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Thread: Review :: USRobotics 9620 USB Telephone Adapter

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    Review :: USRobotics 9620 USB Telephone Adapter

    How do you fancy making low-cost or no-cost Skype phone calls over the internet using your DECT phone?

    It's something you can do by means of a little box that connects the phone's base-station to your PC via USB.

    Bob Crabtree takes a long hard look at USRobotics' 9620, the second USB telephone adaptor we've reviewed. The first, D-Link's DPH-50U, got a thoroughly-deserved kicking.

    Perhaps you can guess what's coming. Either way, check out our warts-n-all (what other kind is there?) HEXUS.lifestyle.review.

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    Hard review, but seems to bring up many issues that are making products difficult to install and use...
    Why oh why do people keep on making things difficult.
    Witness bloated software and apps that hog memory and cpu cycles!
    Glad to see you have the balls to write a hard review when needed
    Old puter - still good enuff till I save some pennies!

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    I think you've been too soft. The product does not work in any reliable way, shape or form and not without considerable effort, which is unforgiveable for a telecommunications product. Who would not just throw it in the bin after a few weeks of struggling? It gets really frustrating and embarrassing being cut off. And that's just to friends - god forbid you run a business that relies on the connection.

    I understood what you did to investigate the situation but wouldn't have had the patience myself and many don't know how to do those things. Definitely not one to buy for my parents...

    There are already even some natural drawbacks you didn't even mention:
    a) The product requires you have it plugged into your pc - so it only works when your pc is on! b) It runs off an existing skype phone so there's no way of knowing whether the call is through skype (free) or skype out (not free) apart from going to your computer anyway! and c) It requires your phone to have its base station near your pc! unless you don't mind masses of usb extension cord going to another room, that's not always convenient.

    Why-oh-why the fvck can't companies realise the simplest thing? - that most people can't be arsed to uninstall old software before updating and so new revisions should have to check for previous and delete/modify existing files as necessary?! Until skype sells its own branded products, with dedicated programmers so that it auto-update simultaneously with new skype software updates, I can see no point in this myself.

    I like your review so much because you saved me sooo much hassle and precious time. However, you should have slammed the product from the off and kept slamming it. I simply can not see the point - this product is unadulterated utter sh1te.

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    Well talk about jumping through hoops, I think you put more than enough work in to give it a chance. Do feel sorry for the manufacturers a bit as the hardware itself seems to work, just that skype keeps on changing the goalposts.

    Thanks for the review though, I've been using skype for most of my calls for a while now and keep thinking of ditching my telephone line rental, getting a skypin number and tagging it onto a little HTPC. Guess it'll either be a cheap wired USB handset instead of this sort of thing.

    Just hope the plug into the router jobs work better and the price comes down to a reasonable level, these are what I'm really after, seem to have taken ages to come to market.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noli View Post
    I think you've been too soft. The product does not work in any reliable way, shape or form and not without considerable effort, which is unforgiveable for a telecommunications product. Who would not just throw it in the bin after a few weeks of struggling? It gets really frustrating and embarrassing being cut off. And that's just to friends - god forbid you run a business that relies on the connection.
    Well it's working right now, on two PCs - and it's working reliably.

    But, of course, you are quite right to think that a lot of people are likely to give up - though, hopefully, they'd get their money back, rather than bin it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Noli View Post
    I understood what you did to investigate the situation but wouldn't have had the patience myself and many don't know how to do those things. Definitely not one to buy for my parents...
    Patience is my middle name (well, it's better than Sue, I suppose) - but no, not one to buy for mum and dad unless they're computer nerds that enjoy a struggle

    Quote Originally Posted by Noli View Post
    There are already even some natural drawbacks you didn't even mention:
    a) The product requires you have it plugged into your pc - so it only works when your pc is on! b) It runs off an existing skype phone so there's no way of knowing whether the call is through skype (free) or skype out (not free) apart from going to your computer anyway! and c) It requires your phone to have its base station near your pc! unless you don't mind masses of usb extension cord going to another room, that's not always convenient.
    I think it's perfectly clear from the review that you need to have the PC running but if anyone else thinks like you, I will, of course, add in a phrase somewhere to make sure.

