Every year, for the past 5 years was supposed to be the year of the video chat. The idea that grandparents could video chat with their grandkids and friends who live on opposite ends of the globe could connect via video calls is incredibly appealing. Unfortunately, due to to technical limitations, complicated equipment and competing standards video phone calls have remained a novelty for tech geeks. Now, the Biscotti TV Phone ($199) is trying to bring the video chatting right into your living room.
Don’t Try This With a Biscotti Cookie
I am a huge fan of Biscotti cookies – they are crunchy, not too sweet and perfect with tea. The one problem I have found with Biscotti cookies is they suck for making video calls using your TV. On the other hand, the Biscotti TV Phone sucks as a cookie (just too synthetic for my tastes) but it does make a very cool video chat device for your TV.
Let’s take a look at our hands-on video review of the Biscotti TV Phone -
If The Biscotti TV Phone Were Any Simpler It Might Actually Turn Into a Cookie
As the video shows, the Biscotti is incredibly simple, in fact, it doesn’t even have a single button on it. You just need to have an internet connection, Wi-Fi and a HDMI cable. Put the Biscotti on top of your TV and plug in the HDMI cables (which are not included) and plug in the power. The first time you turn it on you have a simple setup, which really is just creating a Biscotti ID and adding contacts. You select your Wi-Fi network from a list, but that is as technical as it gets. No firewalls to deal with or configuration settings – just pick your Wi-Fi network and you are good to go.
Once things are setup, you just watch TV, when a window pops up saying you have a call you click answer. The long range mic and wide-angle lens means you can be a good distance from the TV and still have a great video chat. To make a call, click on a contact and wait for them to pick up. As we said, the key here is simplicity.
High Definition TV Phone…If You Have the Bandwidth
The Biscotti TV Phone has the ability to do beautiful, widescreen HD video calling…if you have 1 Mbps upload and download speeds. The Biscotti will work with low bandwidth connections (down to 256 Kbps), but you will not be able to get HD video unless you have a 1 Mbps or faster connection. Of course, if you want to have HD on both ends of the call, you and your calling partner will both need to have a fast connection and high definition video camera.
In our testing, things like clarity and lag time were really dependent on the network and placement of the Biscotti. If your Biscotti is receiving a strong signal from your Wi-Fi and you have decent connection speeds, the calls are clear and enjoyable. If the Biscotti is on the outer edge of the range for your Wi-Fi, you may see some quality and lag issues. These issues are not specific to the Biscotti, any video chat device will need to receive a good amount of bandwidth if you want the highest quality calls.
Perhaps the Biscotti Should Be Sold in Pairs
With your Biscotti you can call other Biscotti users or Google Voice users. We tested the Biscotti by calling a Google Voice account on a laptop and it worked fine. Unfortunately, due to the low quality webcam built into our laptop, the quality was not terrific. If you call Biscotti to Biscotti, you will get the best resolution and clarity. For this reason, it would be great if Biscotti offered a special deal on buying a pair of Biscottis.
What Audience Will Eat Up the Biscotti?
The Biscotti is one of those high tech devices aimed squarely at people who are afraid of high tech devices. I mean really, no matter how intimidating you find technology, how can you be scared of a Biscotti? Biscotti TV Phone is perfect for Grandparents, Moms, Dads – really anyone who loves the idea of video calling but is not interested in learning about software drivers, network protocols or firewalls.
The other key aspect of the Biscotti TV Phone is that it puts the technology right in your living room. As a Dad I can round up the family, bring them all in the computer room and then Skype a relative for a video chat. The problem is that takes some effort and planning, and that is enough to kill any good idea in our household. With Biscotti, we can be watching TV and decide to call a relative with one click of a button. If they answer great, if not, we go back to seeing if Candace has figured out a way to busy Phineas and Ferb yet. No moving rooms, booting up PCs – we can finally be lazy couch potatoes and do video calling. I believe the lack of inertia necessary to use Biscotti will mean that families will actually make more video calls.
What We Liked About the Biscotti TV Phone
- Simple Setup and Use
- HD Video Chat from your Living Room
- No Monthly Fees – All Calls are Free
- Can Call Anyone Who Has Google Voice (a free service)
- Pan and Zoom Feature is Effective
- Ability to use Auto Answer to Remotely Monitor your Home
Problems We Had With the Biscotti TV Phone
- Buttons on Remote Can Be Fickle
- Does Not Come With an HDMI Cable
- Accidentally Hit the Yellow Back Button When Trying to Click Down
- If You Don’t Have a HDMI Input, You Will Need Additional Adapters
Conclusion: Biscotti TV Phone, Your 50″ Plasma In Now A Giant Phone
The Biscotti TV Phone is a simple, elegant and impressive piece of technology. It is a breeze to setup, has impressive HD resolution, no monthly fees and the wide angle lens and long range mic make it a perfect living room camera. If everyone you knew had a Biscotti, buying one would be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, Biscotti is new so odds are most of your friends and family will not yet have a Biscotti. In this case, you can still video chat with people who use Google Voice (free and available on almost every computer, phone and tablet platform). Things tend to be higher quality if you go Biscotti to Biscotti, but calling people on Google Voice is still a fun and enjoyable experience.
Our negatives with the Biscotti are minor. Yes, we wished the yellow button on the remote was further away from the other buttons, we had many accidental presses with our larger digits. The real sticking point on the Biscotti is the the price. Some will balk at the $199 price tag, seeing it as too much to pay, when they could add a video camera to their PC for $30 and make their own video phone. In truth, those people who want to try to cobble together their own video phone are probably not the real audience for Biscotti. People who like the idea of being able to easily connect with friends and family, in High Defenition, without any hassles, while sitting in their living room will probably consider a $199 one time fee a fair price to pay.
My advice, buy yourself a Biscotti now and then give them to the relatives for Christmas. Then when that distant Uncle that you love, but also drives you crazy, wants to come by for one of his visits that never ends, tell him “Why don’t we just video chat on the Biscotti instead”
Learn More From the Biscotti Web Site. Biscotti TV Phone Sells for $199
Watch our Video Review of the Biscotti TV Phone
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