Until now, most dual-mode Internet phones required you to connect a base station to your notebook's USB port and power up your PC to make calls. The iPhone Dual-Mode Internet Telephony Kit for Skype-CIT400 cuts the PC out of the equation by connecting directly to your home network router. It also features a hands-free speakerphone, a headset jack, and a color display that shows your Skype contacts. The call quality could be better, but this type of setup makes a lot of sense for users who want to trim their phone bills but still keep their landlines.
The CIT400 looks noticeably better than the CIT200-a cordless, Skype-only handset. This unit is a bit taller, slimmer, and lighter than the previous model. Its color display is also brighter, though the low 128 x 128-pixel resolution and washed-out colors won't prompt any Treo-abandonment.
Because there's no PC involved, you don't have to set up any software. Simply connect the CIT400 base station to a free Ethernet jack on your router, and to a free RJ11 jack for landline calls. The CIT400 uses DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) technology and operates at 1900 MHz, so the handset won't interfere with your existing wireless network.
When you first dial a number, the phone asks if you want to dial the call via SkypeOut or via your landline. For incoming calls, the handset will flash an indicator showing what kind of call it is. Either way, you just pick up.
The CIT400 lets you customize the ringtone depending on whether it's a Skype, SkypeIn, or landline call. You can also see if your Skype buddies are online, and the CIT400 even lets you create a new Skype account right from the handset if you don't already have one. Other features include the ability to modify your public Skype profile, forward Skype calls, and activate Do Not Disturb and Privacy modes. Voicemail functionality is also included.
Call waiting was a bit of a disappointment. Although we could receive a second call during both Skype and landline calls, the call has to be in the same mode you're currently in.
Call quality was a mixed bag. Some Skype calls worked and sounded fine from start to finish, but others would periodically drop into periods of silence (lasting several seconds each). One call disconnected entirely. On the other hand, landline calls sounded crystal clear in both directions, so you're not giving up any quality on the analog side.
Battery life is rated at 120 hours of standby and 10 hours of talk time. That rating turned out to be a little conservative. On our battery-rundown test, the phone didn't die until we'd spent 11 hours and 11 minutes on test calls and left it on overnight. One minor glitch: The battery indicator disappears while you're on a call, leaving you in the dark until it's too late.
Overall, at $179 the CIT400 is a solid but pricey dual-mode Skype phone. Being able to leave your PC turned off is very convenient, but the Skype call quality could be better.
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