netTALK DUO Re-Reviewed: It Works - Just Not So Great

netTALK DUO Re-Reviewed: It Works - Just Not So Great

Summary: netTALK DUO would be a great replacement for Skype or Vonage or MagicJack, if only it worked better.


I finally got my netTALK Duo running and have been making calls with it for the past week. While it's not a total Fail like my first go-round, the product remains frustrating.

(Read my initial review of the netTALK DUO here.)

After exchanging multiple e-mails with Carlos in netTALK technical support and fiddling with the firewall and other settings on my D-Link router proved fruitless, netTALK kindly sent me a Linksys WRT54G2 router last week. This did the trick: my DUO finally started working.

How well? Alas, not well enough. For about half of the calls, the issue was merely echoes, noise or delays. Not as bad as my iPhone, but certainly worse than what I've experienced in my extensive use of Skype and Vonage.

For the other half, the calls still, by my definition, failed. Caller A (usually me or my wife) can hear Caller B, but not vice-versa (Caller B gets dead silence).

Instead of blaming the DUO, could it have been Caller B's poor connection (i.e. a dodgy cellphone)? I don't think so, as in all cases, a call back from my iPhone to the exact same number resulted in a successful call.

I know it's not my Internet service. According to this VoIP speed test, my connection (Comcast Performance, 15 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up) is great.

I love netTALK's price, promise and even its technical support (though, I should note that I only got a response from netTALK after my negative review appeared).

But I would only recommend netTALK to highly technical consumers who are relatively undemanding about voice quality. That doesn't describe me: I bought netTALK expressly so my wife and I could talk long-distance to our getting-hard-of-hearing parents.

For everyone but hard-core techies, netTALK DUO remains too much of a buggy 1.0 product.

Yet, only two improvements would allow me to wholeheartedly this product.

First, netTalk needs to step back from the marketing spin and be upfront that, as of today, some routers will simply break netTALK.

netTALK support admits that they know this. So why isn't this list of netTALK-friendly routers posted on their main site, rather than buried in their support forum? It would help customers like myself and others avoid plenty of pain.

netTALK should even go one step further and actually test and certify routers that work with netTALK so that customers know what to buy.

Sure, all of this adds complexity that will frighten away some customers. But it's gotta be better than dealing with disgruntled customers like me after the fact.

Alternatively, netTALK could emulate Vonage's technical approach. Vonage's latest VoIP adapter has two Ethernet ports - one that connects directly to the DSL/cable modem, and the other that connects to the wireless/Ethernet router.

This is key: by being located before the wireless/Ethernet router, Vonage's adapter can avoid potential problems caused by how different routers implement firewall and other network filtering technology.

For sure, adding all of that extra technology will make the DUO, which is currently the size of two Chapstick cases, less elegant (the Vonage adapter is the size of a thick sandwich).

And it will assuredly be more expensive for netTALK to produce. But it'll provide better voice quality and more reliable service for customers. And I'm sure there will be savings on the back-end from less customer support.

Topics: ÜberTech, Google, Unified Comms, Wi-Fi

Eric Lai

About Eric Lai

I have tracked technology for more than 15 years, as an award-winning journalist and now as in-house thought leader on the mobile enterprise for SAP. Follow me here at ÜberMobile as well as my even less-filtered musings on Twitter @ericylai

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  • netTALK is nothing but trouble

    This service isn't anywhere near ready for prime time. I finally received my netTALK Duo last night after waiting three weeks for delivery. I followed the directions and immediately ran into trouble when the site I was directed to to activate service was down. After about an hour of reloading and patiently waiting for the site to load (yeah, I can't believe I tried that hard, either) I was able to register the device with netTALK. The confirmation "ring" I was told to listen for never arrived but I was able to place a call within five minutes of activation. The real trouble didn't begin until I tried to place a call to my new netTALK device from my mobile phone. All I get is one ring tone and a disconnection while the phone the netTALK is hooked up to never rings.

    After spending an hour today on the phone with tech support (they tried an alternate DNS--creepy, adding the netTALK to my router's DMZ, port forwarding and triggering--nothing worked) they gave up. To be fair, the person I talked to on the phone tried *really hard* and was a pleasure to work with.. the service just flat out doesn't work with my TrendNet router.

