Gadget Review: Biscotti TV Phone

A uniquely designed webcam that lets you see the big picture in video chats.

By , Columnist

The Biscotti TV Phone gets its name from the odd-shaped biscuit that Italians love to dunk in cappuccinos. The design of this glorified (in the best sense of the word) webcam is modeled on that confection, although that shouldn’t encourage you to dip it in a caffeinated beverage.

The Biscotti is about six inches long and sits on top of your television. With it you can do video calling and conferences on the TV screen. Unlike Skype it doesn’t require an app or even a SmartTV.

What you do need is a telly with an HDMI input and an Internet connection. The basic Biscotti is compatible with 802.11bg wireless networks but there are also two higher-grade models that are equipped for fast Ethernet.

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To get talking on the Biscotti, you need to plug it into the mains and hook it up to the TV via the HDMI output on the back. An adjacent HDMI input is available if you want to channel a signal through the camera to the TV from a set-top box. With that configuration you can do picture-in-picture calls without having to stop watching what’s on.

Once the Biscotti is connected to the TV and online you can add contacts. Navigating the menus is easy with the supplied remote control or keyboard. Moreover, the interface itself is uncluttered and attractively decorated with bright colors.

You can add or invite friends who have their own Biscottis if you know their Biscotti IDs. A Biscotti ID is like a personal email address that you create during the setup process. Contact isn't restricted only to other people who have Biscottis, though. You can also invite someone to chat via a computer, iPhone, iPad or Android device that supports Google Voice and video chat if they have a Gmail address or Google Apps compatible email address.

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The Biscotti boasts 720p HD picture quality. While you shouldn’t expect your video chats to look like polished Hollywood productions, you will get a sharp picture from the tiny lens in the front of the device. That won’t guarantee your conversations will always be long but at least they will be clear.

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Michael Simpson is a freelance writer, editor, presenter, researcher, instructor, gadget freak and sci-tech consultant based in British Columbia’s beautiful Okanagan Valley. Formerly from the UK, he’s converted from tea to coffee and written and presented on film, TV, science, nature, technology,…

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