Tools Of The Trade: The ZyXEL Prestige W2000 internet phone

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The low cost of internet-based phone services makes them attractive to business users, especially frequent travellers. But while it is possible to make calls on the move over a laptop PC, this is not always comfortable or practical.

As a result, a few electronics companies have launched handsets that work over an internet connection, rather than a conventional cellular or landline connection.

A wireless internet phone, running over a WiFi network, promises to combine the convenience of a cordless phone or mobile handset with the flexibility and low charges of internet calling. Such a phone should work either around the office, or out on the road, as long as there is WiFi coverage.

The ZyXEL Prestige W2000 is a smart, slim WiFi phone that looks like a slightly retro mobile. It has a small, mono screen and a decent-sized keypad, as well as a socket for a standard, mobile-phone style headset, one of which is included in the box. The phone can be charged either via a USB cable or the supplied power adapter, making for a compact, portable package.

Unless using the W2000 only for internal calls in the office, you also need to set up an account with a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service. The handset operates using the most common standard for internet phone calls, SIP (session initiation protocol), so it will not work with BT's Broadband Voice services or Skype. It will, though, work with a service such as Gradwell.com or Sipgate.

Setting up the phone with a voice service provider is relatively straightforward, but is easier to do by connecting to the handset from a PC with a web browser than by using the phone's internal menus.

The first step is to configure the handset for the wireless LAN, then to connect to the voice service. For someone who has set up similar services, such as a PC-based "soft phone", this should take no more than 10-15 minutes. Call quality, assuming the phone is connected to a fast enough internet connection, is good.

But the W2000 is not perfect. It supports multiple profiles for use on wireless networks, but only one for a VoIP service. This makes it fiddly to set up to work with different providers in the office.

More serious for travellers, the phone has no in-built web browser, so there is no way of setting it up to work with wireless hotspots operated by providers such as BT Openzone and T-Mobile. (Here, subscribers must first enter their details on a web page.)

This, and the lack of support for services such as Vonage and Skype, makes the W2000 great for the office but less so on the road.

RATING: 3 out of 5

PROS: robust, easy to set up

CONS: tricky to use in hotspots and with some VoIP services

COST: around £140 plus VAT

CONTACT: www.zyxel.co.uk

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