Hit the DECT: cordless phones on test
Ten cordless phones for your consideration
Group Test The mobile phone may well be enjoying its time in the limelight, but like reality TV stars and the England cricket team, it probably won't last forever. Especially not when you cast your eye over this little lot, the cream of the DECT cordless-phone crop. Where these handsets are concerned, it is indeed good to talk.
BT Home Hub
The first thing that strikes you about BT’s latest addition to its portfolio is the styling. Separated into two components, the wireless router and the phone, the Hub is encased in a distinctly iPod-esque glossy, plastic and white livery. It’s an obvious nod to the style icon, but it does look slick and will sit well in any modern home.
The phone is a good-looking device too, if a little flimsy feeling to the touch, and wears a small 65,536-colour screen and clean layout of silver/grey keys. Features it offers a 50-number call list, 150-entry phonebook (holding home, work and mobile number for each contact) and a 20-number redial list. Mobile phone styled add-ons like polyphonic ringtones, wallpapers, and time and date display are surplus to requirements, but certainly don’t detract from the package. The Hub on the other hand is a statement of minimalism. A wireless ADSL 802.11g router with VoIP capability and built-in firewall, its only sign of life are five green lights that flash to show the status of your Wi-Fi connection, calls and the like.
Ease of use is clearly BT’s mantra here. Setup is quick and easy: just pair the phone to the router and you’re ready to make calls. Sound quality is punchy and clear, and we experienced no distortion at all. Talk to someone else using the Hub and you benefit from BT’s touted Hi-Definition sound quality, though we didn’t experience that pleasure.
The Hub is designed as much more than a DECT phone, though – BT wants it to be the beating heart of your digital home. It can connect to up to 15 devices wirelessly, and thanks to the pre-configured wireless security you can get up and running on the net via your laptop, for example, immediately and without concern of getting jacked. It’s also future proofed to team up with BT’s new digital range, BT Fusion and BT Vision.
Philips has jumped on the Skype supernova with the VoIP321, a DECT phone that doubles up as VoIP phone too. In a similar move to BT’s Hub, the 321 ships as two separate components, the phone/charge dock and the base station. The thinking behind this is that although Skype is a great way to save money on calls, it’s not exactly ideal to have to sit in front of your PC to make them.
Philips has made a concerted effort to keep things stylish, and the base station is an unassuming bit of kit that should slip in next to your computer without drawing too much attention. Looks-wise, the phone is typical of Philips’ regular DECT handsets barring the inclusion of a big red ‘S’ for accessing your contacts list and making Skype calls. It’s an ergonomic design that fits into your hand and against your face comfortably and offers hands-free facility alongside caller ID, call waiting, message waiting and call transfer. There’s a 20-missed and 10-received call log, 50-entry phonebook and a range of polyphonic ringtones and ring profiles to help distinguish between landline and Skype calls. Nice touch.
Call quality is excellent, as you’d expect from a company with Philips’ heritage, and ease of use is a boon too. Plug the base into your phone socket and the 321 functions as a normal wireless DECT phone, but connect it to your PC via USB and the world of Skype opens up with free calls to your contacts and access to SkypeOut for cheap landline calls via broadband.
There are a couple of niggles though. Namely, your PC has to be on and connected to Skype in order to use the service, and Philips has opted to only support Windows, which will limit some users. But if you can overlook these issues, it’s a stylish and solid introduction to Skype.
I have an iDECT X1 and find it to be excellent except that I am no longer able to display caller ID on incoming calls received via BT homehub,
I'm sure it worked initially but alas no longer.
Any suggestions apart from talk to BT who cannot communicate
Why review the Philips VoIP321 and no the VoIP841
You reviewed the Philips VoIP321 and criticised it because you needed to plug it into a computer that needed to be on in order to do Skype/VoIP calls. Would it not have been easier instead to review the VoIP841 which is very siimilar, but works without needing to be plugged into a computer?
Me too! (DECT interoperability)
I'm also very curious about this DECT interoperability business, and various other features that came 'for free' with good ol' analogue telephones.
In the shop where I bought my AEG phones (a 2 handset... set) I asked the sixteen year old 'salesman' about interoperability and he looked as if his boss had asked him whether loyalty was more important than obedience.
When he eventually came out of his trance he answered "er... no I don't think they be used together" in a fairly unconvincing way.
I've learned to disregard such tech 'know-how' from teenage staff at electronics retail outlets ever since one of them assured me that the MiniDisc was not digital but an analogue recording format - 'like a cassette'.
But... but... what's the deal. Does 'DECT' imply anything useful for consumers or is it just hot air? Can I buy some more DECT handsets from another manufacturer which will work with my existing DECT phones? Who can answer?
I also discovered that the handsets can have some numbers programmed into them. Great! Except you have to program handset A and handset B independently. No way of sharing the digital telephone book between handsets (pretty stupid). Watch out for that one.
Oh! One more point: When we used to have two analogue phones in our flat, we could use both phones simultaneously - I mean, both me and my girlfriend could speak to 'the caller' or 'callee' at the same time. (I believe this was called a 'Party Line' in the old days).
I naturally expected my DECT phones would offer the same functionality, but noooo.. Far too exotic. I really miss that sometimes when talking to relatives from abroad. Just a warning to you folks out there. This feature is not mentioned in the Reg review either.
How hard can it be?
Siemens Gigaset experience
I'm a very happy "work from home" employee of a "coffee" brewing, Hardware and OS selling IT company ... ;-)
3 weeks ago I bought this Siemens set and am very happy with it. Reception is brilliant, sound clarity both ways is impressive and the thing last a good while.
I used it constantly while in conference calls and indeed would like to "do the dishes" or "visit the dunny" while in a call ...
But ... the darn thing does not have a MUTE function !
Only serious drawback of this phone.
Siemens have got a DECT on the market with an ethernet port and a SIP client built in. Would have been a good one to review as it can be used with decent VoIP services like Sipgate and voip.co.uk, and doesn't require a PC to be on in order to use it. It's also available at a sensible price.