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magicJack PLUS Review

on July 22, 2011 1:00 pm

I’ve long been a proponent of Voice over IP (VoIP), having dumped the phone company over 7 years ago.  During this period I’ve used 2 major vendors and only  switched to the latest one because my former VOIP supplier was getting greedy.  The price performance has been outstanding and the quality has been more than acceptable.  I’ve never stood still and have continuously compared other VoIP providers offers, but I have not considered magicJack a serious player.  This is because the magicJack required your computer to be running for it to work.. That’s until now!   The new magicJack PLUS can be plugged into a router or broadband modem, just like the big boys.  Also, I got turned off by the extremely annoying video on their home page.

Before I get into the details, perhaps a little refresher is in order. To use the magic Jack, or any VoIP device for that matter, you’ll need a broadband Internet connection. For magicJack a minimum bandwidth UPLOAD speed of 128 kb/s is required.  This would probably be cable or DSL, but not satellite.  It doesn’t make sense for someone to subscribe to broadband just for the telephone capability, so Grandma and Grandpa may want to stay with Ma Bell.  You should also have a minimum understanding of your home network, because there will be times that you’ll have to reboot your modem and router to clear up problems.  You should also be aware that if you lose power or Internet connection, you’ll also lose your phone capability.  I’ve addressed the power issue at my house by plugging my cable modem and router into a UPS.  This gives me an hour before I lose telephone service and covers most short power interruptions.

Features provided by magicJack:

  • Voicemail
  • Caller ID
  • Call waiting
  • Call forwarding
  • Your own phone number
  • Unlimited free calling within the US and Canada

There’s really not much to the device.   You may not even need the smaller of the two cables.  It’s a USB extension cable and you may be able plug the magicJack into your computer without it.

I decided to see how idiot proof the installation was, so I plugged the device into my LAN, via a powerline Ethernet adapter, hooked up the phone and within 30 seconds had a dial-tone.  There’s no computer involved in the configuration, but to keep the device active, you’ll have to register the magicJack online within 48 hours of installing it.  To minimize the number of variables when testing this thing, I used a corded phone, so the sound quality wouldn’t be affected by cordless phone issues.

Here’s a closer look at the setup.  The magicJack plugs into the AC adapter, which plugs into the AC outlet.  On the left of the unit you have a socket for the phone cable and one for the LAN cable.  You could of course run the LAN cable from your router or switch.  I like using powerline Ethernet because I can locate the phone anywhere there’s an AC outlet.

Here’s the setup when using the magicJack with a computer.  Because of the clearance to my USB ports, I needed the extension cable.  If using a laptop, this probably wouldn’t be necessary.  This setup is simpler, in that all you have to do is plug a phone into the phone port.  Power is supplied by the USB port.  However, to run in this configuration, the computer must be on and the softphone magicJack application has to be running.

The first time you plug the magicJack into a computer, it loads the softphone application and has to be registered.  This process takes about 14 screens of selections.  Here you will get an online account and select a phone number.  Unfortunately there wasn’t a number available in my home state of New Hampshire, so I elected to get a California based number.  There is the option later of changing the phone number, for a fee, if one you want becomes available.

Be very careful when navigating the registration screens.  Most of them have an up-sell button and of course, it is the biggest.  If you don’t pay attention you could be signing up for more than you expected.  The above screen shot is one of the less egregious examples.  At the end of the process you should have a phone number and online account.  Also, be sure to use the address where you expect to use the magicJack, when you sign up.  This address will be used for the E911 service.

Now that we’re all registered, we can either leave the device plugged into the computer or plug it directly into a LAN port.  I’ve opted to use the LAN port option because it doesn’t require the magicJack application to be running.  However, when traveling I can take the device with me and use it with my laptop and when configured this way, I can either use a telephone plugged into the device or I can select to use the laptop speakers and microphone to make calls.  This is changed in the softphone application.

When plugged into the computer, the above screen will pop up for an incoming call.  At this point if you are using a telephone you pick it up and answer as normal.  If using the computers audio, you would click on accept and begin speaking.  You can also use the pop up window to place calls and listen to voicemail.

click image to enlarge

Regardless of whether you connect via the LAN or PC, you can access your magicJack account via a web browser.  Here you have some options that can be changed and you can access your call logs.  You may notice the switch for stutter tone at the bottom.  At first this didn’t work, but now it does and it triggers the voicemail indicator on my phone.

Now the question is “how’s the voice quality?”  I must admit I am pleasantly surprised at the quality of the conversations I’ve had.  With all the VoIP devices I’ve owned or reviewed, I’m used to echos and delays, but I’ve experienced none of that with the magicJack.  This runs counter to what I’ve read about the device in online forums.

In short, this latest version of the magicJack could make them a serious player in the VoIP space.  I now am considering dumping my current provider.  If you’re thinking about jettisoning your POTS phone, the magicJack Plus may be the way to go.  They do give you 30 days to try it out, so you don’t have much to lose.  Now if they’d only do something about their annoying home page and stop the bush league up-selling on all their screens.

