Philips has brought out a phone that they believe might truly have a chance to integrate itself into the home phone set-up. It’s a DECT handset (available singularly or in a pack of two) which can sit anywhere in the house thanks to the base station plugged into your computer.
Since I looked at the Internet Phone Wizard just a few days ago, which 18 months ago claimed to have the same result but still left you hanging around your computer, I wanted to check how this one fared.
The Philips VoIP321 is so easy to set up that they’ve only included a Quick Start guide. This isn’t an oversight – it truly is that easy. There are clear instructions with accompanying pictures, and if you do need extra help, there’s ample manuals on the support site. It also comes with everything you need, including 2 AAA batteries for the handset – not a big deal, but a pleasant surprise when you’re expecting to have to raid the Sky remote for some power.
Once you’re installed, it’s just a case of plugging the base station into the computer and landline. But be warned, the cables provided don’t stretch that far. The handset and charging dock can then go anywhere in the house, provided there’s a power source to charge it.
On picking up the handset it defaults to landline calls, which should please those (as yet) unconverted members of the household. To make a Skype call, you just press the ‘S’ button which then brings up your list of contacts alongside icons letting you know their status. Because this is a Skype accredited phone it comes with all the icons you’re familiar with.
The base station should fit easily amongst your computer paraphernalia. It’s a stand-up white box no bigger than a double CD case. I say it should fit easily – that’s after you’ve removed the enormous blue "COMPATIBLE WITH SKYPE!!" sticker they’ve kindly included.
Whilst the sound quality of the landline calls is absolutely fine, the Skype calls do come with a fair amount of interference. You can get a better quality of call by plugging something in directly to your USB port.
I also think that white as the handset colour was a strange choice. I admit that all our gadgets now come as ‘iPod white’ but this has yet to really come to pass in the average UK living room. Black would have fitted better, if they truly wanted it to replace the household phone. /p>
In our opinion
The main problem I found with the Internet Phone Wizard was the fact that despite their promises, you were likely to remain tethered to your computer. Now, with the Philips VoIP321, there is a handset that works as both a Skype handset and a landline, without you ever needing to go near your computer (except to sign-in). Philips themselves pointed out that if you’re in a household with more than one Skype user you might have to do some switching of accounts. You’re unlikely to have a ‘household Skype account’ very much like you don’t have a household IM account. Although perhaps this is the way it’s heading? For £55 it’s a great investment, and in my opinion, the best Skype product on the market.