engin Internet Phone 221
- Doesn't require a PC connection, cordless, hands-free speakerphone, caller ID and call-forwarding, ease of setup, good range
- Keys are small and hard to press, no backlight for night time calling, very plain interface
engin's Internet Phone is a fairly successful combination VoIP and regular landline telephone. It allows users to make calls over the Internet on the same phone they use to make landline calls.
Price$ 199.00 (AUD)
engin's Internet Phone 221 is a cordless VoIP phone that doubles as a regular landline (PSTN) phone. It allows users to make VoIP calls as well as regular landline calls using one handset. The 221 also allows users to keep their normal telephone number to make and receive standard calls, while using an engin phone number to call wirelessly over the Internet. Best of all, the 221 doesn't require a connection to your PC to operate.
The 221 is very easy to set up. An installation guide on the included CD-ROM runs the user through the setup process, and this only takes a couple of minutes. The base station of the 221 has an Ethernet port, which plugs directly into your modem or router, as well as a port for your regular phone line. An AC adaptor supplies power to the 221 by plugging into the back of the base station, and the base station is also a charger for the cordless phone. To charge the cordless phone, users simply dock it in the base station, much like a regular cordless phone. The phone runs off three AAA batteries, and these are included in the package.
The 221 doesn't require connection to a PC, so it gives users the freedom to roam their home or office while on a VoIP call, just as they would a regular landline telephone. The quoted range is 50m for indoor usage and up to 300m outdoors. We were impressed with the reach of the 221, which allowed us to hold a conversation while roaming outside of our office building. This is with the base station camped in the middle of our test centre inside the building, through concrete walls and glass doors.
For our tests, we were provided with a trial engin account and are pleased to report that the service works quite well. Voice calls on our end were generally clear and loud. We did experience some complaints from our callers that voices sounded distant and not as clear as they could've been.
One point worth noting is that the quality of VoIP calls will depend largely on your Internet connection. Generally, the quality of a call can degrade if you are downloading and uploading other data in the background. We dedicated the entire bandwidth from our iiNet ADSL2+ connection to our tests. This connection has a maximum download speed of up to 24Mbps and an upload speed of 1Mbps, which is more than enough for VoIP data and, indeed, most of our test calls didn't exhibit any significant problems. Those of you not used to VoIP may notice that a VoIP call isn't always as loud or crisp as a regular landline call.
The phone itself, which is D-Link branded, is fairly easy to use. It has separate 'answer' and 'end' call keys for VoIP calls and landline calls, while the menu can be accessed and scrolled through using the dedicated 'menu/ok' key and the separate 'up' and 'down' keys. The keys do require a firm press and their rubberised feel may not suit everyone. The keypad is also a little small, so those with large fingers may have some issues dialling phone numbers.
The 221 uses a two-line, monochrome display. The screen displays the current network you are connected to, the signal strength and the phone's battery life. The interface is very plain and simple, but it's effective. The 221 also offers some other features such as a hands-free speakerphone, 10 ring tones, caller ID, speed dialling, call forwarding, voicemail and a phonebook. Users are also able to switch between a landline and VoIP call.
Perhaps the biggest drawback of the 221 is the lack of a backlight. The screen can't be seen in the dark and the keys don't light up either, which makes night time calling virtually impossible. You'll need to turn on the lights to make a call at night.
engin offers five call plans, depending on whether you are a home or business user, or whether you intend to call internationally. The cheapest plan is $9.95 per month, while the business 50 plan peaks at $50 per month. Each plan offers different call rates and advantages, and a full list can be found here.
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