from the device.

Performance

Biscotti allows users to make calls to both other Biscotti owners and Google Talk users, meaning you can video chat with your friends on their smartphones and tablets, too. When calling another Biscotti user, images were slightly pixelated, but watchable. Surprisingly, the Biscotti was able to pick up our voice as we sat on a couch about eight feet from the device. Audio quality was excellent when using the Biscotti in a quiet room.

Images displayed during a chat with a friend using Google Talk on a laptop suffered from a bit more pixelation. We also noted some blurring as we moved within the camera's view, although we didn't notice any stuttering. Overall, video call quality using Biscotti was adequate. That being said, we have seen significantly sharper images while using Skype with an HD webcam.

Biscotti boasts that its webcam enables users to view an entire room at once, but for you to see that kind of image, your friend will have to have a Biscotti as well. It's only when someone calls you from their Biscotti that the whole purpose of the product becomes evident. Seeing a large room of people is reason enough to buy one of these webcams. Unfortunately, the further away someone is from their Biscotti, the more pixelated the image becomes, which makes fitting a large amount of people in one shot difficult without negatively impacting image quality.

We tried repeatedly to place video calls from our Biscotti to a smartphone with Google Talk's video chat feature, but were never able to connect. Calls made from our phone would time out before Biscotti recognized the signal, while calls made from Biscotti to our phone never went through.

Verdict

As a stand-alone webcam, the $199 Biscotti TV Phone is merely adequate. Its video quality was grainy, and we couldn't get it to work with a smartphone. However, for its target audience--say, grandparents who might not have a computer but want an easy way to video chat with their grandkids--it works fairly well. The simplicity with which users can make calls and the intuitive interface help make up for some of Biscotti's shortcomings. If you want to stay in touch with a loved one who is technologically challenged, Biscotti is a good choice.

Tags: Biscotti TV, web cams, Accessories, reviews

Technical Specifications
Biscotti TV Phone
www.biscotti.com


Accessories TypeWeb Cams
Battery Type/LifeA/C Adapter
Size0.75 x 5.9 x 0.94 inches
Weight1.6 ounces
AUTHOR BIO
Dan Howley, Senior Writer
Dan Howley, Senior Writer
A newspaper man at heart, Dan Howley wrote for Greater Media Newspapers before joining Laptopmag.com. He also served as a news editor with ALM Media's Law Technology News, and he holds a B.A. in English from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.
Dan Howley, Senior Writer on
Twitter Google+
FIND A REVIEW
Laptops
All Product Types Accessories eReaders Laptops Networking Projectors Smartphones Software Storage Tablets
All Subcategories
All Subcategories All-Purpose Budget Business Desktop Replacement Gaming Multimedia Netbook Nettop Rugged Student Tablet PCs Ultraportable
Brand
Acer Alienware Apple Archos ASUS AVADirect Averatec BeagleBone BenQ CTL Corp. CyberPowerPC Dell Digital Storm eMachines Emtec Eurocom Everex Fujitsu GammaTech Gateway General Dynamics Getac Gigabyte Google Hercules HP HTC iBuyPower Intel Lenovo Maingear MSI Nokia Nvidia OCZ OLPC OQO Origin Panasonic Razer Sager Samsung Sony Sony PlayStation Sylvania Systemax TabletKiosk Toshiba Verizon Viewsonic Viliv Vizio VooDoo Workhorse PC ZT Systems
Minimum Rating
Any Rating Editor's Choice 4.5 Stars 4.0 Stars 3.5 Stars 3.0 Stars
Screen Size
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 21 4 5 6 7 8 9
Resolution
1024x576 1024x600 1024x768 1136 x 768 1200X800 1280 x 720 1280x1024 1280x768 1280x800 1366x678 1366x768 1440x1050 1440x900 1600x768 1600x900 1680x1050 1680x945 1792 x 768 1900x1080 1920x1080 1920x1200 2560 x 1440 2560 x 1600 2560 x 1700 2880 x 1620 2880 x 1880 3200 x 1800 3840 x 2160 800x400 800x480
Weight Range
10.1 - 12.0 pounds 12.1 - 14.0 pounds 14.1 - 16.0 pounds 2 lbs 2 pounds and under 2+ lbs 2.1 - 4.0 pounds 4.1 - 6.0 pounds 6.1 - 8.0 pounds 8.1 - 10.0 pounds Over 16 pounds Under 2 pounds
more options
SUBSCRIBE