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D-Link i2eye VideoPhone
Author: Ronald V. Pacchiano Review Date: 10/30/2003
Setup and Installation
Setting up and using the DVC-1000 is very simple, and you can probably have it up and running in about 10 minutes. Before beginning your installation, though, spend a few minutes planning how you’re going to connect the DVC to your network and television. Make sure all the cables are going to be long enough and decide whether or not you want to use a telephone handset with it. All of the connection points on the unit are clearly labeled and color coded, so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting everything connected correctly.
Now that everything is connected, it’s time to talk about the networking specifics required by the device. In order for your videophone to receive calls, it needs to be accessible from outside of your network. Now, working under the assumption that your Internet connection is being shared and protected by a router/firewall, you have two options. The first option is to enter the IP address assigned to the DVC-1000 into the DMZ field on your router. This is probably the fastest and easiest way to get things up and running. The second and more secure method would be to open up the ports the unit needs access to and forward them through the router/firewall.
The DVC-1000 makes use of the following ports: port 1720 for TCP and ports 15328 - 15333 for UDP. If you don’t know how to do this, refer to the user manual that came with your firewall / router. To make things easier, if you use the DVC-1000 with either a D-Link DI-614+ or DI-604 router, a firmware upgrade is available that adds support for the DVC-1000 directly to the router. So to configure it, you simply need to activate it and indicate the IP address the DVC is using.
With everything now connected, it’s time to turn our attention to configuring the DVC itself. When you first turn it on you’ll be greeted by the welcome screen. Since this a standalone device, you’ll need to use the remote control to perform the entire configuration. Next you’ll be asked to enter such things as your name and the phone number you want assigned to it. I’d recommend using your home phone number. You can make one up, but using the one you already have will make it easier for people to remember.
This information gets stored on an LDAP server which is maintained by D-Link, so when someone wants to call your videophone, they enter your phone number into their DVC, which then connects to D-Link’s LDAP server, resolves the number with your public IP address, and connects your call.
Now we need to configure your network settings. Since we’re using a router/firewall that automatically assigns the IP address, gateway, and subnet mask to any device that requests it, all we need to do is check the box that states "Obtain an IP address automatically."
Now you need to tell the DVC the speed of your Internet connection. You have the option to select from DSL, Cable, or T1. Each option will give you a different default send/receive speed. Before setting these I would highly recommend first benchmarking your network’s performance using the speed test at DSLReports.com.
If you attempt to set your speeds too high you WILL experience poor performance. If you can’t benchmark it beforehand, I suggest you err on the side of caution — start with the slowest settings first and then increase them gradually. Once that’s completed, the final setup screen will ask you to reboot the videophone to apply the configuration you have just set.
To test the i2eye we configured two units — one at my site and one at the home of an associate of mine. I have a Time Warner cable modem and she is using Earthlink DSL. Getting both units configured was quick, simple, and straightforward. Our video speeds hovered between 15 to 25 frames per second using the camera’s maximum 352x288 resolution, and we suffered no packet loss. A built-in diagnostic utility displays frame rate and packet loss right on screen.
Image quality was very good and was only compromised if there was excess movement. If you’re just sitting there moving your hands while speaking, it isn’t very noticeable, but if you want to dance for someone in front of your videophone (not that we chose to do that), the images can get a bit pixilated.
We were both impressed with the DVC’s audio quality. The DVC-1000 provided a phone-like experience that was definitely superior to the software alternatives I’ve tried in the past. The DVC-1000 effectively managed full-duplex communications, which means we could both talk at the same time. The built-in audio quality of the speaker phone was no better (and really not much worse) then any other speaker phone I’ve used.
Still, for some reason I always felt that if I wasn’t speaking particularly loud (borderline on shouting), the person I was speaking with would have trouble hearing me. When using the telephone handset, however, calls were very easy to make and comfortable to use, and quality would be comparable to that of a good cell phone.
We did have a few problems with the i2eye. Trying to keep yourself in the frame is a bit tough because the image you see of yourself onscreen is smaller then the image the caller is looking at. So while you might think that you’re out of frame, you really aren’t. Additionally, the manual focus is difficult to use since you’ll have to constantly run from the television to your seat to get the focus right. An auto focus feature would have been nice.
My biggest concern with the DVC-1000 has to do with stability. When the unit was left on and unused for a time, it would sometimes become unresponsive, forcing a reboot of the unit. Also, light sensitivity of the camera lens did become an issue at times. If the room was too dark, it became difficult to see the person clearly. Attempts to toggle auto-contrast did not affect light sensitivity. If you make sure the room is bright before beginning a conversation, this shouldn’t be an issue.
The DVC-1000 came packaged with everything necessary to get it up and running, including a comprehensive manual, a getting started guide, the remote control, a CAT 5 Ethernet cable, the AC power adapter, and a RCA A/V compatible cable. The only disappointing thing about the supplied equipment is that the AC power adapter and the RCA A/V cables are a bit on the short side. So if your TV is mounted in a large entertainment center or you have a big-screen TV, you may run into a few problems trying to get everything connected.
With a street price of about $180, the D-Link i2eye VideoPhone is not only one of the least expensive videophones, but also the best performing one I have ever seen. In spite of a few shortcomings, it is nevertheless a solid product with lots of potential. Video frame rates were quite good, and when the unit is combined with a telephone handset, it is remarkably easy to use. Setting up the DVC-1000 will be a relatively simple task for most people, although a non-technical person may have some difficulties.
So will the D-Link i2eye VideoPhone be remembered as the start of the videophone revolution? I guess only time will tell. However, D-Link has managed to deliver on everything they set out to, and finally, at long last, the potential of videophones may be realized.