NETeasyPhone Classic review
It’s shaping up to be a big year for Internet telephony. This time in 2004, Skype was an underground phenomenon, and SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) services were few and far between. Now, Skype is doing deals with fixed-line telcos and Motorola, and there’s quite a choice of SIP providers in the UK.
The NETeasyPhone service can be supplied in a variety of hardware formats. There’s the Classic phone and cradle on review, a more rudimentary £21 handset, and a £30 converter for attaching to a regular phone. All these still need a PC to make them work, as they attach via USB, integrating with the H.323-based NETeasyPhone PC software. This can also be used on its own with your existing sound card, and you can download the software for free for 21 days, after which a lifetime licence is £30.
Software installation and driver detection went smoothly. Assuming you haven’t used the service before, you need to go through the registration process. After that, a simple wizard lets you choose your phone or sound card and other settings, and logs you in. It’s also necessary to reconfigure your PC for a fixed IP address and set up the firewall on your broadband router to forward the appropriate port to the PC with the NETeasyPhone attached. But full instructions are supplied for both alterations. This kind of firewall fiddling is common for Internet telephony systems. However, what’s less acceptable is the necessity of turning off the Windows Firewall completely on the client PC.
Once up and running, you can place two types of calls: those to other NETeasyPhone users and those to landlines via the OFFnet service. The latter offers reasonable rates, such as 2p per minute to the US, but we’ve seen cheaper from SIP alternatives like Pipecall (www.pipemedia.com). Also, the ability to call NETeasyPhones from landlines isn’t due until September 2005, although many other services including voicemail and video calling will be arriving in the interim.
As with all PC Internet telephony based on proprietary software, the NETeasyPhone’s big problem is that, for free calls, both ends need the app. Also, in our testing, while sound quality for PC-to-PC calls was good, OFFnet introduced a noticeable delay. Although the integration of hardware and software is quite smooth and performance acceptable, it’s hard to see NETeasyPhone making a dent in the Skype and SIP alternatives.