The Polycom Communicator, a cobranded USB speakerphone that makes calls over the Internet using Skype, offers an untethered communication experience that on-the-go users will appreciate.
Installation is a breeze; simply load the software, reboot, and plug the unit in using the conveniently integrated USB cord (which also powers the device). The program features a helpful diagnostic utility you can choose to run should hiccups occur.
Oddly enough, Skype can't be installed from the disc. Instead, the software offers a link to download Skype from the company's homepage. This omission is understandable, since users will want to make sure they have the latest version.
Cellular users will feel right at home with Skype. You can add contacts as with any address book, and the software logs your call history and conversation length. Five face buttons control audio, bring up the Skype application, and pickup and hangup calls. A headphone jack is positioned on the unit's right side for keeping conversations confidential.
The Communicator's rear hatch flips out to serve as a kickstand that props the phone to a 40-degree angle; perfect for manipulating buttons and eliminating the urge to lean in to talk, a basic instinct when dealing with low-lying speakerphones.
The Polycom Communicator stumbled a bit when it came to sound quality. While we experienced clear, room-filling audio that was free of echoes and feedback (with only the occasional voice delay), people on the other end of our Skype calls reported differing experiences. Some enjoyed equally crisp sound; others stated that we sounded muffled, even after increasing the volume and testing the Communicator at different times of day.
The best aspect of the Polycom Communicator is the freedom the speakerphone provides, especially for incoming calls. There's no need to frantically look for your headset and put it on when a call comes in. Instead, you simply push a button and say "hello." While we found the sound quality uneven, this device is definitely worth a try for frequent travelers looking to make free long-distance calls to other PC users or 2-cents-per-minute calls to everyone else.