The Olympia DUALphone is the world's first cordless 2-in-1 Skype-based telephone. When plugged in to your computer's USB the DUALphone is capable of making calls via the Skype VoIP network. If your contacts are online talking to them is just one click away. Plug it into your normal landline and it works as a conventional cordless phone. Skype has certified a range of standards for audio quality and voice recognition allowing manufacturers to build Skype services directly into their phones. This means that products like the Olympia DUALphone have a level of quality that equals much more expensive units already on the market.
The DUALphone allows Skype users who don't like using headsets to make calls on a conventional style phone and avoids the clutter of having another phone to worry about. An additional benefit is that you no longer must be glued to your desk for Skype conversations. Compared with other VoIP-based products, such as the Doro 225IPC, the DUALphone has a quality feel to its design and materials. Our test unit was finished in silver with black highlights and resembles any household cordless phone. The buttons are well placed and the phone sat comfortably in our hands.
One design flaw is the placement of the call alert speaker which also provides aural feedback for button clicks. Its location on the back is always covered by your hand and becomes annoying when sounds are muted.
There are separate phone and PC buttons for switching between Skype and conventional calls, with a distinctive ring tone played for incoming Skype and landline calls. Also, the DUALphone supports up to four handsets, which can be very handy for multiple phone users. Communications between handsets is as simple as pressing a single button labeled INT. Other features include a mute button, call volume adjusting and a headphone jack.
The phonebook can store up to 160 numbers. Skype numbers can be accessed by pressing the PC key but unfortunately the contact's status is not displayed. Also, the 3-line dual colour LCD cannot display long contact names. When a contact does come online the phone emits an alert displaying the contacts name for a brief time.
Setup is as simple as downloading the free Skype software, plugging the phone's base unit into a spare USB port and running the Olympia CD software. Another cable runs from the base unit and plugs in to your landline connection. A major letdown is the DUALphone's limited support for Microsoft's Windows XP and 2000 only. This is because of software compatibility issues, so for Mac users, even if Skype works on your system, the DUALphone won't.
On a broadband connection, call quality was excellent, comparable with most other leading handsets we've tested. Voices were clear and sharp at both ends of the conversation and landline calls were even better. Using a slower dialup connection was much worse due to intermittent breakups which would often occur.
Battery life is quoted at 6.5 hours talk time and 100 hours standby. Our tests with moderate usage left the handset working just over 3 days in total, results that are close to the quoted figures. Wireless range was equally good, well beyond 50 metres and didn't drop out. Linked with the PC, the DUALphone range is comparable to a conventional cordless and didn't interfere with other wireless devices.
Of course it is possible to buy Skype-capable handsets and a separate cordless phone for a lot less, but it's the ease of use and flexibility that the DUALphone provides that make it such a winner. If you're serious about using Skype on a daily basis, the Olympia DUALphone is definitely something worth trying out.