Intro and Features
If you mention VoIP these days most people will think of Skype, which shows how huge Skype has become in quite a short time. The company has been busy pushing hardware for its Voice-over-IP service and we've seen some good, some not so good and some really awful attempts at making Skype handsets. A lot of people run Skype on their Windows Mobile devices as well, and with varying degrees of success. However, today we're looking at the latest generation of Skype hardware for the home, a cordless phone that uses DECT which is common on many cordless home phones.
The Netgear SPH200D is quite different from most other Skype phones to date, although it does have competitors. By relying on DECT rather than Wi-Fi it can also be used as a normal cordless phone which is pretty cool. It's also easy to install as you don't really have to set anything up, just plug a few wires in. The SPH200D is made up of two main parts, the base station and the handset.
The base station plugs into your broadband router/modem, so if you don't have one of these, it'll be a bit trickier as you'd have to set up internet connection sharing on your PC and install a second network card to make it work; but it can be done. We didn't have any problem connecting it to our router. There's also a phone socket which connects up to your normal phone line for non Skype related calls.
To set things up, switch on the base station by plugging in the power cord, put the handset in the charging cradle for 14h before the first use, press the button on the base station and follow the instructions on the screen of the handset. It's really quite basic things that you need to set up such as country and area code, time and date and a few other little things like that. If you don't already have a Skype account then this can be set up on the handset as well. If you have one, then you just enter your details and you're ready to go.
Sure, you need to have some prior knowledge to set up the SPH200D, it's not something you'd let your granny do, but it's still pretty straight forward. Once set up, the SPH200D works in a similar fashion to Skype on your PC, but in a more compact way. The operating system hasn't changed much from Netgear's SPH101, although that older Skype handset relies on Wi-Fi.
The keypad consists of two soft keys, a four-way navigation pad, call and end-call buttons, a keypad and three more buttons at the bottom. The soft keys do what is displayed above them on the fairly small 1.5in display, although it's quite easy to read. The four-way navigation button is made from solid white plastic while the four surrounding buttons are made from clear plastic and the rest of the keypad is made from hard rubber. All the keys bar the four-way navigation key are backlit which makes it easy to use the SPH200D in the dark.
The four keys at the bottom of the handset are labelled Intercom, Mute and Speaker. The intercom button can be used if you purchase additional SPH150D handsets which will connect to the same base station, and you can use up to four handsets per base station. This is a pretty neat feature of DECT and you can use the additional handsets for internal calls, perfect for the small office. The mute button mutes the microphone while the speaker button turns on the built-in speaker. On the left hand side is a small rubber flap that hides a 2.5mm audio jack to which a headset can be connected.