At the crossroads: combining analog and digital telephony

The best dual-mode VoIP phones

With many Australians considering ditching the traditional landline in favour of either naked DSL or mobile telephony, it seems that heavier use of VoIP – voice over Internet Protocol – is all but inevitable. However, some people aren't ready to put their trust in VoIp completely yet.

Dual-mode VoIP phones incorporate both VoIP capability and a traditional PSTN landline, offering the best of both worlds. In the majority of cases, the landline can be used as a fallback if there's a problem with Internet access. Dual-mode phones have generally been slightly more expensive than their straight VoIP counterparts, but there are some competitively priced options.

Phones

The VoIP market isn't refreshed as regularly as other technologies, so two-year-old VoIP handsets essentially bear the same functionality as their newer competitors. We've compiled a list of the best options currently on the market.

Philips VOIP321 and VOIP433

In any other technology field, these phones would be considered archaic. Edging on two years old, the two models are both dual-mode devices offering fairly similar functionality. The VOIP321 (Skype) provides integrated Skype functionality, whereas the VOIP433 (Windows Live Messenger) offers a colour screen and support for Windows Live Messenger VoIP functionality. Ultimately the choice comes down to whether you need to use the phone's VoIP functionality to call other landlines, in which case the VOIP321 is definitely the best pick.

Linksys iPhone CIT400

Don't let the name fool you — Apple isn't joining the VoIP market. Before the popular Apple mobile was launched last year, Linksys had secured rights to the iPhone moniker for their consumer VoIP range. The iPhone CIT400 is the pinnacle of this series, offering Skype calls while retaining access to traditional PSTN landline functionality. The handset does most of the legwork in this combo, so after initial set up all you have to do is hide the base station away, enter your Skype ID and away you go. Given that it's relatively new — at least in VoIP terms — it costs slightly more than competing products, but its ease of use makes it well worth the price.

Philips VOIP841

An update to the VOIP321, the VOIP841 offers complete integration of Skype functionality without need for a PC connection. Combining ease of use and decent sound quality, the VOIP841 is currently one of the most expensive options on the market, but it is a viable solution for those who need the best of both worlds.

RTX DUALPhone 3088

Yet another Skype-based option, RTX's DUALPhone 3088 is a standard affair with nothing too distinguishing, but it's easy enough to use for Skype veterans and novices alike. The phone offers an address book for up to 200 entries, and has call quality sufficient for both landline and Skype calls. Range is also excellent, with the DUALPhone able to travel up to 300m from the base station. It isn't exactly pretty, but it is definitely a worthy option.

Doro 635IPW

The 635IPW has an identical look to Doro's range of standard landline phones. The phone requires a connection to a PC in order to download the user's Skype contact list, although this is only required during initial set up. The 635IPW is one of the cheaper dual-mode VoIP solutions, so it's a good choice if you just want to dip your toe into the market without making too much of an investment.

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