Once set up, sound quality is second to none, besting every phone in this roundup. The lack of feedback on these phones takes a little getting used to â€“ as you talk, unless the other party speaks over you, you hear nothing through the headset. This really aids the clarity of phone conversations. However, if you really canâ€™t get used to it, thereâ€™s a nice feature called Comfort Noise Generator (CNG) that simulates the noise of an older telephone system.
You do have to listen extremely carefully to hear any drop in quality with any of these telephones as theyâ€™re all pretty much on a par until you try using the more compressed codecs. The IP300 only supports the two flavours G.711 and G729. G.711 you can think of as an uncompressed digital data call â€“ itâ€™s basically an ISDN phone call shoehorned into the kind of packets your computer sends over the network and Internet. G729 is a highly compressed codec that offers savings in bandwidth at the cost of voice quality.
When converting a call from G729 to G711 (so you can connect the call to the rest of the telephone network), this causes a delay. When calling very long distance in particular, this is quite noticeable. You end up talking over one another, and the call becomes very uncomfortable. Support for GSM (the codec used by mobile phones), would alleviate this problem as it is designed for quick transcoding to reduce delay.
The IP300 has a dedicated RJ9 jack for an industry standard headset. Most people wonâ€™t use it, but it does mean that the phone is ready for deployment in a call centre environment. And thanks to the inbuilt 10/100 switch, the phone has a network out port for connecting your computer, so only one network cable needs to be run to your desk.
The IP300 doesnâ€™t include a speakerphone. It does have a speaker for on-hook dialling, which is useful for checking voicemail, but if you call someone youâ€™ll need to pick up the handset as soon as they answer. To be honest though, after using the abysmal speakerphone features in the other phones on the test, Iâ€™m not sure this is actually a problem. If you really need that functionality, then youâ€™ll need to look at the Polycom IP500/IP600 or a dedicated speakerphone.
This phone is best suited for deployment in a large network and does this very well. This said, it still makes an absolutely superb phone for the small businessman looking to take advantage of voice over IP. At Â£123.36 it's the priciest of the four on test, but you wonâ€™t be disappointed.