Saturday, March 21, 2009

Product Review: Ipevo S0-20 Skype wi-fi phone



After the bad luck with the Netgear SPH101 I had gone for the Belkin F1PP000GN-SK I decided to go for the just recently released S0-20 but not to take any chances this time.... Therefore I decided to ask Howard Chang of AmprerorDirect.com as he is one of the Skype wi-fi hardware gurus I know.

It's a 139 bucks Skype wi-fi phone and to my pleasure and surprise, they've decided to send the unit as a gift for reviewing on my blog! So thanks guys!

I know that Howard did his own review, but I want to be independent, so I didn't read it yet. I want to thank Howard Chang and amperordirect for the gift and making a live test before sending it to me to assure me having much fun with it!

The problems with the Netgar SPH101 was that the latest beta firmware unfortunately is faulty and despite successful updating, it died on me after restarting the phone! (It would get stuck during the booting process!)

The Belkin Skype wi-fi phone had echo issues and eventhough the latest firmware fixes them it causes disturbance sounds during calls ever since. So you cannot clearly hear each other. And it's not a router or connectivity issue, as I have tried it at a couple of different setups!

So compared to those 2 phones (the SMC one being almost the same as the Belkin one, as even the SMC charging craddle is compatible to the Belkin one), It has the following advantages:

- No multiple presence bugs running 3 instances of Skype on: Skype for Windows, Ipevo SOLO Skype Desktop phone and the Ipevo S0-20!

All 3 instances ring on incoming skype calls (all three being online in available mode), while on short rings only the S0-20 will ring! (less than 5 seconds). So be patient a bit and the SOLO plus the SKype for Windows client will ring also!



-Very compfortable keypad!
The keypad is of very good quality!
The keypad has a medium release point when pressing! Here the SPH101 needed considerably more newton to get a reaction while the Belkin one had a very wacky, cheap and crappy keypad, including almost dead number keys after intensive usage!

- The Skype on Devices on client used in the phone is rocket fast! Navigation will happen and buttons will be reacting within a blink of an eye! client performance will only slow significantly down when doing ajax searches, however Ajax is not very fast by itself already, so this can be forgiven.


On calls, the sound quality is pretty decent! It has no connectivity issues and sound gliches! While the SPH101 had now and then small gaps and the Belkin wifi the above described issues, during calls, the S0-20 always widstands such problems!
In contrast to my past experience with Skype wi-fi phones this is the first time people didn't instantly notice that the sound quaility is worse! Neither on PSTN calls nor on Skype2Skype connections anybody said anything before I asked for quality feedback! The only tiny issue noticed is that the first seconds on PSTN calls can cause echos to the other party but those vanish after the first seconds when the echo cancellation of the Skype for Devices client kicks in!

The voice sampling rate is 8KHz compared to Skype's computer clients which have 16 KHz, this is however a limit of the Skype on Devices software so again not Ipevo's fault.


In contrast to the limit of 250 contacts of the Netgear SPH101 and the limit of 500 contacts on the Ipevo SOLO there is nowhere a hardcoded contact amount limited mentioned. (At least not on the places I looked), so here, it is a full replacement of the Belkin wi-fi phone which also - according to statements made by Belkin - has no contact amount limit!

I cannot say much about the battery life span yet since I just recently received it and yes, the battery indicator is not working at all! I will always indicate a fully loaded battery! It's powered by a 3.7 V 900mAh Lithium-Ion battery pack and can be loaded by USB connection or the charging craddle which also can be powered over mini USB.
According to previous statements of Netgear's management the most battery consuming part of the wi-fi phones is the Skype on Devices JAVA client used.


Ipevo products I reviewed in past usually showed a minimum amount of bugs and the S0-20 is no exception. Unfortunately I have however found a second bug: The voicemail welcome message is not played correctly, there are gaps in between when playing.

The charging cradle teaches the user that you have to place the phone into the craddle after you made your calls. The general handling of the phone is identical to your home PSTN phone!


