Sunday, April 15, 2007

Vonage UT Starcom Review

I have been using the UT Starcom F1000 handset by Vonage for about 7 months now. Overall, it has been doing the job well, but there is lots of room for improvement. It is a good thing that Vonage does not have a lot of competition in terms of hardware.

I am currently living overseas, so using a phone adapter is out of the question. I've already written a post about the details, but let's just say that you have to use a plethora of adapters to get everything working. My best bet is to use a standalone WiFi Vonage phone. Right now (over a year after this model came out), the F1000 is the only option.

The UT Starcom F1000 is a WiFi phone that uses your existing 802.11b network and broadband connection to connect to the Vonage network and provide a Voice over IP (VoIP) access.

Pros:
  • This is the only WiFi handset that Vonage offers - period.
  • If you have a good broadband connection, the quality of the call is satisfactory. I have only had a few people complain about the quality of the audio.
  • The phone is fairly reliable. It rings when people call it. When you dial, it will ring on the other end.
  • Setting up the connection to your WiFi network is relatively easy. If you know how to set up your WiFi access point, you can connect to it in a jiffy.
  • The AC adapter will support 100v to 240v connections so you can use it overseas with just a plug adapter.
Cons:
  • Just like every broadband VoIP solution I have used, there is lag between the person talking and you hearing the audio. This often results in tons of hilarity as you and your friends talk over one another.
  • When you pick up the handset, you immediately realize how little Vonage cares about style. The platic they used is cheap. The buttons feel cheap when you press them. The design of the phone won't be copied by Apple.
  • You have to hold the phone perfectly up to your ear or you won't be able to hear the person on the other end.
  • There is no way to mod any part of the phone. The 6 built in ring tones are all annoying and there are only two volumes: low and high.
  • There are no volume control buttons on the phone. If the phone is ringing and you want to lower the volume on the fly, you can't (although you can send the phone directly to voicemail).
  • The UI is not intuitive. You would think that the big red button on the phone could be used to hang up the phone. You would be wrong.
  • Even if you have a good broadband connection, you are at the mercy of your WiFi connection. It seems that you can't wander too far from your access point without affecting the sound quality of your call.
  • The battery life is not great. The unit can go approximately 2 days without charging with no use. This isn't a big deal since you will mostly use the phone around the house. This can be annoying if you forget to charge the phone and you have to stay tethered to the power cord for a long call.
  • There is no hands-free speaker phone mode.
This isn't a critique of the Vonage service. Overall, I think the Vonage service is a great solution for lots of people. This is mostly a review of the UT Starcom handset itself. If you need a Vonage handset, you should get the UT Starcom F1000. When Vonage comes out with a better phone, you should buy it and chuck your F1000 out the window.

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