    I'm sure there are routers out there that this works with out of the box but all I can say is don't even try this service unless you're extremely patient and prepared for a compatibility crap-shoot. Sorry, guys. I really wanted this to work.
    • RE: netTALK DUO Re-Reviewed: It Works - Just Not So Great

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  • RE: netTALK DUO Re-Reviewed: It Works - Just Not So Great

    Hey there - your account sounds very similar to my first try with NetTalk. Some upfront info on their site that the product is ONLY certified with certain routers would do wonders...
  • Another reader's account, via e-mail

    <strong>(This was sent via e-mail by a reader, Richard Dalebout, in mid-February, who gave me permission to post this)</strong><br><br>In preparing my documentation for a complaint with my credit card company, I discovered several instances on other web sites where other people encountered similar situations with the Nettalk Duo. There is a registered complaint by another individual (Report #643340) at the Ripoffreport.com of "Nettalk continually promises a refund, never gives it back. Keeps me waiting!! Buyer Beware" Another individual named Shane McGlaun at a different web site said: "The Nettalk Duo is not ready for the masses. Very confusing to set up properly and tech support seems to just take guesses at trying to fix issues. Had to send (it) back after a week of wasted time".<br> <br>To be fair to Nettalk.com, their engineering staff does not have any control over the engineering design by a router manufacture. Like yourself, I had bought a new D-Link router DSL 2540B (connected to AT&T elite DSL service) which was later found incompatible with the Nettalk Duo product. It does appear that the Nettalk Duo product is compatible with some other routers. However D-Link is a major manufacture of routers and well recognized in the router manufacture industry. I was very disappointed that I spent a weekend trying to get the Netalk Duo product to work without any success. What I fault Nettalk.com is their negligence in providing a list of those routers that are compatible with their product on their home page of their web site. This fact should made very clear to the Nettalk.com. Secondly technical support was non-existent in my situation without return of E-mail messages. It appears that you were encountering problems at the same time I had encountered problems in configuring my D-Link router. So probably Nettalk.com technical support didn't really know how to configure a D-Link router with their product. I'm angry about the situation in that I had sent their product back to them at the same address as their returns department within 30 days postage paid myself with delivery confirmation, and they returned the item back to me. By that time, I had purchased a Ooma Teleo which is an outstanding product, and it operated flawlessly with my D-Link DSL 2540B router. I was then able to use the Ooma Teleo to contact Nettalk.com to inquire why they had returned the product to me which had the address of their returns department. The customer rep asked if I had used their customer return label. I replied that no I had not done so, but had shipped it back to the address from which it had been sent which was identical to their customer returns department. The only thing I surmise is that they have a disgruntled employee or they are buried alive in returned units that nobody really wants. Probably all returns from D-Link router owners.<br> <br>Eric, I'm glad you had published your review which is being sent to the credit card company folks along with the aforementioned complaints by other folks. Like yourself, I really wanted the Nettalk Duo product to function properly, but dismayed that I could not do so. Not receiving input from Nettalk.com as to how to resolve the problem was a disappointment too. The return of their product back to me made me really angry. How a company can operate in this manner is beyond my understanding. When researching router compatibility with Ooma, their company representative did take time to address the issues of compatibility with my D-Link router. I wanted assurance that their product would be compatible. He assured me it would work, and it did.<br><br>Richard Dalebout<br>Lansing, MI
  • net talk duo works !!!

    No more monthly phone bills!! Works without problems!!
  • Still another reader's account by e-mail

    Aaron Bell gave his consent for me to reprint his e-mail comments:

    "I am having problems with my Nettalk service too. I had a Belkin router, now I have a Verizon Fios router. Sometimes calls go through, and sometimes incomming and outgoing calls don't connect. I put the Duo on the DMZ. Not much better. I made sure the SIP ALG is turned off. I don't know what other router settings to change. I wish their service was better...

    So far Nettalk technical support has not been able to help. I have tried all sorts of different router settings. The phone works most of the time, but calls will fail randomly both incoming and outgoing. I guess you get what you pay for. The Nettalk service is very cheap. I was hoping for a more reliable phone though. I wish I would have tested it before eliminating my other home phone.

    We wanted to just use our cell phones, but our location has pretty spotty cell service.

    I wish the cable companies had more affordable packages. We only have Internet service from Verizon FIOS, and an antenna for local TV stations. I replaced my cable TV in favor of my Netflix subscription and on demand movies through my blu-ray player."
  • RE: netTALK DUO Re-Reviewed: It Works - Just Not So Great

    I have to agree with the "not so great." I am fairly technical (electrical engineer, former CTO at two software startups, etc.).<br><br>I can get the Duo to work "some of the time" but the ratio is about 50/50. If there is a power outage, one has to often unplug the power from the Duo, wait, then plug it back in (seems to be an issue if the device is trying to connect before the router is fully booted and fully connected). When calling some numbers I get an answer and then the line suddenly goes dead and it took a LOT of router tweaking to get ride of the lag time in the conversation, almost like talking overseas via an old satelite with the bounce delays.<br><br>I really like the concept: a device that does not require the computer. I just wish the bugs were ironed out.
  • RE: netTALK DUO Re-Reviewed: It Works - Just Not So Great

    Ironic that the list of nettalk friendly routers mentioned in the article has been removed ...
  • Speed issues???

