Zyxel Prestige P-2000W VoIP Wi-Fi phone
Zyxel's Prestige P-2000W Wi-Fi VoIP phone lets you make VoIP calls anywhere you can find an 802.11b/g network--a public hot spot, for instance, or a home or office Wi-Fi network--as long as you have a SIP-based VoIP service. If you use a softphone with a service such as SIPphone or a bring-your-own-hardware service such as BroadVoice (some services require that you use their hardware), the P-2000W could be handy. You can also make calls at public hot spots while out and about and not pay for cell service. Though this sounds intriguing, on second look, it might be more trouble than it's worth. On the road, a cell phone makes a better choice because you don't have to hunt for a Wi-Fi hot spot (nor worry about staying within its range). Also, services such as BroadVoice offer optional telephone adapters, into which you can plug your regular cordless phone--a much cheaper solution than using the Zyxel Prestige P-2000W. Additionally, installing this phone requires a fair amount of tech savvy, as it's complicated to set up and not very well documented by Zyxel. If you love the idea of sticking with just one low-cost VoIP service and don't mind hopping between hot spots to make calls in public, this phone could be a decent choice. Otherwise, you'll find it easier to spring for a cheap basic cellular plan in addition to an inexpensive VoIP service at home.
Resembling the brick-style cell phones of yesteryear, the Zyxel Prestige P-2000W Wi-Fi VoIP phone measures roughly 5.4 by 1.8 by 0.7 inches and weighs 3.8 ounces. That makes for a comfortable fit in your hand but a bulky phone in your pocket. It has a full-size keypad; a small, backlit monochrome screen; a four-way navigation pad that's a bit too stiff; and a cell phone-like menu system. Despite its plastic construction, it feels solid and sturdy, like it could handle being tossed around by a toddler--or a factory foreman.
Unless you're an IT person who's intimately familiar with things such as SIP servers, proxy settings, registrar services, and VoIP in general, don't expect to get the Zyxel Prestige P-2000W Wi-Fi VoIP phone working without help. The instruction manual focuses primarily on setting up on the phone using its onscreen menus--a slow and painful process. Fortunately, you can perform most of the setup chores via your Web browser--a fact buried at the back of the instruction manual. Otherwise, this browser-based configuration tool isn't documented at all; we had to ask Zyxel tech support for help.
The Zyxel Prestige P-2000W Wi-Fi VoIP phone offers basic features such as a phone book and a call log, both of which you can access on the phone or via your browser. Adding entries to the phone book can be confusing, however. The Prestige asks for user information (the person's phone number) as well as Host IP, Port, and Service (Proxy or P2P). Fortunately, these latter details are optional; you can just program in names and phone numbers if that's all you need. The Prestige also includes a vibrate mode, a choice of seven ring tones (but no way to preview them until the phone rings), and support for 64-bit and 128-bit WEP encryption. Zyxel promises 22 hours of standby time and 3.5 hours of talk time. Given the size of the phone and its battery, those are disappointing numbers. More disappointing still, the phone barely managed 12 hours of standby time in our informal run-down tests--unacceptable performance if you plan to use the P-2000W as your primary handset.
To test the Zyxel Prestige P-2000W Wi-Fi VoIP phone, we signed up for a free account with SIPphone, a Skype-like SIP-based VoIP service. (Other services that let you bring your own phone, as opposed to requiring specific equipment, include BroadVoice, QuantumVoice, and Tglo.com.) After setting up the account and configuring the phone, we were able to make calls via our home Wi-Fi network. It's worth noting that the Prestige phone doesn't work with Skype because Skype isn't a SIP-based service. In our informal tests, callers sounded loud and clear on our end, but most reported hearing a mild echo. If the phone has a setting that can correct this problem, we couldn't find it.
Zyxel supports the Prestige P-2000W Wi-Fi VoIP phone with a two-year warranty. It provides toll-free phone support Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. You can also e-mail tech support via an online form on the company's Web site. The Web site offers a knowledge base and firmware and user-manual downloads. As of this writing, however, the knowledge base contained nothing specific to this product.