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:
- 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.
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.