Access to the Skype service is available from the web interface and you can create a new account from here, enter login details of an existing account and see if you are currently logged in. Again, the handset’s main page will also advise on Skype login status as well as show how much credit you have on your account. The System page provides tools for upgrading the base station’s firmware although it would have been nice if Netgear provided an automatic check function as it does with its draft 802.11n wireless routers. Last, but not least, comes the Administration screen where you can change the access password and reset the base station to its factory defaults.
Making calls with the handset couldn’t simpler as you enter your number using the chunky keypad and hit the call button. The phone presents you with a choice of Skype or landline and once you’ve selected one the call will be made as normal. During testing we found the voice quality of the SPH200D to be good with recipients reporting no discernable difference between calls made to them over Skype or a landline. Strangely, from the caller’s perspective we found landline quality was superior with Skype calls suffering from minor distortion.
On the SPH101 the choice of ring tones was nothing more than embarrassing prompting us to switch them off and use the vibration mode. The latter is not supported here but you now get sixteen tones to play with and although they aren’t much better, at least you won’t be using the SPH200D in public. Usefully, you can set different tones for incoming Skype and landline calls, the intercom function for multiple handsets and a confirmation tone for when the handset is placed in the charger cradle.
To test what would happen if Internet access failed we pulled the Ethernet cable from the base station and the handset immediately acknowledged that Skype access had gone down. However, providing that power is supplied you can continue to make landlines calls.
As is standard for Skype services, contacts can be kept organised in the phone for quick access and the History option provides a complete rundown on inbound and outbound calls, those missed and voicemails. Searches for Skype users can be conducted and if permitted they can be added to your contact list. The Services option shows your credit status plus the amount of time remaining on it and if you purchased SkypeIn you can view your chosen number and your subscription status.
Netgear delivers an innovative communications product that neatly integrates Skype and PSTN functions into a single solution. We were impressed with the ease of installation and use making it ideal for home and small business users alike that want the cost advantages of Skype plus access to landline calls from the same handset.