    I connected the nettalk duo directly to the computer (not through a router) and got it working after about 3 tries and re-downloading the software. Problem is that it turned my internet connection into a snail. I tried to view some videos on youtube - and after 5-8 seconds, they would just stop and that was the end of it. All other browsing activity was slowed considerably and some sites were taking more than 30 seconds to load - if they did at all.

    Tried getting help from tech support - 1 week and still have not heard back.

    Disconnected the device and uninstalled the software - and the internet speed it back to normal. I have normal broadband connection. Had MagicJack before (about 3 -4 years ago and haven't used it since) and don't recall any issues with it. I thought Nettalk would be an upgrade and since I got the device fee with my XPS purschase from Dell, decided to use it since I am without a landline and need to have conference calls from home about 1-2 times/month. Cell minutes are tight and don't want to increase those either.

    Any suggestions?

    I used Nettalk.com and within the first month I needed to have the DUO replaced. The service is low class. You can be talking to someone and for no reason nettalk disconnects the phone call. Also so many times I was on the phone and I could not hear anyone on the other side. I had to reset the DUO and my Belkin Router. Nettalk tried to say that it was my Router. Then Nettalk said it was my Cable Internet Service. They did not want to take responsibility for their awful service. My Cable Service Charter techs looked into the problem and could not find anything. Then they sent a service representative to check the connections at home and they did not find a problem. They all concluded that the trouble is the Nettalk.com DUO and the internet service that is being offered by Nettalk.com. You can cound on Nettalk.com just like you can count on MagicJack. Would you use MagicJack as your main telephone service?

    When I used Vonage before Nettalk I did not have the problems that I had with Nettalk. Nettalk is just like buying MagicJack. You might as well use it as a second telephone line. But DO NOT Count on Nettalk to be your Main Telephone Provider. You will have major problems.

    This week withot any warning Nettalk turned off my service and said I used more than 3000 minutes. They did not send me an email warning me. The support techs and support supervisor said we do not have to send you warning emails. It is the responsibility of the customer to check their minutes on their Nettalk.com internet account. I told Nettalk that I needed the telephone service to speak with my surgeon who just did spinal surgery on my 10 days ago and they did not care. They said if you want to use the Nettalk you must pay per minute because you are over the 3000 minutes. I told them that I needed to call the pharmacy for medications, I needed to call my rehabilitation service and that I have a heart condition and need the phone on to call for medical help. The Nettalk technical support again said I must pay for each minute since I have been changed to the basic plan.

    Funny during all the time that Nettalk turned my service off and wanted me to pay for each minute I used they continued to send me an email telling me that I need to pay $29.95 for my next year of service by May 31, 2912. Why should I pay for a service that is unstable, is turned off and is no better than MagicJack?

  • Just confirmed my thought

    I wish i could say: "It has some problems, but when it work -> IT WORK". But it's not the case. I've got it working for a moment, then it started to fail.

    I've tried to connect it directly to my 2WIRE Bell Modem/Router and a Phone. It worked for a while, then failed. So i've placed the NetTalk Duo on the DMZ, still not working. Then i've decided to try it when it's connected to my computer thru USB. Not working or partially working.

    Just like other mentionned:
    - Sometime i call myself, FROM NETTALK DEVICE TO MY CELL PHONE, it work
    - Sometime i call myself, FROM MY CELL PHONE TO MY NETTALK DEVICE, it either ring BUSY (strange busy sound, not the usual one), or i simply ear it ringing in my cell phone, but the phone connected to the device (or my computer headset when it's connected to my computer thru USB) NEVER RING.
    - When i'm able to establish a call, the sound is far from beeing good.

    Really, this thing is rubish!

    I had few exchange thru email with Technical Support, they answered me. As many said: They TRY to help. But it's just not enough. The device itself has serious issues and the technical support must be overloaded of calls and sadly, the technical support can't do much about it since it seems to be a design problem.

    The only part i do not agree with this article is where it says that it might be good for techies. I'm an I.T. since over 15 years. I've a pretty good knowledge of network communication since i'm developping softwares that goes thru ANY firewall, sending encrypted & compressed data (voice & image)... and i gave up on NetTalk Duo.
    Christian De Bellefeuille