A few notes about the Skype on Devices client used:

The client appears to be the same like in any other Skype built-in phone device, it's copyrighted 2007 by Skype.

The software in the S0-20 differs in the following points:

Compared to the Belkin Wifi/Netgear SPH101 and the Ipevo SOLO:

Pros:

+The display gets lit after a while before going off totally!
+The phone allows you to set your country code.
+It works in enviroments with multple clients logged into your account at the same time.
+Connectivity to the WLAN router (I used a LinkSYS WRT54GL with latest DD-WRT firmware!) is rock-stable!
+GUI speed is faster than Speedy Gonzales.
+Charging craddle included - extra value for your money!
+Perfect functional keypad
+No contact list limit known


Cons:
-No speakerphone functionality! (Possible to include in a later firmware update as the speaker is placed on the back of the phone)
-No full UNICODE char support - Czech chars are not displayed (SPH101 could)
-Headset jack specifications not documented. Not compatible with the headsets for SPH101/Belkin's wifi phone
-No possibility to enter local city code (SOLO could) - kills the "even your grandma can use it" usability
-Battery indicator doesn't work and voicemail welcome message doesn't play correctly


Summary: It's for sure the best Skype wi-fi phone around! This phone again shows the strengths of Ipevo: Delivering bugfree, hassle free and perfectly developed products with perfect value for your money!


What makes me concerned however is the problems Ipevo has regarding product marketing and end-user support.
At least in the end Ipevo seems to have finally fixed the SOLO firware download and offers a firmware upgrade manual. The S0-20 is the 2nd product for which no such manual is available! Windows Vista X64 detects it as unknown USB device means the functionality is there.

Only available to date is a quick manual

The product will stand and fall with the end-user support and the product management!

A bad sign is, that I received an email from Ipevo telling me there is no more SOLO firmware development as of Q4 / 2008.

Please Ipevo, be so kind and improve in those areas, your products are awesome, please start taking care of them in the same manner!

If any user reading this has a S0-20 too, please get in touch with me for experience exchange, thank you :)



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16 comments:

Anonymous said...

i opened my Ipevo today for first time today ..everything looks good but the person on other end gets lot of echo, i can hear him clear but he gets echo..so i tried it myself on other end and there is echo..i read some other reviews about reducing volume but that did not work i am not sure i may return the phone...any ideas

Nafcom said...

@Anonymous:

The issue is known to Ipevo and will probably fixed by them as you can see in my other reviews, they make good firmware updates. Lowering the volume will help , so will when the other party uses latest Skype 4.0 version!

I noticed no echo then as stated in my review above!

If I was you don't return it but wait for the next firmware update inststead if the echo problem is not too bad for you.

Also very often router firmware updates can help here, maybe your wlan connectivity has a problem, too!

BManInVa said...

Any indication on when a firmware update might be coming out? I have to use a headset to prevent other folks from hearing themselves. It works, but kind of a pain.

Taj said...

1. how do i access voicemail?
2. what is a recommended headset?

Nafcom said...

@Taj:

1. Menu ---> History ---> Skype Voicemail

2. According to Ipevo the Nokia HS-47 Signature 2.5mm stereo headset is compatible.

Nafcom said...

@ BManInVa:

Which headset do you please use? please let me know, thanks :)

I do not know, I have forwarded the question to Ipevo

Patrick & Caroline said...

I ordered this unit. Was delighted to get it. Seems to work very well. EXCEPT that the headset jack doesn't work (either I hear the other person and they can't hear me or it's the other way around). So I sent it back. Now I got a different one and I get the same problem. Is it consistently bad quality or are they using some other standard that requires a completely different jack? Where's the documentation? How do I find out?

Nafcom said...

@Patrick & Caroline:

There are 3 different kinds of (mobile) phone headsets. According to Ipevo the Nokia HS-47 Signature 2.5mm stereo headset" is compatible.

