UTStarcom F1000 review

£75
Price when reviewed

Only when it’s sitting in your hand do you appreciate the size of this phone. No larger than a regular mobile, it’s about a tenth the size and weight (and half the price) of the VoIP phones available this time last year. Add in the fact that it’s wireless and it seemingly offers all you could possibly want.

Yet its pint-sized proportions take a back seat to the real benefit: ultimate number portability. By keeping this phone at your side, you can be contacted on the same landline number wherever there’s a Wi-Fi network, whether that’s your home, your office or a coffee shop down the road.

Setup is a breeze. Once charged and switched on, it displays a list of available wireless networks and you pick the one it should use. When connected, it checks in with your VoIP provider to register its presence and is ready to make and receive calls. As a bonus, buying it from Sipgate means it will arrive pre-configured for your personal account.

There’s no docking station, so the battery is charged through an inelegant mobile-style cable that plugs into the base. Fortunately, you won’t have to wrestle with this too often, as in our tests we clocked up over four hours of talk time on a single charge, which was an impressive feat, and it was happy on standby for a day and a half. It maintained a good signal in areas we knew to have patchy network coverage and sound quality was fine, leaving us with few crosses on our check sheet.

It’s not perfect, though. For starters, it could do with toughening up: the casing feels cheap and tacky. The screen is coarse too. It may only be there to display numbers and text – not camera-phone snaps – but the low resolution means long words, like our network SSID, must be split over more than one line. Plus, on those rare occasions when it did run out of juice and shut itself down, the F1000 seemed to pause the time and date rather than continuing to update them in Sleep mode; after a couple of days’ testing it was running six hours slow.

However, it benefits from a good set of menus that are well thought out and easy to find your way around, and even packs in a web server, allowing you to configure it using a browser on any machine within the same IP address range, and conceivably from a remote location if you set up IP forwarding on your network.

The same caveats apply with this phone as with almost any other VoIP device; namely, that in a power cut you’ll lose your service as your modem switches off, and in an emergency you probably won’t have access to 999 or 112, which generally work on local or regional levels and have difficulty handling the inherently non-geographic VoIP. It’s also necessary for your contacts to always dial your complete phone number – including the dialling code – even if they’re in the same local area.

It’s not all roses, then, but neither is it a bunch of nettles, for while apparent corner-cutting has introduced some disappointing quirks most are entirely justified on account of the price. At £89 inc VAT, it’s a bargain for the freedom a wireless VoIP phone delivers, and with so many features packed into such a small case this is the first practical solution we’ve seen to the problem of being available any time, anywhere at regular landline rates.

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