Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
ASUS Ai Guru S1
- Wireless connection and good range, Music streaming capabilities, Easy to use and install, Standard mini-USB connectivity, Dual-audio channel
- Still requires your computer to be on, Windows only, Screen could be larger, Music functionality limited, Can't add contacts through phone.
The music functionality may be less than impressive, but on a whole this is a solid VoIP handset with good wireless range and clear voice quality.
Price$ 129.00 (AUD)
The ASUS AiGuru S1 is a VoIP phone that features an effective 802.11b/g wireless connection and supports the popular Skype application. It also doubles as a wireless music streamer using Windows Media Player, with the ability to serve as a remote control and mini desktop speaker.
The AiGuru S1 uses an included USB dongle to provide a wireless signal for the phone. Although it runs through a wireless network, do note that the S1 still requires your computer to be switched on and the USB wireless adapter plugged in to function. Its design is reminiscent of a standard, if somewhat dated, mobile phone, although it's far from unattractive. Finished in gloss white plastic, the design of the S1 would fit right in with an Apple iMac, although it only works with Windows. Despite the fact that this is a VoIP handset, most would be hard pressed to tell the difference from a regular cordless landline telephone. Although the S1 is quite chunky and thick, it cups comfortably in your hand thanks to a well rounded design and sleek edges.
ASUS has tried to ensure the keypad is as comfortable and as easy to use as possible, with large, raised keys. They have done a good job, although the keys wobble a little too much on occasion. The controls are virtually identical to a mobile phone; two selection buttons for Skype and menu, answer and end call keys as well as up and down buttons for scrolling through your contacts and the phone's settings. A mini-USB port is located at the bottom of the phone and this is used to charge the handset with the included USB cable. Alternatively, you can dock the phone in the provided cradle and connect it to AC power with the adapter, if you wish.
The AiGuru S1 screen has a bright blue backlight and a resolution of 128x64 pixels, but we would have liked it to be a little larger, especially considering the amount of unused space surrounding it. That said, it is clearly readable and displays most important information, such as battery life, time, your Skype contacts and wireless signal strength.
The S1 requires drivers and the included software to operate, but installation is an easy process. The phone pairs via the included wireless USB dongle and we were up and running in a matter of minutes. Installation and synchronisation with Skype is just as easy as the pairing process, but unfortunately you can't add new contacts through the phone. This aside, its performance was impressive with good call clarity and loud volume levels. ASUS quotes a range of 30 metres indoors and up to 100 metres outdoors. We found these figures fairly close to the mark, with the S1 operating perfectly as we moved around the office, and only really dropping out when we stepped outside.
The hands free speakerphone also worked very well and was loud and clear throughout our testing. As well as scrolling through your Skype phonebook, you can also access your voice mail, view call history and even make a conference call - all directly through the phone itself. Caller ID, call history and answering machine functions are also available with the AiGuru S1. Importantly, the S1 offers dual-audio channel, which means it can operate without interfering with other computer audio functions. This allows you to watch DVDs or play games on your computer while making a VoIP call.
A standard 3.5mm headphone jack, as well as the loudspeaker, located on the rear of the handset, allows the AiGuru S1 to be used as a wireless music streamer using Windows Media Player. You simply hit the media button on the unit, select a playlist, and then choose songs from the S1 menu, just like an MP3 player. The headphone jack means you can listen privately, but it also allows connection to a set of desktop speakers. Sound quality isn't great, although it's good enough for a couple of quick tunes. We can't help but feel this feature is a bit of a gimmick though - you can't fast forward through a track and skipping tracks is very slow.
Battery life is rated at 25 hours standby time and up to 2.5 hours talk time, according to ASUS. If you plan to use this as a music streamer, then these figures will definitely decrease, so be warned. If you keep the phone in the charging dock while you aren't using it, you shouldn't have a problem though.
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