capsule review

VoIP applications

At a Glance
  • Skype 1.4

    Macworld Rating
  • SIPPhone Gizmo Project 1.3.2

    Macworld Rating
  • Apple iChat AV 3.1.1

    Macworld Rating
  • SightSpeed 4.5

    Macworld Rating
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Gizmo Project 1.3

SIPPhone’s Gizmo Project 1.3.2 has more bells and whistles than any other desktop VoIP tool for the Mac. In addition to standard text messaging and one-on-one voice- chat features, which are common to all of the VoIP tools we looked at, Gizmo offers a searchable user directory, a publicly accessible party-line conference room, and computer-to-phone calling. Gizmo’s interface is a bit more cluttered than Skype’s or iChat’s, but this is forgivable: Gizmo offers a lot more goodies than your typical text- and voice-chat application.

Whether you run Gizmo on OS X, Windows, or Linux, you get the same feature set, the same user interface, and roughly the same performance. This is obviously important to folks who jump back and forth between platforms frequently.

Gizmo implements basic text- and voice-chat features much as its competitors do, and it offers built-in one-click call recording. Just click on the Record button while a call is in progress, and Gizmo will save it as an audio file. Gizmo lets you customize your hold music so that when you place a call on hold, the waiting person will actually hear what you want him or her to hear. Any WAV file will do (although unfortunately only this Windows format will work); Gizmo also comes equipped with a selection of ready-made WAV music loops.

Gizmo includes a feature called Call Quality Assistant, which mimics a cell phone’s signal-strength indicator. This unique tool lets Gizmo gauge the quality of your Internet connection, giving you some idea of how good your VoIP calls will sound. On a fast Internet connection where Gizmo has the entire pipe to itself, the quality of VoIP calls is quite good, so the Call Quality Assistant tool isn’t much use. But when you’re using slower Internet connections, such as certain low-performance DSL services, or running a few FTP downloads in the background, it certainly is helpful to know in advance if your call will have audio problems.

Gizmo also offers something you won’t find in any of the other Mac desktop VoIP tools: direct dialing of SIP URIs (Session Initiation Protocol Uniform Resource Identifiers). This powerful feature enables you to place calls to people by dialing a string (called a URI) that resembles an e-mail address, like this: user_namesip.macvoip .com. Using this string, the Internet can route your call via DNS (Domain Name Service), as it would traditional Internet apps such as e-mail. Some VoIP experts believe that a SIP URI, which resembles an e-mail address, will one day make you reachable via any service, including VoIP, fax, cell phone, and e-mail. Gizmo is leading the way on this.

As a Gizmo user, you have the option of placing calls to traditional phone numbers. This service, dubbed CallOut, lets you make computer-to-phone calls in a manner similar to how you’d do it in Skype. Likewise, you can obtain a permanent CallIn phone number from Gizmo. This standard phone number lets people call you from a land line or a cell phone. You can elect to have this number simultaneously ring a traditional phone (your home or cell phone) and Gizmo, so you can answer the call on either your Mac or your phone.

Gizmo has a couple of negatives, though: it has no video capability, and its conference calling isn’t as seamless as Skype’s. Also, Gizmo’s user community is far smaller than Skype’s, so you’re less likely to find your contact on Gizmo than on Skype.

Macworld’s buying advice

Gizmo Project is the most advanced Skype competitor on the market, and its many unique features make it worth a serious look. For business users, Gizmo has the edge with its configurable hold music, built-in call recording, and simultaneous ring options.

At a Glance
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