Monday, July 9, 2007

Netgear SPH200D Dual-mode Cordless Phone with Skype

The SPH200D Dual-mode Cordless Phone from Netgear offers one of the most convenient ways to use Skype. It's a cordless phone that plugs in directly to a router and allows one to use Skype without a computer. It can also function as a cordless phone for plain old telephone service (POTS). Hence the "dual-mode" in the name. The phone uses Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) to connect up to four handsets to the base station.

Based on all the positive reviews and feedback from other users, I purchased the phone from for $165.85 with a $30 mail-in-rebate. The box arrived within a few days with the following contents:

  • Base station with power adapter
  • Cordless handset with rechargeable batteries
  • Handset charging cradle and power adapter
  • Ethernet and POTS cables
  • CD with user guide
  • Warranty

It was a breeze to setup the base station and the handset. Once I turned on the handset, the system walked me through a couple of selections for country code and area code, reminded me about the absence of emergency calling (9-1-1 in the United States) and then reset itself to start Skype. It then asked me to login in to my Skype account. I had to use the multi-tap interface to login and voilà I was logged in. (I later discovered that I could have used a web-based interface on the base station to enter my sign-on information.) I had access to all my contacts, and the phone displayed my Skype Out balance correctly.

Then things turned south. I tried making a call and there was no voice. Neither the earpiece not the speaker worked. With no obvious volume controls, I started playing with the settings until I realized that the keypad had the volume controls built in. Setting the volume to max had no effect either. At that point, I deregistered the handset from the base unit to see if that would help. Bad move! After that I just couldn't get the handset to register again. The manual had no information about this either. The base station comes with a password protected web server with default user admin and password admin but I couldn't get to that either.

With the inevitable Google searches I stumbled on three key pieces of information:

  1. I found instructions to perform a reset to default state.
  2. Someone else had discovered that the manual included in the package was incorrect. The default admin password was password.
  3. When connecting via a router/firewall, it's best to place the phone in the DMZ.

Armed with that information, I reset the device and paired the handset to the base station. This time I used the web-based interface to enter my Skype account information. I also noticed that the default connection was using 10 Mbps but that I could switch it to 100 Mbps to match the rest of my LAN. After this, the phone started exactly as advertised. No problems at all with voice even on the speaker phone.

All-in-all, despite the hiccups, I'd strongly recommend this phone. Feel free to Skype meSkype Me™!

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