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Wi-Fi Skype Phones - ASUS AiGuru S1 vs. Netgear SPH101

By: Lars Göran Nilsson | Network Phones in Networking | Posted: Feb 13, 2007 5:00 am

Netgear SPH101


The Netgear SPH101 is a completely different kettle of fish, as it's a true Wi-Fi Skype phone in contrast to the ASUS AiGuru S1.



The reason for this is because it doesn't require a PC at all; instead it connects directly to a Wi-Fi access point. The SPH101 will automatically search for 802.11b/g access points in the vicinity and try to connect to them. If no open access points are found, it will ask you to connect to secure access points. The advantage of this is that you're not limited to where you can use your Skype phone, at least not as long as there's Wi-Fi internet access available in the area.


As there's no built in web browser in the SPH101, you're limited to systems that don't require you to use a pre-paid voucher or similar, something the AiGuru S1 wouldn't have a problem with, as it would be connected to your laptop in the first place. However, if you're someone that travels between several offices within the same company, or even among friends and family and have access to a Wi-Fi connection where you go, then this is a very easy to use solution for making low cost phone calls.


The SPH101 has a slightly larger display than the AiGuru S1 and this time it's in full colour, although it's not up there with the latest generation of cell phones - still a huge improvement over the monochrome display of the ASUS. As expected, below the display is the keypad and it's very similar in layout to that of an older Ericsson mobile phone, actually the SPH101 does look like an overgrown version of the T630 in white. The handset measures 110 x 46 x 21mm (H x W x D), which makes it a tiny bit smaller than the ASUS.


There is a four way joystick that can be de-pressed to make selections and two soft keys that corresponds to the on-screen menus as well as call and end call buttons. On the left is a 2.5mm audio jack for a headset protected by a rubber flab and this takes a standard cell phone type headset for hands free usage. Below this is a volume rocker that adjusts the earpiece volume during calls. On the right is a speaker phone button, as the top is the power button and finally at the bottom is a mini USB connector - again covered by a rubber flap - for charging the handset.



The battery is rated at 3.7V and 840mAh which should give about 20 hours standby or 2 hours talk time, not that impressive and it's outdone by the AiGuru S1 here. The battery looks more like something from a cell phone this time around, as it connects internally via spring loaded connectors.


Rather oddly the SPH101 has a little rubber grommet around the back that covers an external aerial connector, although it's not a standard cell phone connector, so it's anyone guess what you can use with it.


Once you power on the SPH101 it tries to find any open access points within range and if it doesn't find one it will ask you if you want to try to connect to any secure access points within range. It supports WEP and WPA, although using multi-tap for entering passwords can be a pain. It will also connect to access points with hidden SSID's if you know the SSID. Once connected to an access point it will ask you to enter your Skype account details - which can be saved for future use - and then connect to Skype via the wireless internet connection.


The menu system of the SPH101 is similar to many other Skype Wi-Fi phones on the market with very few Netgear specific settings. The right soft key takes you into the contacts list while the left one takes you to the menu. The menu one again lists Contacts then call History, Add contact, Search - which allows you to search for Skype users -, Services and Settings. The Services menu allows you to check your remaining calling credit - which is also displayed on the standby screen -, your Skype in and your Skype Voicemail.


The Settings menu allows you to make changes to your Skype profile, change network settings, change Skype settings, language and perform software updates as well as resetting the handset. You can also set up call diverts here, change your privacy settings, change ring tones, time and date as well as manage block users. The Phone Settings sub menu allows you to make changes to the screen brightness and the screen time out. The information menu displays product information and the firmware version among other things. Finally the Advanced sub menu allows you to set up the SPH101 to receive software updates over the network, although enabling this setting didn't upgrade it to the latest firmware version. There are also some advanced settings here for proxy servers and Skype ports.


Overall the Netgear SPH101 is easy to use and although it's not perfect, it's one of the most compact Wi-Fi Skype phones on the market. However, it's very expensive at $229 USD or nearly $300 AUD.

NetGear SPH101 IP Wireless Phone


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