The AiGuru S1 from Taiwan's ASUS is one of the new breed of cordless Skype phones that are flooding the market. The biggest difference with the AiGuru is that it also has the ability to play music and control a PC remotely. It's ideal for users that want to treat Skype as just another phone service, without having to wear a cumbersome headset or be tied to the PC.
The look of the AiGuru S1 resembles a conventional candy bar shaped mobile phone and is finished in a shiny white plastic, no doubt to capture the sector of the market enamoured with the iPod. Its round edges and chunky feel allows it to be clasped comfortably in the hand. Its keypad is very tactile but overall build quality feels poor. The small blue backlit LCD only displays 128x64 pixels, but is very bright with information such as battery life and wireless signal strength clear and easy to read.
The phone effectively has a built-in 802.11b/g wireless that provides it with remote controller functions and support for Microsoft's Windows Media Player. This means that you can manage your libraries, and play, stop and pause songs even with the computer in another room. A USB wireless adapter is required along with some software for your PC, which also needs to be switched on at all times. Note that the AiGuru S1 only works with Windows based PCs so Mac users will have to look elsewhere.
Its Lithium-ion battery is good for about 25 hours of standby time but only 2.5 hours of talk time and it can be charged via a transformer that plugs into the USB connection found on the base of the unit, or directly into its docking station. The built-in speaker on the back of the AiGuru has been designed for both ordinary phone conversations as well as listening to music that can be streamed from a PC via a Wi-Fi connection. In addition to this, there's also a 3.5mm headphone jack on the side of the unit.
The phone comes packed with the standard fare of most modern phones, such as Caller ID, phone book entries, call history, and speaker phone function, as well as answering machine functions. Although there's no need to access a computer to scroll through your numbers or check your call history, editing your contacts can only be done through the PC, but this isn't a major issue. Support for dual-audio channel allows the AiGuru S1 to function without effecting other programs on your computer, meaning that you can watch a movie, play games or leave some music running while making a phone call.
The biggest factor holding back is that it's perceived by most as something that's very complicated and requires a computing degree to master. This couldn't be further from the truth in the case of the AiGuru S1. ASUS have provided a fold-out pamphlet on connecting to the Skype network as well as a detailed manual on using the handset. Initial setup requires you to plug in the wireless USB dongle into your PC and then installing the provided software and drivers.
The handset paired with the dongle in seconds and connected with the Skype network without any hassles. Conversations came through loud and clear with respondents experiencing the same level of quality even when we moved away from the PC and into other rooms.
Official figures from ASUS are 30m indoors and up to 100m outdoors but our tests measured the effective distance to be around 20m indoors, which is still plenty. Sound quality deteriorates when using the speakerphone for hands-free talk, which we thought was surprising considering that this same speaker is used for playing music.