Of course when using an incompatible headset, it won't help it to return the phone for another unit as the headset will still be incompatible with the replacement unit.

Patrick & Caroline said...

In addition to IPEVO using the NOKIA standard for their headset jacks, the phone won't ring when a headset is plugged in (correction: the ring is heard through the headset). So unless you want to walk around with the headset in your ear all day long, you won't hear the phone ring.
Also, the battery indicator shows full until it's empty. Not good.
Their customer service isn't helpful either. Will be returning this phone.

Nafcom said...

@Patrick & Caroline:

Thanks for your re-reply.

Well, both issues you have described are most likely issues that can be fixed by a firmware upgrade. Ipevo proofed with the SO-LO that they are good in fixing bugs by firmware releases. You should give them a chance. So far it's the wifi phone with the best performance so far which is quite an achivement considering that according to the client info it hasn't been updated in 2 years by Skype.

Shopztar said...

Cool, review. Two more phones you might want to look into are the Netgear WiFi Phone and the Belkin Wifi Phone. Check out these reviews.

Netgear WiFi Phone ReviewBelkin WiFi Phone ReviewThey're both cool phones that I honesty thought were pretty sweet.

Anonymous said...

I've owned my Ipevo S0-20 since mid Feb, currently using it in Germany to call back to the states, only flaw I have noticed was the battery indicator showing full when it is not, this is not a problem as it sits on the charger most of the time. Also I had a weird experience with the ringer...I noticed one day I had 6 missed calls, I checked the screen and it showed a music symbol with a line through it...I went through the ringer settings 3 times to fix the ringer problem to no avail. I ended up pulling the battery for a reboot..after the reboot everything seems normal...Sound quality for me is awesome, I'm running an Apple Xtreme for my wireless, and I have no probs with dropped calls or sound quality, once in a blue moon I may have an Echo but after a couple secs it goes away. I wish the a firmware update would give speakerphone functionality.

Nafcom said...

@Shopztar: Yes, I know both wi-fi phones you have mentioned, too however I would not recommend them! Too many bugs, and the Belkin's latest firmware totally trash the phone (heavy sound glitches during calls!).

@Anonymous:

Thanks for your feedback!
That the battery indicator dosn't work is known


and yes the Skype on Devices software allows you to mute the ringer, check this: Power off button--> Silence.

Put it back on with "power off button"--> Sounds.

Yes, the echo cancellation should work in 98% of all cases!

Nafcom said...

The firmware update to fix the echo issue is out now ! :)

Anonymous said...

This phone is not worth the money.
It has problems with lots of wifi routers, so it
just silently falls of the wifi network. The sound is awful.
There is no speakerphone. There are no cool phone features
like a real mobile phone. The skype contact list is awful,
and does not let you attach names and addresses to mobile
phone numbers.

Worst of all, when you do the firmware upgrade from
the IPEVO WEB site, you have to completely reconfigure
the phone from scratch. It loses every setting and it takes you
about 20 minutes to re-enter everything.

Nafcom said...

@ Anonymous:

Thanks for your feedback, here is my take of it:

1) I have tried a couple of routers, never had this problem you describe. Maybe your wifi is disturbed by somebody living next wall to you, DECT phones, micro waves ,etc...

However, I asked them to add the possibilities to config alternative Skype ports/disable them for better adjustment to your network environment.

2) The sound is good. Skype stopped developping the "Skype on Devices" client in 2007, that was before the new SILK codec. Compared to the Belkin wifi phone and many other's the S0-20 stands out for good call quality.

3) The features you mentioned would require an update from Skype of their "Skype on Devices" software, so that's not Ipevo's fault...

4) that you have to reconfigure your device is nothing uncommon and it's done to avoid problems like devices that won't boot anymore, or acting wild in any other way. Reconfig of that takes an average of 5 mins, 10 as max. There are not so many features in the "Skype on Devices" software that would make it 20 mins :)