- Review Price: £90.65
Netgear was one of the first to bring a Skype mobile phone to market with its SPH101D which delivered a reasonable range of features although we felt it had a few niggling problems and was also on the pricey side. Since then a number of other vendors have launched remarkably similar products but, to date, these have had some difficulty in gaining acceptance in the home. Netgear’s latest SPH200D aims to remedy this reticence by offering a dual mode phone that can make and accept calls over both standard landlines and Skype.
Netgear has achieved this remarkable feat by combining a DECT cordless mobile phone with a dual-mode base station. The latter comes with an RJ-45 Ethernet port for connection to your home network and an RJ-11 port for linking to a standard telephone landline. You can place the handset anywhere as long as it can receive a signal from the base station. The kit includes one handset but the base station supports three additional SPH150D models although as of the time of review these were not yet on sale.
Setup is extremely simple as all you need to do is make sure the base station is on the same network as your Internet router to allow it to receive an IP address from its DHCP server. After initially charging the handset for the requisite number of hours you switch it on, add details such as your country code and preferred language and then you can enter details of your Skype account. This only took us a few minutes and then we were ready to make calls over the Internet.
The base station also has a web browser management interface and you can find out what its IP address is from the handset by selecting the DHCP option in the Settings menu. Point a browser at this address and you can log in to the base station where you’ll be presented with a basic but informative interface. The home page provides general information about the system with details of your uptime, the firmware version and network addresses. The base station supports three modes of Internet access and defaults to accepting a dynamic IP address but you can use PPPoE or enter a static address if required. Note that you can access all these settings and modify them directly from the handset.
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.
The web interface for the base station is fairly basic but does provide plenty of network information.
Three types of Internet connection are supported with DHCP being the easiest to use.
You can set up and monitor your Skype account from the handset as well as from this page.
The System page only provides options for upgrading the system’s firmware.
You can password protect the management interface and reset the base station back to factory defaults.
Score in detail