As a fairly simple product, the installation of the Conairphone was no more complicated
than plugging the microphone and speaker jacks into a sound card. Of course the sound card
should be plugged into a computer! A good gauge of the complexity of any product is
whether or not you have to read the documentation to install it. As on could probably
guess, we didnt have to. In fact, we probably broke a couple of speed records?
Riparius sums it up best in their documentation by saying, "If you can record and
play sound with any program (via the Conairphone), your internet telephone is working
For a gadget as straightforward as this, one didnt expect the documentation to be
on the order of The Winds of War. The information that came with the phone we tested was on a long, thin
sheet of paper with instructions on both sides (English on one, Spanish on the other). It
gives a basic schematic of the phone as well as general safety instructions.
Windows 95 users are able to tailor the speaker and microphone to comfortable levels
using Sound Recorder while Windows 3.x users have to refer to the software that came with
The Conairphone has microphone and speaker jacks. The speaker jack is split into a male
and female (external speaker jack) connector. This way, one can plug the phone into the
speaker port, then plug speakers into the external speaker jack. Its a simple add-on
that allows the operator to use the phone and not lose the functionality of their
What we thought was a "phone spoiler" (not unlike what would be found on a
Porsche 944 turbo) turned out to be a phone hanger. A strip of adhesive tape accompanies
the hanger. Simply determine a convenient location to hang up the phone and stick it
there! Software is limited to a trial version of NetSpeak Corporations WebPhone.
The user can make an unlimited amount of phone calls as long as the duration is
no more than three minutes. At $29.95, what did you expect?
We decided right away that we were primarily interested in the sound quality of the
phone and therefore used Microsofts NetMeeting 2.1 as the test platform. The phones
were tested both on the LAN and across an Internet connection using modems. We didnt
expect anything dramatic considering that a phone is nothing more than a speaker and
microphone in a convenient package. (The thinnest of clients?)
However, this actually
helped the phone achieve better than average results, as compared to using external
speakers and microphone. When using a microphone and speakers, the party on one end (party
A) speaks and their sound resonates through the speaker on the other end (party B).
Unfortunately, party Bs external microphone picks up that sound and sends it back to
party A, which creates an annoying echo effect. In practice, the user is not going to talk directly into the microphone.
Therefore, the sensitivity level has to be ramped up dramatically. The Conairphone (as
with any analog telephone) has three distinct advantages over the standard external
speaker/microphone system, which are:
- Sound doesnt resonate very far from the speakers.
- Any excess sound will be muffled by the users ear. Therefore,
- The microphones sensitivity level does not have to be ramped up to such a high
When we tested the phones, the nor mal echo that one
attributes to Internet telephony was not present. We experienced choppy conversation on
one test occasion, but attributed that to traffic on our LAN rather than to the phone
itself.Its necessary to point out that due to technical difficulties, we were only able
to test the phones over our LAN. Its a safe bet that any additional distortion
experienced while using the Conairphone over a standard dial-up, ISDN, T1, or any other
connection to the Internet should be attributed to poor bandwidth and not the product.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
At a price of $29.95, one really cant expect too many improvements. Were
probably nitpicking, but the packaging could probably use some reworking.Its not the easiest in the world to open! Armed with sheer force and willpower we
attempted to separate the molded plastic and access the phones to no avail. Ah, the beauty
of heavy-duty scissors (and the experience of opening countless bags of potato chips). One
engineer pointed out that hes had an easier time picking some locks! Seriously, we
dont think theres enough in a product such as this to have any complaints.
We agreed that the convenience of phone design coupled with the reduction of echo
distortion would be enough to endear the Conairphone to many users. Its ease of
installation, hanger, and low price are niceties that make it well-suited for the SOHO or
home user. Its also nice to know that one can obtain a private connection to another
party through the Internet, since one is not using external speakers.Since the telephone has been around for a few years, however, we will stop short of
passing out kudos to the Conair design engineers or giving it a higher overall rating.