X
CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Lingo review: Lingo

Lingo

Neil Randall

See full bio
2 min read

Intro

7.0

Lingo

The Good

Low monthly rates; standard unlimited-minutes plan includes countries in Western Europe; offers an Asian calling plan; 911 support; virtual numbers.

The Bad

Inconsistent call quality.

The Bottom Line

Lingo offers low rates that will appeal especially to international callers, but its call quality is inconsistent compared to some VoIP services.

It seems that each month brings a new competitor to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephone providers such as Vonage, Packet8, and AT&T CallVantage. New to this increasingly crowded space is Lingo, which comes close to knocking off the competition. Lingo offers the lowest monthly unlimited-minutes plan of all the VoIP packages we've seen at $19.95, which includes not only the United States and Canada, but also numerous countries in Western Europe. Likewise, its plans come equipped with a lengthy list of features: all plans include 911 emergency calling, and business plans include fax capabilities. Unfortunately, Lingo's call quality was inconsistent, with more interference than we've experienced with other VoIP services. Perhaps you'll have better luck with call quality. International callers may want to take advantage of Lingo's 30-day money-back guarantee (plus, you get the first month free) in the hopes of a better connection. If your long-distance calls are primarily domestic, there are more reliable VoIP alternatives. The Lingo installation process is straightforward. When you sign up for Lingo's service, the company sends you a proprietary Primus telephone adapter. Follow the printed setup instructions, which have you unplug your broadband modem and router, connect the telephone adapter to an Ethernet port on your router, then power them back up in a specific order--modem, router, then adapter--to allow the adapter to receive an IP address. Then, when you start up, you have to wait as the adapter downloads the latest firmware. Be careful to read the instructions thoroughly on this point, because stopping the process can cause technical problems for the entire connection.

Once online, you can log in to your account from Lingo's Web site, where you can make changes to your account profile, contact support, and manage your account's various features. Though you have to click in and out of a different page to change the settings for each feature, the forms are clear and usable. We particularly like its clear and easy-to-access incoming and outgoing call logs.

"="" --="">/sc/31200476-2-300-SS2.gif" width="300" height="225" alt="" />
Choose to change the setting for three-way calling, and you'll find yourself at a dead end. While the description of the feature is useful, it would save you a step if it were listed on the page before.

"="" --="">/sc/31200476-2-300-SS1.gif" width="300" height="225" alt="" />
Log in to your account at Lingo's site, and you can choose how the service handles incoming calls in a number of ways.

Too bad its call quality is questionable, because Lingo's feature set, coverage areas, and rate plans are top-notch. Lingo's unlimited-minutes Home plan costs $5 less per month than Vonage at $19.95. Not only that, it also includes many countries in Western Europe in addition to Canada and the United States, including Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

And that's just one of Lingo's attractive long-distance offerings. If your calls go west instead of east--across the Pacific instead of the Atlantic--consider the $34.95-per-month Unlimited Asia package, which gives you unlimited calling to the United States, Canada, and the following Asian countries and territories: Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, South Korea, and Guam. There's a catch, though. As is true of the European calls, you can't call mobile phones overseas. Given the predominance of cell phones in Europe and Asia, that's an obvious limitation--but it's hardly a deal breaker.

Lingo offers $79.95-per-month plan for the truly international set, which combines the Western European and Asian calling areas, plus Israel and certain cities in Russia and Mexico. On the other hand, a $14.95 plan provides 500 minutes to the United States, Canada, or Western Europe, along with unlimited calling to other Lingo subscribers, and a $7.95 plan provides free calls to only other Lingo subscribers. Neither is very attractive: instead of the 500-minute plan, we suggest spending the extra $5 per month for the unlimited minutes. Instead of the Lingo-to-Lingo $7.95 plan, have your friends download Skype for free subscriber-to-subscriber calling.

Business plans clock in at $49.95 for Business Unlimited and $99.95 for Business Unlimited International. These plans differ from the Home plans primarily in their inclusion of a fax line, which allows 500 fax minutes per month to the States and Canada (3 cents per minute after that).

One other strong feature that helps Lingo stand above at least some of its competition is an emergency system. While it doesn't actually use the standard 911 system (no VoIP phone service does), Lingo's service automatically connects you to the PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) in your geographic area, in effect making it a 911 service. Using Lingo, just dial 911 to make such a call--you won't notice the difference. What's important here is that you make sure the address you have on file (on Lingo's Web site) is the address where you're located. Also important: Remember that an Internet or power outage renders this feature useless, a problem with all VoIP services. Emergency services remain one of VoIP's primary stumbling blocks, but Lingo scores points in addressing the problem out of the box.

As with the other VoIP services we've tested to date, Lingo's calling features are many and varied. First, you get to choose a phone number from more than 220 area codes in the United States. For an extra $4.95 per month, you can get an additional number with a U.S. or Canadian area code of your choice (a.k.a. a virtual number), and for $10 per month extra, you can have an international phone number. This way, your in-laws in London, for example, can make local calls to you. All plans offer standards such as voicemail, voicemail sent as e-mail attachments, call forwarding, call waiting, and last-number redial, along with local-number portability, so you can take your existing phone number with you. Other features include simultaneous ring (incoming calls ring two or more phone numbers automatically) and a 411 information service.