    As for not knowing how the call is being routed - no, that's not so. You set up shortcuts, some to other Skype users, some to landlines or mobiles - and, presuming you dial the right shortcut, you know. And, in that, it's no different to shortcuts you might have set up on any phone to call someone's mobile or landline.

    Oh, and since the phone's base station connects to the PC by USB, surely it's a given that the base station has to be near the PC?


    Quote Originally Posted by Noli View Post
    Why-oh-why the fvck can't companies realise the simplest thing? - that most people can't be arsed to uninstall old software before updating and so new revisions should have to check for previous and delete/modify existing files as necessary?! Until skype sells its own branded products, with dedicated programmers so that it auto-update simultaneously with new skype software updates, I can see no point in this myself.
    Have to say that it came as a nasty surprise to me to discover - after a lot of grief an bother - that USRobotics' installer for the beta had left the old version in place.

    Don't think for a moment, though, that Skype selling its own hardware would sort out the problems I saw - cos those products would be developed by third-parties and there's no reason to think that communication between Skype and those third-parties would be any better than it currently is with the companies who make or sell hardware now.


    Quote Originally Posted by Noli View Post
    I like your review so much because you saved me sooo much hassle and precious time. However, you should have slammed the product from the off and kept slamming it. I simply can not see the point - this product is unadulterated utter sh1te.
    Like I said, I wouldn't recommend anyone to buy it. But that doesn't mean that it can't be got working.

    It's just that, right now, the beta USRobotics software that I used to get the product working isn't publicly available and, as I said over and over, there's no guarantee that if you do get it working, it will stay working when another must-have upgrade for Skype's software comes along.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wombat View Post
    Well talk about jumping through hoops, I think you put more than enough work in to give it a chance. Do feel sorry for the manufacturers a bit as the hardware itself seems to work, just that skype keeps on changing the goalposts.
    I see it slightly differently. What concerns me is that Skype certifies products as providing a good Skyping experience but that merely applies to the moment in time when it carried out the test - so its certification process is essentially valueless.

    Yes, that's bad news for hardware makers but I am quite sure that they all realise the score, just as Skype must do, and so are legally and morally on the wrong side of the line.

    Quote Originally Posted by wombat View Post
    Thanks for the review though, I've been using skype for most of my calls for a while now and keep thinking of ditching my telephone line rental, getting a skypin number and tagging it onto a little HTPC. Guess it'll either be a cheap wired USB handset instead of this sort of thing.
    Right now, what I'm not convinced of is that even basic USB handset phones are immune from problems that might be caused by new versions of Skype's software.

    Okay, the relationship between their software and Skype's is a whole lot simpler than the relationship between the apps for USB telephone adaptors and Skype's software but do you (heck does anyone) know for sure that even these simple devices can't be rendered unusable by changes that Skype might make to its software?

    Quote Originally Posted by wombat View Post
    Just hope the plug into the router jobs work better and the price comes down to a reasonable level, these are what I'm really after, seem to have taken ages to come to market.
    Well, I did say in the review that I thought there could still be issues with the phones that connect to routers and, although they're not the same issues discussed in the USR and D-Link reviews, it does seem as though they do exist, I'm sorry to say.

    Check out Skype's hardware support forum and if you don't spot the threads straight away, search for either of these expressions (or maybe on the name Belkin, or Netgear) and you'll see what I mean:

    SMC

    WiFi phone

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Crabtree
    (Note that we're deliberately NOT including any buying links. We don't want to encourage you and are working on the basis that if you're daft enough to want to buy one, you probably won't be smart enough to figure out how to search for an online seller)
    Brutal, but fair. Seriously, one wonders on the basis of your experiences with Skype-certified products whether the essential and unalterable prerequisite for approval for logo use is whether the manufacturer's cheque's cleared or not...

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    Quote Originally Posted by nichomach View Post
    Brutal, but fair. Seriously, one wonders on the basis of your experiences with Skype-certified products whether the essential and unalterable prerequisite for approval for logo use is whether the manufacturer's cheque's cleared or not...
    No, I don't think that's the important factor in the equation - though I'm sure makers have to pay for having kit certified.

