There are plenty of feature-laden and expensive IP phones on the market, many with well-known brand names. But when you need a good, solid phone with all the bells and whistles but at a lower price—one that can fill a need for many small systems—the new Snom 715 deserves a nice, long look.
For odd installation locations, the PoE (Power over Ethernet) feature means you can power the phone from the router rather than adding an electrical outlet as well as your Ethernet cable. And the full Gigabit pass-through switch means when you replace an older analog phone with this one, you can connect the Ethernet cable from the wall to the phone, then add patch cable to the computer. This prevents the expense of running a new Ethernet cable to that location. The Snom 715 saves you money in either case.
Installation and Configuration
Each IP phone works like a little computer and includes an IP address, operating system (usually some well-hidden version of Linux), configuration tables with 100-plus variables, memory, and a Web interface to manage it all. While this may sound like way too much tech just to make a phone call, IP phones can do so much more today than old analog phones it seems there should be a new name—maybe PhonePlus or TurboPhone. Cheesy as those names are, they would better explain how a phone that looks an awful lot like an old phone can do so many new things.
And just like an old phone, the Snom 715 has a handset, keypad numbers to push, special keys for special functions, and a display. The nickel-size round cursor control announces this is a new phone.
Setting up the phone requires attaching the stand, the handset, and either the power supply and Ethernet cable or just the network cable if the phone uses PoE. Plug everything in and the phone will boot, including giving Linux-type messages such as “Mounting File System.” If DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) on your network functions properly, the phone will grab an open IP address and you can take the next steps. If there is no DHCP, you can set the IP address through the phone’s keypad, along with the netmask, IP gateway, and DNS server. Once your phone connects to the network, put its IP address in your browser address line and configure using software rather than keypad presses.
Opening up a Web portal on the phone may scare you if you’ve never configured an IP phone before. Good news: Almost all the defaults work fine as they are. Better news: After a bit of configuration experience, this will be easier than checking BIOS on a PC.
Most of the action focuses on setting up phone lines. In this case, configuring Line 1 (called Identity 1 by Snom) requires information you will get from the VoIP service controlling the phone. You choose “Display Name,” but it is generally the name of the user. “Account” is the direct phone number for the phone, along with a password. Your VoIP provider will give you the “Registrar” and “Outbound Proxy” info—in this case, sip.ringcentral.com:5060 and sip.10.ringcentral.com:5090.
Notice the full range of other choices. Want to test other ringtones? The Snom 715 offers 10, along with silent and “custom” that you can initiate after uploading your own melody. This is per handset so you can make every phone as wildly different as you can stand. Want to “encourage” employees? You can put whatever you want in the “Display text for idle screen” field. If it’s too long, it will scroll.
If SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) is new territory, the SIP tab on the line configuration page may give you pause. However, the image above shows 35 radio buttons or text fields to configure, but we didn’t need to touch any of them to make the phone work with RingCentral. If your VoIP provider of choice needs something different to connect properly, here’s the main screen you’ll be using.
Basic office desktop phones tend to become invisible to the user but need to withstand a fair amount of use and abuse (slamming down a handset can be so satisfying). Since the display backlighting goes off after about 15 seconds of non-use, the phone does a good job of staying pleasantly unobtrusive until needed. When you get a call or someone leaves a message, however, the red light in the upper-right corner of the phone, measuring 1-inch square, lights up. This is not unobtrusive. You will know you have a message waiting when you see this light, often from across the room.
When the phone rings on the main number, just pick up the handset and answer, or hit the speaker button. Have a headset? Hit the headset button. Making a call? Pick up the handset, dial the number, and hit the check button to the left of the round silver cursor to put the call through.
Voices sound better through this phone than normal land lines, and far better than mobile phones. Back in the day, Ma Bell restricted the voice frequency range for technical reasons. VoIP-to-VoIP calls don’t have that frequency bottleneck, so they sound much clearer.
The way you retrieve voicemail depends on the service provider, but the Snom 715 has a “Message” button to start the process when it’s configured with your provider. The five programmable keys down the side can be configured as lines (up to four on the Snom 715), or can forward calls, act as a multipager or intercom, and even do Push2Talk, among many other things. Again, this flexibility makes the Snom 715 handy as a phone for many systems.
The Snom 715 looks and acts like a solid desktop phone. Build quality is good, flexibility of the features and details of the phone are many, and the Web interface presents the multitude of options as clearly and logically as you can ask for. Plus, the PoE makes it a handy option for certain location issues, such as lack of AC power, and the Ethernet pass-through with a Gigabit switch means connecting your computer to the same line as your phone won’t require new cabling nor slow down the PC.
It’s not flashy but it is flexible, and one of many phones in the Snom line. Put this on your customer’s desk and you’ll stay within the company’s budget while employees communicate easily and with no limitations.
PRICE, HARDWARE, AND FUNCTIONS
Retail price $139
Street price $99-$120
Phone Hardware Details (courtesy of Snom)
- Gigabit switch
- USB port
- 4-line backlit B/W display
- 4 identities (lines)
- 5 function keys with LEDs, 4 context-sensitive function keys
- Wideband HD audio
- Power over Ethernet (PoE)
- WLAN ready
- XML Mini-browser
Phone functions (courtesy of Snom)
- 4 identities/accounts
- Directory with 1,000 contact entries
- Import/export of directory
- Speed and URL dialing
- Local dial plan
- Automatic redial on busy
- Caller identification
- Call waiting, blocking, and forwarding
- Lists of missed, received, and dialed calls
- Hold and music on hold
- Handling of up to 4 simultaneous calls
- 3-way conference on the phone
- Unified communications ready