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Review: Linksys CIT200 Wireless Phone

The Linksys CIT 200 Portable telephone is a wireless phone which allows you to make and receive Skype calls without being tethered to your computer. Does it work like a regular phone? Sort of.
The Linksys CIT 200 Portable telephone is a wireless phone which allows you to make and receive Skype calls without being tethered to your computer. Skype, for those who don’t know, is a peer-to-peer internet telephony (VoIP) network where you can call other Skype users for free, call land or cell numbers for a fee (SkypeOut), receive calls from traditional phones (SkypeIn), and receive voicemail messages (SkypeOutToLunch). Well not really that last bit, but you can setup a voice mailbox for a small fee. The only other requirement for Skype calls is that both ends have high-speed internet connections.

Does it work like a “regular” phone? Sort of. I tested the Linksys CIT200 on a Dell Inspiron 5100 laptop running Windows XP and a 300MB cable modem. To get up and running you need to install the Skype software-- included on the Linksys CD-- and then install the Telephony Kit. The Kit requires you to charge the phone, install the Linksys software, and connect the small USB Base Station to your PC. To make calls then with Skype, you need to start and login to the Skype software, start the Linksys software, then make your call. If you already have a Skype contact list, you don’t have to do a thing to access those contacts on your portable-- just press the Skype key on the phone and up pops your contact list, including all your Skype and SkypeOut contacts. Nifty. If you don’t have a contact list, simply create your contacts with the Skype software and the CIT200 picks them up and you can dial to your heart’s content.

That’s the easy part. Linksys made a nice effort getting you up and running, but I had to search high and low to find the phone documentation so I could figure out how to use the phone’s features such as private and shared call lists, adjusting call volume, changing ringtones, and so forth. Though the menu structure is diagramed in the manual, navigating the menus turned out to be a bit of a mystery, as the buttons never seemed to respond the way expected them to. Also, several times I went to pick up the phone and it was out of juice. It is not readily apparent just how “off” the phone really is, so I left it off the charger longer than I should have. User error? Sure, but it looked off to me. Finally, I couldn’t figure out how to shut off the beeping sounds every time I pressed a button. Maybe it’s just me, but I think that button beeping is a feature left over for people who still think calculator wrist watches are cool. Apologies to Douglas Adams.

I don’t know why I was surprised by this, but the sound quality for calls made to land lines was noticeably inferior to the sound quality of my calls to other Skype users. I made calls to a Skype user in Switzerland (on purpose) and one to Malaysia (by accident) and the sound quality ranged from excellent to a little noisy with some weird echoing. Because sound quality seemed to waver, my guess is that it’s the service as much as anything. Interestingly, when I called landlines, regardless of location, the sound was muffled on both ends, and a bit crackly on mine. For grins, I took my laptop to a local coffee joint with wireless and placed a few calls from there with similar results. So, if you’re running wireless in your house, as long Skype is running on your computer with the Linksys software, the CIT200 will work there as well.

Speaking of sound, one thing that you should know is that Skype takes over all sounds on your PC. It was a little odd to be interrupted mid-conversation by my familiar email notification. The person on the other end doesn’t hear it, but if you don’t want your pc bleating at you while you’re on the phone, you might want to disable sounds coming from various running programs.

Editor's Choice
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Astrid Gobardhan, Data Privacy Officer, VFS Global
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing