There are only so many providers of VoIP hardware, with branded (and locked) VoIP boxes from companies such as . Engin's latest version is the Engin's Voicebox 3102, which is itself a Linksys SPA3102 Voice Box.
As ATAs (Analog Telephone Adaptors) go, the 3102 is quite unremarkable. It's a small silver box -- good if you don't want lots of "techy" looking stuff cluttering up your phone table -- with phone, line, Ethernet and Internet ports labelled on the back. Engin also supplies a short length of Ethernet and phone line cable in the box, along with the requisite power adaptor. A set-up CD is provided, although this proved problematic for us; it's not Mac OS X compatible, and when trying to run it under Windows Vista, it proclaimed that the set-up routine wouldn't run on Windows 95 or NT machines. Now there's an odd error for you. Thankfully, like most ATAs, it's equipped with an IP-based Web interface -- more on that later.
The 3102's primary function is of course routing voice calls, but it's also equipped with a PSTN pass-through port. What this means is that unlike a straight VoIP ATA, when you plug in your phone and line to the 3102, it's also capable of receiving calls on your regular POTS phone line number. If your VoIP goes down -- either due to an ISP problem, or a problem at Engin's end -- then the 3102 defaults back to the POTS system.
Set-up is no more difficult than plugging in the correct cable and then contacting Engin to activate your box. Our review sample came pre-approved from Engin, so we can't speak to how difficult or easy this may actually be.
Call quality to a variety of landlines and mobiles with the 3102 was acceptable during our test period. That's something that could vary depending on the circumstances of your particular broadband connection. For the record, we tested with a home ADSL2+ connection that typically reports around 4Mbps on CNET.com.au's Broadband speed test.
Annoyingly, we couldn't figure out a way to force the 3102 to use the POTS line; this may be important in certain emergency situations, but in our case we were merely trying to call for a pizza, and the VoIP line routed us to the wrong store. Other pass-through devices, such as the Netcomm V300, make this a simple keypress operation, but the 3102 appears to only fall back to the POTS line if the Engin service itself is unavailable. It'd be nice to have the choice without having to pull out the router cable from the back of the box.
As with most vendors who offer a "branded" (and somewhat subsidised) VoIP box, the set-up and configuration pages for the 3102 can be accessed via IP address, but not altered in any way. This means you can't buy the Engin branded 3102 and then easily take it to another VoIP provider. As such, we can't much see the point in paying the AU$129 price tag; you may as well sign up for 12 months and get the box for "free". If you're curious about VoIP, and don't mind a 12-month commitment, then the 3102 is a good, simple match for your needs.