We judge a VoIP service's performance on how calls sound under baseline conditions, as well as during data uploads and data downloads. The overall weighted average is based on calls made under these three conditions. Baseline conditions are given the highest weight of 66 percent; audio quality during data uploads and data downloads each factor 17 percent of the weightings. The scale for the voice-quality ratings is from 0 to 10.0, with a perfect score of 10.0 equaling our reference analog connection.

Voice-quality rating
(Higher scores are better)
Overall weighted average
All PCs off
During download
During upload

Baseline (landline)
10.0

AT&T CallVantage (TA/router: Linksys WRT54GP2A)
9.0
9
9
9

Vonage (TA/router: Linksys RT31P2)
9.0
9
9
9

BroadVoice (TA: Sipura SPA-1001)
7.3
8
8
4

Packet8 (TA: 8x8 DTA310)
7.3
8
8
4

Broadvox (TA: Mediatrix 2102)
6.5
7
7
4

Verizon VoiceWing (TA: Linksys PAP2-VN)
6.5
7
6
5

Lingo (TA: Lingo iAN-02EX)
6.3
7
7
3

Along with Broadvox, Lingo was one of only two VoIP services that couldn't match the baseline audio quality of the other VoIP services we've tested. (We define baseline audio quality as when the VoIP service's telephone adapter (TA) is the only device sending and receiving substantial amounts of data over the local network on our tests. During these tests, the only other devices permitted to transmit and receive network traffic are the broadband modem and router.) The other VoIP services were able to maintain nearly the same audio quality you would expect from a regular analog (landline) telephone connection. With Lingo, however, on both ends of our calls, the audio sounded slightly "muddied," and we noticed minor clipping at the ends of words. (To its credit, Verizon VoiceWing's low performance score was due in part to our trouble dialing in to voicemail and the latency in connecting to a call; its baseline audio quality was comparable to that of a landline phone.)

Additionally, we heard an ever-present background noise noticeable on both ends of our calls during our tests with Lingo. The noise resembled a faint rustling. The background noise issue is one that plagued every VoIP service we've tested; however, it seemed a bit more pronounced with Lingo than with the others. For most of our calls, the noise did not adversely affect our ability to make or receive calls; but we did encounter several occasions when the background noise was so excessive that we had to hang up and try the call again.

The bundled Lingo iAN-02EX TA we tested connects to an available port on your Ethernet router, which is the most common connection scenario we saw with the TAs that came with the VoIP service subscriptions. (Some services instruct you to place the TA before your router on your home network, that is, between the modem and router.) Unfortunately, most home and small-business broadband connections don't have enough upstream throughput to support both voice and data packets. The result is that under those circumstances when you are sending large amounts of data from your PC (such as uploading photos to an online photo-finishing service), the voice quality of your call will be adversely affected. Since most broadband connections have a high enough upstream throughput, you'll likely hear the person on the other end just fine, but they will have great difficulty hearing you. We found Lingo to be more egregious than others, as sometimes entire sentences spoken by the VoIP user were broken up beyond recognition to the caller on the other end of the line. Depending on how frequently you upload files from your computer, this might not be a significant issue for you.

Lingo was the only VoIP service that didn't cause a decrease in upstream or downstream Internet data throughput speeds from our test computer while VoIP calls were taking place. On first glance, this might seem like a good thing; but it isn't--at least from a VoIP perspective. This indicates that the iAN-02EX TA is not even trying to give priority to the voice-data packets, in an attempt to minimize the loss of audio quality (commonly known as Quality of Service or QoS). This goes a long way toward explaining all of the audio quality problems we experienced. If Lingo can provide a better quality TA--one that integrates effective QoS functionality--we'd anticipate you would experience better overall audio quality.

Of the VoIP services we've tested, Lingo was one of the slowest to connect a call from the moment the last digit was pressed to the moment we heard ringing. It took Lingo between 3 and 7 seconds to make such a connectionÂ--compared to approximately 2 seconds for a traditional analog connection.

Performance analysis written by CNET Labs manager, Daniel A. Begun and lab technician Matthew Wood.

Find out more about how we test VoIP.

You won't complain about Lingo's tech-support service. Subscribing gets you access to a 24/7 toll-free line for both customer service and technical support, and while the Support page offers an e-mail form, the phone numbers are featured prominently. Our calls took the form of technical difficulties in setting up the phone adapter (two calls), along with four calls related to questions about features. All were handled quickly and capably.

The 30-day money-back warranty protects you against signing up for the service only to find that it doesn't work all that well in your area code.

7.0

Lingo

Score Breakdown

Setup 6Features 8Performance 6Support 8
Shopping laptop image
Get the best price on everything
Shop your favorite products and we’ll find the best deal with a single click. Designed to make shopping easier.
Add CNET Shopping