Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment:

Last week's Switched On presented the basics of the Soda Club soda -making system. This week 's conclusion drills down more into the system's advantages and tradeoffs per the final rules of Soda Club.

The fourth rule of Soda Club is: Two SodaMixes to a bottle. One advantage of making your own soda should be the ability to custoimze it to your liking. Adjusting the amount of carbonation is one way, but experimenting with different flavor combinations is another. Remember that silly product a major cola provider came out with a few years ago that was essentially half-regular cola and half-diet cola? There's no problem creating that with Soda Club. Vanilla colas can be made by mixing cola and cream soda mixes. That said, while you can vary the amount of SodaMix to a bottle, there isn't a lot of leeway. Putting in too much of the syrupy SodaMix resulted in an undrinkable concoction.

Fifth rule: One bottle at a time. One of SodaMix's strongest arguments is that it saves money in the long-run. The company estimates the cost of a liter of soda at 42 cents per liter (and even less for seltzer), but two-liter bottles of premium soda brands are often on sale for 99 cents and you can of course go lower buying lesser-known brands. That said, in most cases Soda Club sodas taste as good as "the real thing." I tried many varietes, including lemon-lime and diet lemon-lime, cream and diet cream, root beer, and of course cola, diet cola and even caffeine-free diet cola. Soda Club also has flavors that taste like Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew as well as an energy drink, but I was disappointed that the former was unavailable when I tried to order it.

Soda Club also has some flavors you probably won't find in the store, such as orapple-peach and cranberry-raspberry. All but one of Soda Club's regular flavors are sweetened with sucrose insstead of high-fructose corn syrup and its diet flavors are sweetened with Splenda.

Sixth rule: No shirts, no shoes, no problem. Soda Club is generally more convenient than store-bought sodas as long as you're well-stocked on SodaMixes, which can be ordered online or via a toll-free number. Otherwise, you'll have to wait up to two weeks for new supplies to arrive. Also, as I noted, some flavors may not be in stock. The cabon dioxide cylinder for carbonating is good for 110 liters. Also, you'll need to keep track of those caps. Lose one and the soda bottle is rendered useless.

Seventh rule: Sodas don't last as long as they have to. Probably the biggest drawback to Soda Club is that it is limited to, at most, one-liter bottles. (Half-liter bottles for traveling are also available.) In a household that is used to two-liter bottles, the smaller size can deplete quickly. Larger families where members have a fondness for fizz will definitely want to stock up on at least four bottles. While Soda Club claims that the product helps reduce waste by reducing the number of plastic bottles or cans consumed, although its own bottles must occasionally be disposed of or recycled -- after three years of use.

Another minor complaint is that Soda Club's rugged plastic bottles all look alike and have no labels, so it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between, for example, regular cola and root beer. A simple assortment of different colored caps would help alleviate this. (Note that Soda Club screw caps are much larger than standard soda bottle screw caps.)

And the eigth and final rule: If this is your first night with Soda Club, you have to drink soda. Soda Club is a well-designed offering, delivering high-quality beverages easily and affordably, but the low capacity of its bottles may make it more of a supplement than a replacement for store-bought sodas in homes that drink high volumes of soda. And while its sodas taste very good, they may not be dead ringers for your favorite brands, in which case you can probably save even more by purchasing off-brands.

Its sodas may not bring your ancestors back from the dead or even teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, but they sure taste a lot better than biting the wax tadpole.

Ross Rubin is director of industry analysis for consumer technology at market research and analysis firm The NPD Group,. His blog can be read at http://www.rossrubin.com/outofthebox. Views expressed in Switched On are his own.

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