It's hard to be overly creative when designing an analog telephone voice adaptor (ATA) for a VoIP service, but Netgear has still managed to do a good job with the TA612V. The unit incorporates both an ATA and an Ethernet router housed in a curved, white case. The unit can sit horizontally or vertically with the attachment of two included plastic feet.
The front panel has a row of indicator lights that show when the power is on as well as the status of the unit, the Internet link, the two VoIP phone lines and whether there is a PC directly attached.
On the back there is a power connection, two analog phone ports and two Ethernet ports -- one for PC connection and the other for a broadband modem. A handy legend printed on the bottom of the unit reminds you which port does what.
The TA612V has been pre-configured to work with the MyNetFone VoIP service and includes AU$10 worth of call credit out of the box.
The way in which you set it up will depend on the type of broadband modem you already have in place. If it's a stand-alone modem, the TA612V will sit between it and your PC. If it's a combination modem/router, the TA612V will connect via one of the router's Ethernet ports.
Being designed to work with a particular VoIP service makes the unit very easy to set up. Once it's connected to the modem or router and powered up, it automatically connects via your broadband connection to the MyNetfone server and registers itself. This process can take a number of minutes during which time the unit may download updated firmware. The process is complete once the front panel status light stops flashing. A conventional phone handset can then be connected to the Phone 1 port on the rear panel.
The next step is to create a MyNetFone account by going to www.mynetfone.com.au/register and following the instructions which includes selecting a suitable call plan.
Once installed and configured, using the TA612V is as easy as making a normal phone call. Call quality is surprisingly good with clear, full duplex capabilities -- that is, you can talk and hear at the same time without interference. The review unit came bundled with a Panasonic KX-TG1811 cordless phone which allows the service to be used from anywhere around the house.
Calls to both landline and mobile numbers connect quickly and called parties report clear voice quality. Call quality can suffer, however, at times of peak Internet usage or when someone else on your home network attempts to send or download a large file.
Because the unit actually has two inbuilt VoIP adaptors, it's possible to make two VoIP calls simultaneously by connecting a second handset to the Phone 2 port. Only one line can receive calls, however, via the included PSTN number provided by MyNetFone.
The service also comes with a free voicemail box. By dialling 121 you can record a personal greeting and also check for messages. Unfortunately there is no way to know whether you have any voicemails without dialling into the service, and the recorded voice that reads back the number of the party that called you is painfully slow. Listening to a list of messages takes quite some time.
Note: MyNetFone is offering the Netgear TA612V for AU$19.95 with AU$20 of credit included for the month of August. Check the Web site for details.