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Review of Magicjack internet phone service and sending faxes using WinFax PRO

 

NOTE: This is an old review with the original MagicJack device using WinFax PRO 10 software on an Windows XP based computer. Conclusion is results may vary depending on your configuration, internet speed and destination number. Pricing and availability of some products may have changed since this article was written.

I recently picked up a Magicjack, you might have seen the commercials on television, its a USB device that plugs into your computer that allows you to plug a telephone into it, giving you a dial tone so you can make telephone calls using a regular corded or cordless telephone. The difference is the telephone call is routed via your computer to the Internet, using the Magicjack service.

The big advantage to the Magicjack service is its price, and the ability to hook up almost any type of household telephone. The Magicjack retails for $39.99 and includes 1 year of US & Canada unlimited incoming and outgoing calls.  They also claim that service after 1 year is only $19.99.   Yes, you also get an incoming telephone number, where you can pick from dozens of area codes across the United States (Canadian area codes are not yet available).

My first test was with voice calls on a Notebook (Core 2 Duo, T5200, 1.6Ghz, 2GB RAM) with Microsoft Vista SP1.  The installation was completely plug & play, I simply inserted the MagicJack into a free USB port and it turned on and begin downloading the installation program for Vista.  Within a few minutes, the software was installed successfully. I registered on-line and selected my incoming telephone number. A lot easier than I expected it to be.  I plugged in a regular corded telephone, picked it up, and got a dial tone!  I dialed a number, and sure enough it worked.  My first voice call quality was comparable to a regular land-based telephone line, if there was a difference I couldn’t really tell.   I tested incoming by dialing my new Magicjack number. The telephone rang, and the Caller ID appeared on the telephone display. So far, so good.

My next test was on an older Pentium III, 450Mhz, 768MB PC running Windows XP Service Pack 3.  I use this PC for my Skype calls as well, so I expected some conflict or performance problem.  I plugged the Magicjack into my USB Hub, and sure enough, the Blue LED lit and it began installing the software.  Within minutes it was configured and ready to go.  I didn’t have to repeat any of the registration process, since my phone number was already configured.  Surprised, outgoing calls seemed to work perfectly.

I’ve been using MagicJack now for voice calls for about 2 months and in the most part, it works as advertised. You will encounter quality issues if your Internet connection slows down. I tried the service on a 1MB down/768b up “Lite” DSL service, and for the most part, voice quality was reasonable. In some calls, the person would complain they couldn’t hear me properly but I could hear them fine.  On a faster 4MB down/1MB up Internet DSL service, overall the call quality was good but I would have problems with some calls due to bandwidth issues.  Usually the problem was with the caller hearing me.

Faxing using MagicJack with WinFax PRO

I checked with the people at MagicJack directly and they claim that faxing isn’t supported. I believed them, since I know that a fax call isn’t as forgiving as a voice call if there is any drop in quality. I thought I would try it anyway, so I unplugged the fax modem telephone line and plugged it directly into the Magicjack.  I started up WinFax PRO and send a fax as I normally would on the regular telephone line, sure enough it dialed and started to send a fax.  I tried a simple 1 page WinFax quick cover page, it worked.  I then tried faxing a multiple page fax.  It failed.  I then tried a 1 page fax again, and it failed.  I started adjusting the settings in WinFax.  I turned off High Speed Compression (2D), ECM for sending and ECM for receiving.  I adjusted the Maximum Transmission speed to 4800 bps or 2400 bps.  This did seem to improve the success rate, but it was still giving me problems with some faxes.  After trying several different combinations, I came to the conclusion that faxing may or may not work using the MagicJack.  Send 10 faxes, if your lucky, maybe 50% may go through if they are short/1 page faxes.  Once you increase the number of pages, or the amount of data on each page, you risk a greater chance of a failure. Results probably will vary depending on the call quality and your PC’s performance.  I did not try incoming faxes, but I would expect similar results. If anyone has had better success please post your comments!

Some things I don’t like about the MagicJack

  • If you call a number that is BUSY, you don’t get a busy signal.  You get silence followed by a dial tone.
  • There is no uninstall for the MagicJack software.  When you plug it in, it will automatically install device drivers. However, the good news is that MagicJack will only start with Windows if the actual device is plugged in.  If you do remove the MagicJack from the USB port, the MagicJack software does not start (but the device drivers are still installed).
  • There is no normal method to close the MagicJack software while it is active.  I haven’t really had any reason to do this, but in some cases you may only want to have MagicJack active when you want to use it, not all the time. (Yes, you can close it using End Task from the Task Manager)
  • The MagicJack software window opens when you use it. (You can’t keep it minimized and out of the way)

Overall opinion of MagicJack

I like it, but wouldn’t use it as a replacement to my regular land-line considering you need a computer on 24/7, plus a working (fast) Internet connection 24/7.   Its great for a 2nd line, or just for making long distance calls to friends and family.  It is an excellent value at $39.99 for the initial cost, and $19.99 for the additional years of service.  Not recommended for faxing with WinFax or any other fax software, and definitely not for data usage (such as credit card authorizations, modems, data transmission etc.)