Netgear Australia SPH101 Skype Wi-Fi Phone
- Ease of use and setup, No need for a PC, Stylish design for a VoIP handset, Up to 200 Skype contacts can be stored
- Price, Phone forgets log in details when battery is completely drained, Battery life
The SPH101 is clearly for those who want the latest technology and are prepared to pay for it. Although it's convenient for regular Skype users, it's still costly and doesn't offer as many features as it potentially could. If you want to use Skype on the move though, then this is very much up your avenue.
Price$ 469.00 (AUD)
A revolutionary entry into the VoIP market, the NETGEAR SPH101, is the world's first wireless Internet phone. A fully fledged Skype phone capable of connecting to a wireless network via Wi-Fi, the SPH101 comes pre-loaded with Skype on the handset itself. Its wireless capabilities allow users to call anyone on Skype for free without the need to be attached to a PC. Unfortunately, while the SPH101 is an excellent idea, some Skype features have been sacrificed to achieve the wireless independence from the PC.
Aesthetically, there is no doubt this is one of the hottest VoIP handsets on the market. In a space dominated by rather bland, standard looking units, the SPH101's white and silver finish is a refreshing change. It looks like a regular mobile phone, albeit slightly chunkier and heavier than normal. Measuring 110mm x 46mm x 21mm and weighing 110g, the SPH101 is quite comfortable to hold to your ear for long phone calls.
Dominated by a smooth, white casing with silver trim, the SPH101 also features a standard keypad and controls; a five-way navigational pad, two selection buttons and answer and end call keys sit below the 1.75in colour screen. The keys are slightly raised and feel easy to press, although we weren't impressed with the navigation joystick as it felt stiff and flimsy. External volume controls and a dedicated speakerphone button are also present.
Despite sounding like set-up could be a complicated process, NETGEAR has done an admirable job in the ease of use department. When powered on, the SPH101 scans for a wireless network and gives the user a list of available access points. If the chosen network is encrypted, the handset will prompt for a WEP or WPA encryption key. Once connected to the network all you need do is enter the Skype user name and password using the keypad and your phone will be ready to use. Thankfully, you should only have to enter these details once, as the SPH101 remembers the details the next time you turn on the handset, automatically connecting to your network and signing you into Skype. Unfortunately this ability is lost when the phone's battery is completely drained, so you'll have to enter the details again.
When switched on the SPH101 takes you to the Skype home screen, which displays Skype status, wireless signal strength, a battery life indicator and the available credit on your SkypeOut account. The menu is particularly attractive, clear and concise for a VoIP phone with bright images accompanied by easy to read text for each menu item. From the home screen you can also manage or add Skype contacts, view your call history, search for a contact, adjust any settings and also access Skype services such as credit, Skype In and Skype Voicemail.
The SPH101 is capable of storing up to 200 Skype contacts and calling is simply a matter of scrolling to the contact and pressing the "answer call" key. Call quality was quite regular for Skype and like most Skype calls, the clarity and clearness of each call will depend on the quality of the Internet connection between callers. We had no complaints with the hands free speakerphone which was quite loud and clear, however we were disappointed that NETGEAR does not include a headset in the package, considering there is a headphone jack on the left hand side of the handset.
Pressing the power button at the top of the handset allows the user to change any Skype settings including status, silent mode, profile details, or the wireless network. Skype status can only be changed to a preset setting (such as online, away, not available etc.), so users can't create their own status message like they can on the PC version of Skype.
The SPH101 doesn't offer all the features of the PC version since it is strictly for phone calls. There is no access to multi-way calling or text chats, despite the presence of a keypad. Furthermore, using Skype on a PC allows other features to be used such as adding contacts from Microsoft Outlook which is not supported by the SPH101.
The battery life was quite disappointing, with just two hours of talk time and up to 20 hours of standby time. Depending on your usage patterns, you'll have to charge the handset quite regularly; this is done via the included AC adapter or a standard USB trickle charge connection to a PC.
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