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(Pocket-lint) - You want to use Skype, but can't be bothered to use one of those dorky looking headsets that makes you look like an employee of a Indian call centre. What's the solution? According to Actiontec, its USB powered adapter that converts your telephone into an internet phone.

The Phone Wizard measures just 115 x 85 x 30mm, weighs 138g and it's USB powered so you don't have to find yet another plug socket under your desk. It even looks nice in a curvy, blue and cream liveried kind of a way.

With no glitches in getting set up and using internet telephone calls getting started is a synch. Nor should there be in this day and age, when Tesco sell an internet phone service you know it has become a consumer commodity and is no longer a geek special.

About the only fiddling around is ensuring you stick the right cables into the right adapters, of which there are two courtesy of the unit being originally destined for a US market. Those user friendly fiends at Actiontec appreciate the meaning of simplicity though, and have included not just a small note but a piece of paper with colour photographs explaining just where to stick what.

Other than that all you need worry about is installing Skype, installing the Internet Phone Wizard and then being able to make internet calls with a proper phone rather than one of those Christmas cracker plastic units that inspire about as much confidence as a chocolate teapot.

What’s more, you can still use your telephone for "normal" calls as well.

Automatically, at least as far as incoming calls are concerned as the Phone Wizard detects whether it is an internet or landline call and switches the handset to that mode for you.

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Making calls isn’t that much harder, to be honest. Pick up the handset and your dial tone is still there for landline calls, or hit a couple of keys and switch to Skype. This is truly integrated telephony at a giveaway price. But it gets better, because Actiontec also throw in their patented, and as far as we know unique, call waiting feature which lets you switch between internet and landline calls with a keypress or two.

The echo-cancellation technology within the adapter takes care of ensuring that sound quality is as good as your handset whether online or landline calling.

None of that sounding like you are talking through a kipper in a large bathroom here.


Sure, the downside is that this isn’t a wireless device nor one that plugs directly into your ADSL connection to provide internet telephony, it requires Skype to deliver those calls. This means that not only do you need a phone line and a computer close together, but you also need that computer up and running if you want to make Internet calls.

But the automated switching handles those times when it isn’t and without requiring lots of fiddling about, and we like that.

If you are a Mac or Linux user you may not be so happy though, this is a Windows only toy...

We like neat, small, innovative devices that make out life easier. We like the Phone Wizard, and we think you will as well.

Writing by Davey Winder. Originally published on 4 September 2006.