The\u00a0MXL uChat AC-406\u00a0by Marshall Electronics is a speaker that connects to your\u00a0PC\u00a0or Mac via USB for personal conferencing. The\u00a0manufacturer says its MXL uChat is different than other comparable products because it incorporates a unique\u00a0microphone design with 180-degree coverage for high-quality Internet conferencing. And the uChat AC-406's speaker\u00a0is also great for\u00a0playing music.\n\tThe MXL uChat comes securely wrapped in bubble wrap and it ships with a generous, three-meter-long USB cable. The device is made of a\u00a0durable\u00a0plastic, and foam material covers\u00a0its base to help\u00a0reduce unwanted slippage or movement. The gadget also come with a user manual, a CD-ROM disc that contains the free ooVoo video chat software and a micro-fiber cleaning cloth.\n\tThe sole button on the MXL uChat makes it simple to\u00a0mute the device without having to fiddle around with software controls,\u00a0and a centrally-positioned LED indicator lets you know when the device is plugged in. A couple of\u00a02.5mm input plugs for external headphones and microphones\u00a0are located\u00a0on the back panel. Marshall Electronics says the MXL uChat also\u00a0works well with speech-to-text programs,\u00a0but I didn't\u00a0test this claim because I typically have issues with voice-recognition\u00a0software\u00a0due to my Asian accent.\n\tMy Windows 7 laptop automatically detected the AC-406 and all relevant software drivers. I tested the MXL uChat\u00a0during a\u00a0Skype conversation,\u00a0and the program\u00a0recognized MXL uChat and\u00a0asked if I wanted to make it the default microphone and speaker for future conversations.\u00a0The speaker's volume range impressed me more than anything else; it produces very loud sound.\n\tThe small speakerphone is mostly\u00a0on par with your average external computer speakers, but it's substantially louder than the built-in speakers found in most laptops. It captured and reproduced conversations\u00a0very well, and voices came across loud and clear.\n\tOne downside: Though the volume of the microphone pickup was excellent when placed at arm\u2019s length, it deteriorated quickly\u00a0when moved further\u00a0away. In other words, the device is only good for personal use, or use in very small groups of two to three people in close proximity. Also, the absence of a physical knob to adjust the volume directly from the front panel is unfortunate.\n\tThe\u00a0$119.95 MXL uChat is rather pricey. But executives who\u00a0hold regular conferences and who loathe wearing headsets will probably find it to be a worthwhile investment.\u00a0I do not, however, recommend\u00a0replacing your\u00a0computer\u00a0speakers with the MXL uChat.\n\tBack view of the MXL uChat AC-406. Note the microphone and headphone jack on the back panel and the depressed mute button.\n\tWhile not exactly bulky, the MXL uChat may have trouble fitting into slimmer laptop bags.\n\tThe MXL uChat has a certain sleek elegance in its simplistic design, as is evident from this shot.