Solid performer with a few quirks, Member TghuVerd
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Apart from the Ethernet cable and give-away ""IP Phone"" label on the handset itself, there is nothing in daily operation of the Linksys SPA942 that hints at its VoIP credentials. The unit is solid, with that well made feel that all the Linksys gear I've used seems to have. The buttons depress well and for the most part are obvious in their function. And the predominately grey color scheme will blend in with most office environments. About the only real design problem is that neither the LCD panel or base move such that you can align the LCD to minimise glare from ceiling lights. Indeed, if you are an average jock who just dials numbers and takes calls, this is a nice unit but probably overkill, to be honest. As with all VoIP, call quality is going to be dependent on the network. Ours has noticeable echo and dropouts for internal calls, but strangely less of this for external calls. Unlike my experience with Skype, the echo does not tend to die away early in the call, but with so many moving parts in VoIP I can't even start to fault the Linksys for this aspect. I can fault the speakerphone, which is not as high quality as I expected. This gets used a lot in our company and colleaques who use it have to speak more directly/closer/louder to the Linksys than they did with our previous Siemens analogue phones. I sit about 18 inches from my phone and have tested the speakerphone quality using voicemail and it's OK for me - and the volume and definition of the loudspeaker is good - but it kind of defeats the purpose of speakerphone that works one-on-one, but in an office roundtable conference call has trouble picking up voices further away. Looking at the Linksys configuration itself, you can quickly create a local directory of contacts to dial, either manually by entering details, or from the received/dialled/missed call lists in the phone memory. If you have created a contact in a mobile phone you know the drill. You can also create contacts that are IP addresses or URLs...it was not immediately apparent from the Linksys User Guide why you would want to do this, but you can if you need to (and the User Guide is a typical ""push this, press that"" manual that details how to do things, not why you might want to or the benefit you would see from it). Having created contacts, I wanted to assign a couple to speed dial. At first there seemed no way to link a contact to a speed dial, but as you enter the number the contact list appears below, so you can do this but it's one of those things that is not clear from the manual and the LCD does not hint at the capability until you actually start to press buttons. Oh well, that's software design for you... Similarly, the phone supports a Do Not Disturb function, but not for me. I suspect it's been supressed by our Corporate IT team for some reason, and hoped to expose it via the phone configuration menus. But while the preferences show the option, it's not actually configurable. The User Guide is unhelpful, merely detailing how I **should** be able to edit DND on and off. This highlights that the Linksys is typically going to be connected to the VoIP Server, which is basically the equivalent of a PABX. This can be simple or sophisticated, but in most cases is going to include software that connects the phone to your PC. For me, it was here that our implementation of VoIP using the Linksys highlighted a few quirks. In our case we use software from third party specialist VoIP software vendor that allows you to make and control calls from your computer. This includes a full office telephone list so you easily call colleaques from your computer. I'm not qualified to offer an opinion on whether it was our fault or the software itself, but the application - which integrates with Exchange/Outlook - consistently hogged so much resource on more than a few laptops that it had to be uninstalled so work could be done. Which is why I was adding contacts into the phone in the first place - I could not get to the online directory. As an aside, the software is confrontingly bland in design and function, with way less help text attached than I would expect for this type of application. There is nothing really wrong with the screens launched from my Outlook toolbar, but with such wonderfully accessible interfaces such as the iPhone and HTC TouchFLO showing the way, is it not reasonable to expect telephony software to be immediately obvious and helpful? I think so and in my mind this software company is applying computer design thinking to what is one of the most sublimely simple user interfaces - buttons and that wonderfully obvious microphone/speaker than just shrieks ""Put me to your ear..."" - and really coming up short for users. A more serious issue was that some of our phones will not actually make calls. The Linksys would normally take its setup instructions from the VoIP Server, but apparently some of ours were hard coded during training so they stubbornly refuse to listen to the VoIP Server and do their own thing instead. Not even a reset to factory defaults overrides this, so we're stuck with a number of handsets that need physical intervention before we can use them. I was the lucky recipient of one of these recalcitrant phones and such was the unlikely nature of this problem that Corporate IT spent well over a week before realising that I needed to physically swap the unit over with one that was working. Having managed IT projects for decades I was not surprised by any of this, but doubt that most phone users will have my laisser-faire attitude to new technology roll outs and would have exceeded their frustration point in a day, not a week. (Having a mobile to hand helped keep the stress levels down of course.) So, all up this is a good phone with one hardware design flaw - LCD panel glare - and a huge potential flaw in the VoIP Server software. I don't blame Linksys for that, they've done their bit, but if you are looking at VoIP the handset is really the strongest link in the product chain...your network, VoIP Server software and the associated PC applications are where things really start to get interesting, especially if they don't work all that well.
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