- Good looks
- ease of use
- large LCD status panel
- bright tri-colour LED indicators on some keys
- soft keys along the bottom of the LCD for function selection
- Only a single Ethernet port
- slightly confusing arrangement of line select buttons
The SPA941 from LinkSys, a division of Cisco Systems, is an extremely handsome phone in matt olive-charcoal, with a large status display, surrounded by a silver-bronze plate that delineates the navigation and line select buttons. A clip-on stand elevates the front of the phone to the quite extreme angle of 45 degrees. This minimises the space the phone takes up on the desktop and positions the handset, display and all the buttons, so they are clearly visible and easy to access.
The twelve, round, keypad buttons are perhaps a bit on the small side (11mm diam.) compared to some of other VoIP phones we've seen. Apart from the standard three-letter alphabet groups on the keypad, no text labels are used for the controls. To the right of the keypad is a group of seven buttons, split again by an indented line on the case, into an upper group of three and a lower of four.
In the top group is a button marked with an envelope symbol for voice mail retrieval and a button marked with a page with a folded corner, to represent Information. Pressing this button actually accesses menu options. To the right of these two buttons is an elongated button marked with an open hand symbol for call hold.
In the lower group of four buttons is an elongated ‘nudge’ rocker bar carrying a loudspeaker symbol and plus and minus signs at either end, for adjusting speakerphone, ringer, handset and headset volumes. To the left of this are three translucent buttons marked respectively with, a barred microphone, headset and loudspeaker symbols for mute, headset select or speakerphone select. These three illuminate, in red, amber or green, to show status, when active.
Logging on to the phone's internal Web server is slightly disorienting as the pages appear with a Sipura Technology banner. Cisco Systems acquired Sipura Technology and merged it with its LinkSys division in April 2005; Sipura had previously been supplying VoIP technology to LinkSys. Web page passwords aren’t set in the phone's factory default state, so all the pages are directly accessible.
The LinkSys plug-top, auto-voltage, switching power supply uses clip-on mains adapter plugs to cope with international mains sockets, although only the UK three-pin adapter is supplied in the UK market.
Web setup is a little complicated because there are nine pages for the advanced admin section, and the places where information has to be entered aren’t grouped together. Fortunately, although the included user guide is only a single folded sheet of paper, it does give quite clear instructions on how to configure the SPA941 for a single account, using a Web browser. Two accounts are supported, and if required this can be expanded to four, with a firmware upgrade.
Below the LCD, a round, four-way, rocker button -- about the size of a 2p coin -- provides menu and display navigation. Above it, four ‘soft’ keys allow selection of whatever four ‘tabs’ the display is showing. Along the right edge of the LCD is a vertical row of four more, translucent, illuminated keys. These are always line/account select keys, which is a bit misleading because they line up with menu choices on the LCD, giving the impression they can be used to select the menu choices displayed. In practice, to make a selection the choice must be highlighted, using the navigation rocker, and then selected by pressing the indicated one of the four horizontal soft keys.
If you are prepared to pay the premium price, the LinkSys SPA941 is a more attractive VoIP phone than your average handset.