All the VoIP modem routers in this test performed well. In fact, we found that overall voice quality was on par with what you would expect from a standard telephone line. Even when we loaded up the internet connection with simultaneous data transfers, to simulate heavy internet use at the same time as making voice calls, the voice quality was largely unchanged.
This is due to the Quality of Service feature that reserves sufficient bandwidth for voice traffic so that even in the case of heavy internet usage, voice quality doesn’t suffer. For this reason, in the final analysis we didn’t score the VoIP units we tested for performance, as every unit provided quality indistinguishable from a standard landline.
While the performance results were good, ease of setup and use for these units didn’t fare quite so well, and getting some models to work was a lot harder than with others.
Six modem routers were found to be especially easy to set up and use: the Belkin, Billion, Draytek, Dynalink, Netgear and the Open Networks. The Netgear deserves a special mention as it was the easiest to set up and use, overall. Colour-coded connection ports at the rear of the unit made it a simple matter to plug the unit in correctly.
Setting up the VoIP connection for the Belkin was also easy. You have a choice of doing it semi-automatically or manually. If you’re new to VoIP, the setup wizard is the way to go, but experienced users can navigate directly through the web browser-based interface to the advanced settings and set up the connection manually. For most people, the wizard-based setup would be fine.
Setting up the QoS was also simple, being enabled with just one click and configured by entering just three settings in the interface. The Netgear, Billion and the Open Networks VoIP modem routers were also very easy to set up regardless of the service provider. The Billion and Open Networks were also the lowest priced, making them particularly good value for money.
Ease of use
For day-to-day operations the Netgear was found to have the easiest software interface to use. Interestingly, though it lacked a visible QoS feature in the interface, its voice quality was on par with the others which implies the feature is always on. As with the Netgear model the Belkin also had colour-coded connections at the rear that made it easy to hook up the hardware.
The layout of the software menu for the Netgear was also very easy to understand and use, as well as being quick to navigate. It allows the user to see all the main headings and sub-menu headings on the one page, as well as embedded help in a right-hand panel. The other models tested all used a menu layout that requires the user to navigate through other sections until the correct sub-menu is found, which can be quite time consuming unless you know the specific menu and sub-menu you are looking for.
Despite its excellent software interface, the Netgear didn’t come with printed manuals. Neither did the Dynalink. All the other routers came with a either printed quickstart guide, a manual, or both. The Belkin’s menu layout and configuration was the second best rated of this test, being easy to navigate and configure. However, the software reset option was buried within a sub-menu and relatively hard to find.
ADSL: Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line — allows data to be sent over existing copper telephone lines.
Codec: coder/decoder converts signals between analogue and digital formats.
POTS: Plain Old Telephone System — the standard telephone system used by most homes, also called PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network).
QoS: Quality of Service — guarantees a specified throughput level.
VoIP: Voice over Internet Protocol — enables use of the internet for transmission of telephone calls.