PhoneRanger 2.0 Review

Tom Keating : VoIP & Gadgets Blog
Tom Keating
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PhoneRanger 2.0 Review

Drew Robertson over at PhoneRanger was kind enough to send me a PhoneRanger 2.0 USB wireless headset that works with any VoIP client, including Skype, Xten, SJPhone, etc. Drew actually sent the unit to me back in May, but I was too busy at the time to review their wireless USB-based headset which they are marketing as "a new wireless headset for Voice Over IP, Podcasting and Internet Radio".

The PhoneRanger 2.0 is a pretty nifty device that gives you hands-free access to your PC's sound card, by connecting to the sound card's speaker and the microphone port. In fact, the speaker and microphone plugs from the PhoneRanger were a tad short. I wanted to use the USB port in the front of the PC, but the audio plugs wouldn't reach to the back of the PC, so I had to use one of the rear USB ports. (as seen in the video above) No biggie, but worth mentioning.

The wireless capability is not Bluetooth, but instead uses the 47-49 MHz band giving the PhoneRanger 2.0 a range of up to 10 meters and a single charged life of three to four hours. According to PhoneRanger, "No batteries, no complicated Bluetooth pairing, just plug-and-play on Day 1." I can confirm it was indeed a plug-and-play affair and that the range of the unit was pretty good and I did get around 3 hours of battery life in my tests. TMC's building has quite a bit of interference due to all the computers and testing equipment, so the audio did cut out a little if I walked more than 35 feet from my PC. The unit is using an analog communications method to the device, so I wonder if a digital connection with some sort of error correction might give it a better reception at far distances?

I should mention that PhoneRanger isn't just for Skyping or other VoIP applications. You can also you can listen to your CDs, podcasts, or your favorite music or talk radio program on the Internet. Since it's a single ear piece, (instead of dual earphones/headset) I found that I was able to quickly change the focus of my attention to whomever was stopping by my desk without having to take the ear piece off. Obviously, with a full headset on playing audio, you'd have to take the headset off to listen to someone.

Phone Ranger 2.0 retails for $69.99.

Overall, I really liked the PhoneRanger 2.0 and would recommend it. I do however, as my usual have some minor critiques...

- I'd like to see a bit better range, but I was testing in a corporate environment with tons of PCs and ceiling A/C duct work that probably provide lots of interference.
- Find Me button on base to help find the earpiece, which no doubt will go missing. Simply press the button on the base and the unit will beep - similar to what many home cordless phone systems have.
- Use USB for transmitting the audio instead of the sound card. This will eliminate the extra cord, keep the sound card's speaker output and microphone ports free, and reduce latency since USB has around 10-20ms of latency vs. 100-200ms for many sound cards (last I checked anyway - sounds cards' latency may have improved).

Update: I was about to finish posting this review on PhoneRanger 2.0 when Drew told me that PhoneRanger 3.0 was ready for testing. PhoneRanger 3.0 will have BOTH USB charging and USB audio capability, so no need to connect to the sound card. Stay tuned for my exclusive report on PhoneRanger 3.0, which I hope to blog tomorrow.

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