The big thing today in telephonic communications is Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP. The older "switched" system that we all use is...

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The big thing today in telephonic communications is Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

The older “switched” system that we all use is generally expected to be phased out eventually and replaced by newer methods of telecommunications.

Simply defined, VoIP uses the Internet to deliver voice over the same connections that deliver the text, graphics and video to the Web browser on your computer.

Using a computer or a VoIP handset, your spoken words are first converted into digital data and then sent over the Internet using the same protocols that get your browser’s information from point A to point B. When it arrives, your digital voice data are converted back to the analog data that we hear.

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At first, the process was primitive and was done using two computers running the VoIP software. The sound was scratchy at best, and the links were tenuous. Today, the sound quality and connections are solid and in many cases are superior to the audio quality of ordinary telephones.

Of course, VoIP doesn’t always sound that good, and connections can become difficult. But these problems continue to become less intrusive.

If you plan to use your computer to make VoIP connections, however, the speakers and microphone in your computer may not be up to the job. Mvox ( makes two products that can make your VoIP experiences more pleasant.

The miniVox MV100 ($39.99) is a high-quality portable speakerphone that connects to your computer or laptop via a USB connection. The device can fit in your palm, but don’t let its small size fool you. Most speakerphones are half-duplex, meaning they rapidly switch between talk and listen modes. You may not realize it because it happens so quickly, but you really can only speak or listen at one time. The MV100 is full duplex — you can listen and speak at the same time.

The MV100 also has a DSP voice processor that makes the audio quality even more superior. One way it does that is by canceling out room echoes. My experience using the MV100 was a good one in that there were no interruptions and both parties could hear and speak quite clearly.

The second offering is the MV900 ($159.99). This device is a bit larger and offers all of the features of the MV100. It also has speaker independent voice dialing. Without training, anyone can speak various commands such as “dial” or individual numbers, and the unit will accurately respond.

The device can also store 12 phone numbers, with extensions, that can be activated via a voice command. Built-in wireless communications let it work with any Bluetooth-enabled cellphone. Using this wireless standard, the MV900 need not be physically connected and is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which yields four hours of continuous talk time or 200 hours of standby mode.

Both devices work on Windows and Macintosh and require no software drivers.

If you’re considering VoIP for your home, office or portable applications, you should definitely check out these two offerings from miniVox.