    As I see it, the testing is just a snapshot in time - perhaps only running with one particular versions of Skype's software.

    In terms of testing, I'd be keen to know - and I am trying to find out - whether in fact Skype has a way to make (or simulate) calls that last for 30, 40, 50 mins or more. Or does it just run very quick call-connection tests?

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    What would help is if underlying the Skype interface, they had a fixed device API; a driver interface that had fixed, unchanging parameters. Build whatever tweaks and enhancements they like on top, but give device driver devs a fixed target to shoot at. Otherwise, they're condemning the device manufacturers to ropey reviews and end users to the vagaries of driver updates. You just KNOW that if you buy a device like this, and a year down the line Skype makes another serious shift in functionality, the device manufacturers' driver teams are going to be working on either stuff they're about to shift or stuff that's shipping currently at that point.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nichomach View Post
    What would help is if underlying the Skype interface, they had a fixed device API; a driver interface that had fixed, unchanging parameters. Build whatever tweaks and enhancements they like on top, but give device driver devs a fixed target to shoot at. Otherwise, they're condemning the device manufacturers to ropey reviews and end users to the vagaries of driver updates. You just KNOW that if you buy a device like this, and a year down the line Skype makes another serious shift in functionality, the device manufacturers' driver teams are going to be working on either stuff they're about to shift or stuff that's shipping currently at that point.
    I don't disagree, of course, but the truth is, I simply have no idea how Skype works in terms of the hooks it makes available.

    But that is something I hope to talk to Skype about this week!

    Whether I'll get any useful answers, though, I simply don't know.

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    Just as an aside - which I found interesting - I attempted to install the beta US Robotics software under (5700) and Vista wasn't having any of it.

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    Thanks for your time to reply Bob - my comments seriously weren't an attack on you or the article - solely on the product. Though I think you need to take Nichomach's first comment's with a pinch of salt!

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Crabtree View Post
    I think it's perfectly clear from the review that you need to have the PC running but if anyone else thinks like you, I will, of course, add in a phrase somewhere to make sure.

    As for not knowing how the call is being routed - no, that's not so. You set up shortcuts, some to other Skype users, some to landlines or mobiles - and, presuming you dial the right shortcut, you know. And, in that, it's no different to shortcuts you might have set up on any phone to call someone's mobile or landline.

    Oh, and since the phone's base station connects to the PC by USB, surely it's a given that the base station has to be near the PC?
    Ok - maybe one or 2 incorrect assumptions on my part. But still, I guess that even if this product did work as stated, it still doesn't untether you from your pc all that much. You still have to have pc on, and phone near pc (unless you have a ridiculously long usb extension cord). Also, you cannot tell at a glance who is online or not. All these thing are not true of the skype phones that work directly via the router - they can be with the router (or connected to the network at any point), work when pc is off, and have colour screen to show you who's online (I believe).

    This product does little more than give you dect wireless connection through an existing phone. For all the hassles involved, I'd rather get bluetooth headset/modules for my computer and use those to make skype calls on...

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Crabtree View Post
    Have to say that it came as a nasty surprise to me to discover - after a lot of grief an bother - that USRobotics' installer for the beta had left the old version in place.

    Don't think for a moment, though, that Skype selling its own hardware would sort out the problems I saw - cos those products would be developed by third-parties and there's no reason to think that communication between Skype and those third-parties would be any better than it currently is with the companies who make or sell hardware now.
    Yeah but if skype had its own products (even if manufactured by third parties), it would lose more credibility when they didn't work, unlike when some third party manufacturers who can flog product, based on a one-time certification, with blatant lack of continuing support, as US Robotics has shown (hell - do you think you were the first ones to notice/complain that this product didn't work?! Non-hardware review journalists might not get such a 'prompt' response from the company).

    I guess this product/state of affairs just makes my blood boil Bob, and that's all there is to it. But I really am on your side and I think we can all agree that we'd all like nothing more than to see decent hassle free skype products out there so we can make free/cheap phone calls for the rest of our merry lives...

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