Philips VOIP321 (Skype)
- VoIP and PSTN functionality, Can take two calls at the same time, Ease of use, Cordless
- Display, Can’t take a call started on the PC, No Mac support, Only compatible with Skype
If you are an avid Skype user, there aren’t many better options on the market than the VOIP321.
Price$ 129.95 (AUD)
The Philips VOIP321 is the second in the new range of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phones from Philips and offers traditional landline calling as well as the latest Skype technology in one unit. The VOIP321 is a cordless phone and has a bright backlit display combined with an easy to use interface.
Like the VOIP433 (Windows Live Messenger), the best feature of the VOIP321 is the fact that it is cordless: users aren't required to sit at their PC to make Skype calls. The unit also doubles as an ordinary cordless landline (PSTN) telephone - it is essentially two products combined into one.
Calling using the Skype program is a simple process thanks to the Skype key on the bottom of the handset. You simply sign into Skype on your PC, and then press this button to bring up your contacts list on the VOIP321's display. The interface is very simple but although the backlit display is great for night time calling, the screen isn't colour like the VOIP433 (Windows Live Messenger). It's quite small in size as well, so it can only show two lines of text at once and the large size of characters can mean that full names may not fit on the display. You can scroll across to read the full contact name using the scroll key, but this only scrolls one letter at a time. On the plus side, the VOIP321 conveniently allows you to quickly scroll to the first letter of any stored Skype contact using the keypad.
A disappointment of the VOIP321 is the fact that it can't continue a Skype call started through your PC. If the call was not dialed using the handset, you can't just pick up the phone and take the call. We experienced a slight echo of our own voice in the first few calls, but this can be combated by adjusting the microphone volume. Call clarity is not outstanding, but there are no major problems and we could clearly make out our callers voice. Generally, the call quality of VoIP phones is really dependent on the path that your call takes through the Internet - something that most of us have no real control over.
The clarity of landline calls on the VOIP321 is also excellent and we were able to hear voice clearly. The hands-free speakerphone worked well: the phone can push out more than adequate volume. A 50-name address book and ten polyphonic ringtones are also included.
The VOIP321's base is separated from the handset cradle and this means you can conveniently leave the base next to the computer and have the handset where a normal cordless phone would be. The base unit connects to your PC via USB and communicates wirelessly with the handset, so your Skype contacts and their online status are streamed to the phone. The handset uses DECT wireless technology so this means it won't interfere with a wireless network. Unfortunately, the VOIP321 only works with Windows XP, so there is no support for Mac.
The phone design is fairly standard and besides the Skype branding, you'd be hard pressed to tell this is a VoIP phone. The buttons are large and easy to press and all are clearly marked for ease of use. Both the keypad and display have a soft orange backlight, so the phone is easy to make out in the dark. The VOIP321 is available in two packages: $129.95 for a single handset or $199.95 for two handsets. The two handset package allows a single home to a user each on a landline call and a Skype call at the same time.
Overall, the VOIP321 is a welcome entry into the VoIP market from Philips and has a number of excellent features, headed by the ability to make a landline and Skype call simultaneously. Although it doesn't work with any other voice programs, if you are a regular Skype user, this is an excellent purchase since it also doubles as a regular cordless telephone.
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