RTX Dualphone Skype phone review

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RTX Dualphone Skype phone review

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Dual PhoneDual Phone[[Ring]] Honey, can you get that? You reach for the nearest cordless phone only to realize it isn't ringing. [[2nd Ring]]Maybe it's the cell phone? You walk out to the kitchen where the cell phone is charging and it's not ringing either. [[3rd Ring]]. You've changed your personalized ringtones so many times you've forgotten which ring belongs to which phone. It's then that you realize it must be one of your many VoIP softphone clients (Skype, Google Talk, MSN Messenger) running on your PC that is ringing over your desktop speakers. By the time you reach your PC, the caller has hung up. Sound a wee bit familiar?

It used to be that whenever a phone rang in your house you could reach for any of them and answer the call. But now with cell phones, land lines, and VoIP services, it is more difficult. RTX aims to simplify matters by combining your landline with the most popular VoIP service, namely Skype, into a single phone handset called Dualphone, that can make and receive both Skype and PSTN calls.

RTX sent me an eval unit several weeks ago and I played around with it quite a bit, but just never found the time to write up the review. In any event, my first impressions of the DualPhone were very good. The handset is pretty lightweight considering it is larger than my cell phone but smaller than the average home analog/digital cordless phone. It features a green backlit LCD, a full numeric keypad, a Call log button, an address book, two "talk" buttons to make/receive Skype or PSTN calls, and even a headset port on the side. It uses DECT cordless technology which enables its excellent range (Indoor 150 feet/Outdoor 1000 feet) and very good sound quality.

The Dualphone automatically synchronizes with both your Skype and SkypeOut contacts, so as you add them to Skype, they display on the phone. Also, when one of your Skype buddies logs on, the phone will beep and display the username. You can also add PSTN numbers to an address book stored on the phone (up to 160 records) and associate them with alphabetical names. The Dualphone also supports up to 4 handsets and it includes an intercom feature for handset-to-handset calls.

Unfortunately, if you do have multiple handsets you can only make one outbound Skype call at a time. This is probably more a limit of the Skype software than the handset itself. However, even if you simply wanted to conference in two Dualphones to a single Skype or SkypeOut call, it won't work. The base station is connected via USB, so there is plenty of bandwidth for multiple audio streams. Perhaps the base station does some sound enhancements before passing the audio onto the USB connection over to the PC and doesn't have the horsepower to handle more than 1 handset? It's not a big deal since my guess is that 90% of buyers will only need 1 handset.

The handset supports CallerID as well as the ability to store a CallerID record into the phonebook. The handset also supports Call waiting across both VoIP and PSTN calls. Thus, if you are on a PSTN call and an incoming Skype calls comes in, you can answer the Skype call and then toggle back and forth between the Skype and the PSTN caller. One minor thing I didn't like was that you have to launch Skype first. The phone cannot launch Skype for you. There are times when my PC is rebooted and I forget to relaunch Skype, or I closed Skype for some reason. It would be nice if the phone could launch the Skype application.

I made some test calls both on the PSTN and Skype. The sound quality was excellent and the range was impressive. They claim about 6.5 hrs of talk time, which is about what I got. I did leave the phone off the hook and the battery died in just a couple of days. I was too lazy to go downstairs and place it back on the base station. If there were an off switch on the handset I would have turned it off, but unfortunately there is not. With their latest firmware you also can receive chat notifications on the Dualphone. another new feature as part of their latest firmware is the ability to navigate the Skype voicemail from the handset. It will display your voice messages and who the voicemail is from. All in all I was very happy with the DualPhone and would recommend this handset to anyone looking to consolidate their home phone system to something that supports both VoIP and PSTN.

Pros:
  • Great range
  • Good sound quality
  • Wireless access to Skype contacts
  • Can change Skype presence status
  • Integration with Skype voicemail

    Cons:
  • Short standby battery life
  • No off switch (have to disconnect battery or listen to annoying low battery warning?)
  • Can't download contacts to the phone.
  • You have to launch Skype first. The phone cannot launch Skype for you.

  • You should also look at my Philips VoIP841 review. The VoIP841 is comparable with the RTX with the added benefit that the VoIP841 is a standalone Skype phone with no need for a PC. (The RTX requires a USB connection to a PC running Skype). And unlike the RTX, the Philips VoIP841 is available on Amazon.

    Actually, I take that back. You can now purchase the RTX USB Cordless DUALphone RTX3055 on Amazon.


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