Netcomm MyNetFone V-100

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Netcomm MyNetFone V-100
The V-100 combines solid technology and a service that's cheaper to run than competing VoIP services, and is highly recommended.

There's not much you can do with a VoIP box in terms of design. They're never going to be particularly sexy, and given the need to run three cables into them (power, ethernet and phone) they're always going to be something of a mess of cables. To the credit of Netcomm's designers, however, the V-100 is at least a mildly elegant looking silver box with a blue stripe running through the middle of it. Indicator lights are present at the front to display power, network and call status.

Installation of the V-100 follows the same basic principles of those of the Engin Voicebox, in that you've pretty much just got to line up all the cables to their correct destinations. Then, presuming your router is running as a DHCP server -- a reasonably safe assumption for most home connections, although not absolutely a given case -- you'll be ready to start getting dial tone.

The V-100 is initially tied into Laurel Stream's VoIP service, although it's possible to switch to any other VoIP provider with the included software. At the very least, however, you may as well exhaust the credit provided with the unit -- ours came with AU$10 of calls on a no-contract plan. In the consumer space, Laurel Stream also offer contract-based plans that will give you a real local number, although that's available in Sydney and Melbourne only.

Go for the no-contract, no monthly fee option and you'll be limited to a number that's only workable with other Laurel Stream customers, although the plus side of a VoIP to VoIP call is that it's totally free. Even on the free plan, you'll get a complimentary voicemail service, and if your phone already supports it, caller ID features. You can check out the current plan offerings here.

The main hub for the service also offers you real-time call billing, although we did hit one annoying factor here. The default password for the unit is located on the base of the V-100, and there's no facility to change it online. It's case sensitive, and not terribly memorable, either.

We tested the V-100 from a suburban Sydney home with an ASDL broadband connection. As with the Engin VoIP service, when not heavily using the broadband connection for other purposes, calls were crystal clear. Even when the service was in moderate use, we still got reasonable calls to mobile, STD and local numbers. Call quality is something that'll depend on the quality of your broadband service; cable customers, for example, should rarely be able to affect the quality of their calls at all.

There is one catch with VoIP services like Laurel Stream's, and it's to do with location services. If you need to dial a generic number for your local pizza joint -- or, more fundamentally, need to dial 000 -- then your location won't come through properly on the PSTN phone network. If you're using an ASDL connection, you've presumably still got a regular phone line for these services -- and one that won't go down in a power or ISP connectivity cut -- but those with cable or wireless internet access pondering VoIP as their sole phone line may want to carefully weigh up how important location based services are to them.

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With a highly competitive packaged offering that'll almost certainly force competitor Engin into lowering its prices somewhat, and voice quality that's as good as anyone could ask for, the Netcomm MyNetFone V-100 makes a compelling case for any moderate to heavy phone users.

Alex Kidman reports for CNET.com.au. Read more broadband articles here.

Netcomm MyNetFone V-100
Company: Netcomm
Price: AU$129
Phone: (02) 9424 2000

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