The Kensington Vo200 is a slick idea. It's a Bluetooth-enabled Internet phone that works with Google Talk, MSN, Skype, and Yahoo Messenger. The best part: This low-profile accessory slips right into your notebook's PC Card slot.
Here's how it works: You charge the Vo200 while it's inside your laptop. To make a call, eject the device, unfold it, and power it up. It connects via Bluetooth and appears as a headset in your favorite VoIP application. If your notebook doesn't already have Bluetooth connectivity, you'll need to spring for a Bluetooth USB dongle; Kensington sells one for $29. Otherwise, setup is simple: Just install the driver, reboot, and insert the phone into your laptop's PC Card slot. Wait four hours for it to charge, and you'll be good to go.
At 1.6 ounces, the Vo200 is barely noticeable in your hand, and it adds virtually nothing to the weight of your laptop. The card sports Power, Bluetooth, and Mute buttons, along with two volume buttons along the side. A small plastic piece in the center with a built-in mic folds out so that the unit resembles a normal handset. As a result, talking into the Vo200 was surprisingly comfortable.
On our end, the phone sounded crisp and full-bodied, which was quite a surprise given the device's lightweight design. Other callers said we sounded fine through the Vo200, though one test voicemail we left sounded somewhat muffled when played back. During localized PC-to-PC tests, we noticed a lag of about half a second, which sounds significant but didn't affect any of our conversations.
The Vo200's range is about average; we were able to walk 12 to 15 feet away from our notebook without signal degradation. Battery life is rated at just 3 hours of talk time and 30 hours of standby time. We saw a surprising (if not stellar) 4 hours and 27 minutes of talk time before the unit powered itself off.
A few things may get in the way of the Vo200's attaining mass acceptance. It is not compatible with Vista, nor does Kensington plan to make a Vista driver available in the near future; instead, the company is working on an ExpressCard solution for Vista-enabled notebooks. Kensington also claims no Mac compatibility, but we paired the phone with Skype on an Intel iMac, and it worked without a hitch.
The Kensington Vo200 won't replace your cell phone, but road warriors and especially international travelers would certainly benefit from this device. If you have all of the ingredients in place--Windows XP, PC Card slot, and built-in Bluetooth or a USB Bluetooth dongle--the Vo200 is as cool as they come.
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