Top Tools for Cheap Chats

Review: If you think Internet phone service is just cheap talk, you're not getting all you can. (

Talk may be cheap, but VOIP makes it inexpensive.

Beyond that, new Internet telephony technologies are improving voice and connection quality.

Theyre also producing tools that let you get more out of Internet communication—and weve run plenty through the testing ringer in our labs.

Thats given us a pretty solid idea of which are the most useful. To let you quickly find the best, weve collected reviews of our favorites here.

You cant make voice over IP calls to a regular phone or receive regular phone calls on a VOIP line without a service.

Skype is a darn good one that keeps getting better, and the Skype 2.5 beta is the easiest version yet. For example, the new release lets you access your Outlook contacts so you dont have to look up numbers and input them manually for Skype Out calls.

VOIP lets you make calls from a computer with a mic, of course, but pacing back and forth while you talk sure turns a chat into a workout when youre carrying a PC.

Even with a VOIP phone, youre still tethered to a phone line like a dog to a yard leash, unable to survey your estate while thrilling to the details of your friends nephews sons confirmation.

Linksys makes just the scissors you need to cut the cord: The CIT200 Internet Telephony Kit. The kit combines a wireless handset with a base station that plugs into a USB port and is designed to work with Skype. When we used it in our 6,000-square-foot lab, we got complete coverage.

If youd rather work than just pace, you need the ClearOne Chat 50. This Editors Choice speakerphone frees you to do your nails or raid the fridge while you receive cheery assurance that your call is still as important as it was an hour ago.

/zimages/2/28571.gifRead the full story on Top Tools for Cheap Chats

/zimages/2/28571.gif Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on voice over IP and telephony.