snom m3 - DECT VoIP phone review

There are many VoIP offerings available for business. Does the DECT based snom m3 offer enough to stand out from the crowd?

There's flexibility here as well as sheer volume of features. Log into the base station, which simply connects to any available Ethernet port and obtains an IP address via DHCP (manual configuration will be needed in companies where its default ports are blocked), and a whole world of options is revealed. Each service has a number of rules associated with it: you can set up call forwarding per service, and you can also designate which handsets receive calls from particular accounts. The latter feature allows each handset to have not only its own individual extension, but also to receive calls from a common number especially useful in a helpdesk environment, for example, where calls from department and client enquiries can be handled on one, simple piece of hardware.

In fact the web-based administration pages form the heart of the M3, with a host of management options available. You can upload contacts in CSV format to all of your handsets and phonebooks can be private or common to all units and you can give each handset a unique name which is displayed by phones supporting CLI when you make outgoing calls.

The snom also supports a number of different voice codecs. By default the best quality G.771 (PCMU/PCMA) are selected, but you can also choose between the lower bitrate iLBC or G729AB ideal, albeit with a reduction in quality, if you're utilising an ADSL connection with limited upstream bandwidth.

But it doesn't end there. Because the m3 uses DECT rather than Wi-Fi, as with many other cordless VoIP phones do, it boasts several key advantages. Battery life is one, with the lithium ion cell in the m3 lasting 8 hours for calls and 100 hours on standby. Reliability is another. Since the phone doesn't need to negotiate with a router for an IP address it just works, exactly as an office phone should, with none of the niggles you'd expect of a Wi-Fi device.

Call quality is superb. Voices sounded clear and distortion free on the m3 handset and, at the other end the experience was the same our test subject had no idea we were calling on anything other than a standard landline. The speakerphone was good too and, lest we forget, there are all the usual features you expect of a good office phone conference calling for up to three participants, call forwarding/transfer, music on hold and call hold and switching.

In fact, the snom m3, though not particularly pretty, turns out to be a highly capable product. It's light and easy to use, but most importantly it's stacked with features, with support for eight SIP accounts, three concurrent calls and all manner of administration features via the base station's embedded web pages. The only caveat is that, at 139, it's not the cheapest VoIP phone around. But if you're after a serious product for serious business use, its broad feature set makes it worth the extra cost.

Verdict

Not pretty or particularly cheap, the snom m3 is nevertheless an extremely competent business VoIP phone. It's packed with features administrators will appreciate and boasts good call quality to boot.

Display: 128 x 128 pixels, 65536 colours, backlit Battery: lithium ion; 8hrs talktime, 100hrs standby Range: 50m indoors, 100m outdoors 8 handsets per base station 8 SIP registrations with different servers/registrars Up to 3 concurrent calls per base station 3-way conference calls Remote setup, password protection Open DECT GAP standard Speakerphone Polyphonic ringtones

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