Note:  The Gadgeteer is not affiliated with the Magic Jack company in any way.  We don’t provide customer support for them.  However, many of our readers seem to have chosen the comments section for this review as an informal peer support forum.  There are hundreds of comments with this review, and it’s likely that your question has already been asked and answered.  If not, and if none of the other readers can help you, you’ll need to contact Magic Jack directly.

 

Product Information

Price:$50 for the device and first year service; $19.95 per year thereafter
Manufacturer:MagicJack
Requirements:
  • Broadband Internet
Pros:
  • Inexpensive, easy to install, many included features, very good voice quality
Cons:
  • Account web portal needs some work. Not intuitive.

Comments

  1. 2301
    Billy Jack says:

    @Lorenzo…I have a bunch of those LG AC adapters and was just checking the specs…

    It looks like the MJ adapter is 5V 1.0amp, the closest LG adapter I can find is 5.1V 0.7amp, I have another that is 4.8V 1.0amp, I assume either of those will work in a pinch if the MJ adapter burns out?

  2. 2302
    Graham Hall says:

    @Billy Jack
    I was having some issues with malfunctioning LED lghts on the 2014MJ which is why I switched to the iphone charger. It did not resolve the issue but the unit continued to work well with the iphone charger so I just left it that way. It seems to be better quality than the original charger which came with the MJ

  3. 2303
    Graham Hall says:

    Basically I just decided to use the iphone charger because it seemed much better quality than the charger which came with the unit. It runs very well with no overheating issues at all. In fact it is cool, to the touch.

  4. 2304
    Billy Jack says:

    @Graham…I assume the iphone charger looks like a white block and its 5watts? There are a lot of those on eBay pretty cheap, if that is the charger you’re referring to I’ll just buy one off of eBay, that way I’ll have a spare, just in case…I don’t trust the MJ+ power supply…

  5. 2305
    Jonathan says:

    @ Billy Jack,
    USB output is typically around 5VDC, so you can use any cellphone AC-USB adapters with specified Output: 5VDC 1A printed on the adapter. Adapter with higher current rating > 1A is fine to use if you have newer adapters. My MJ+ is plugged into an LG AC adapter for > 2 yrs now & running fine. Don’t waste your money buying a new iPhone adapter for this purpose.

  6. 2306
    Billy Jack says:

    @Jonathan…

    I’m going to connect it with a 3ft male to female USB cable instead of the short 6 inch male to female cable the MJ+ came with so its more accessible, as right now its currently under my computer desk plugged into a surge protector and the only way I can reach it is to crawl on my hands and knees to reach it…

    I assume it will be OK connected to a 3ft USB cable?

  7. 2307
    Lorenzo says:

    @ Billy Jack

    I made the switch immediately cause I wanted to use a right angle AC adapter as shown in the photos at the top of this page. MJ had switched to a straight in-line adapter.

    The MJ device seems quite happy across a reasonable range of power output

  8. 2308
    Billy Jack says:

    @Lorenzo…

    I have the adapter that is shown in the pictures in the review at the top of this page, I guess I bought mine before they made the switch to the type of adapter you’re referring to, the only reason I don’t care for the power adapter is it becomes EXTREMELY hot in a VERY short period of time and I don’t really use my home phone that much. Its not like it doesn’t get ventilation, cold air is aimed right at my desk by an A/C vent in the ceiling, everything in my office runs cool except for that adapter!

    My guess is MJ didn’t put much money into the adapter and its just cheaply made…I’ll switch it out with an LG adapter that is the same configuration and add a 3ft male to female USB cable to it so it easily accessible as I may have to power it off and on to reset it every now and then…I didn’t have to do that when I had it connected to the thin client, I don’t even remember the last time I had to touch it to be honest with you, its probably been years, it never gave me a problem…

  9. 2309
    Lorenzo says:

    @Billy Jack

    Just for yucks I bent down by my desk power strip on the floor and felt my LG adapter that my MJ+ is plugged directly into. I’ve essentially ignored it for over 2 years. The adapter is barely warm and the MJ+ is only a bit warmer. It’s not blocked by anything but no added ventilation either

  10. 2310
    Jonathan says:

    @ Billy Jack,
    Similar to Lorenzo, I plugged my LG AC adapter to a surge protector under my desk & MJ+ directly into it w/o USB extension cable, no cooling fan needed & it’s been working fine. For troubleshooting purpose, I suggest to plug your new AC adapter to a wall outlet then MJ+ then an Ethernet cable & phone cable to verify it works for a short while. If all works fine then just move the whole set up under your desk. In my opinion, the 3-ft USB cable is unnecessary, but it should be fine for your set up cuz I don’t expect power loss at that length significant enough to impact MJ+ functionality.
    As I recalled, your MJ+ is connected to a thin client to eliminate the occasional beeping sounds during calls. Hopefully it won’t reoccur with the standard set up with new AC adapter.

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