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Multimedia & VoIP Reviews

Introduction

Ooma Telo, Linx and HD2 handset

At a Glance
Product Ooma Telo, HD2 Handset, Linx and My Ooma Portal [Website]
Summary Updated hardware for Ooma VoIP service
Pros • One-time fee to get rid of phone bills
• DECT 6.0 works well and has good range
• Lots of nice features in My Ooma Portal
Cons • Inconsistent call quality to rural areas
• Contact sync is manual

A lot has changed in the world of Ooma since Craig Ellison's article on Ooma five years ago. Then, one of the key questions was whether Ooma was going to be around long enough for buyers to recoup the high up-front cost of its unique pay-for-the-hardware-and-call-all-you-want service.

Well, Ooma is still around and the hardware has really come down in price. Presently, the Ooma Telo base station can be had for $179; back then it was $399 and even $599.

Craig's excellent article provides great detail about how Ooma works. Rather than repeat the information provided there, I'll simply point you back to his article and focus on Ooma products as they stand today.

For testing purposes Ooma sent me a Telo base station ($179.99), HD2 handset ($59.99), and Linx POTS adapter ($49.99). Ooma's Buy portion of its site also lists the Telo/HD2 combo as $239.98. If you're sharp with math, you'll quickly see that buying the two together provides no financial incentive.

My intent was to set up all three devices and put them through their paces for several weeks to see how Ooma stood up against other VoIP solutions I've used, notably Vonage and Skype.

Setup

Setting up three devices could have been complicated, but it really wasn't. In fact, it might have been one of the easiest setups I've ever encountered, right down to the devices updating themselves upon registering with the base unit.

The first step in the registration process is taking the Activation Code on the back of the Ooma Telo and activating it online. During activation you are also guided through picking out a phone number, registering your 911 address, adding billling information and of course creating a My Ooma account. This took all of five minutes, with a lot of it spent trying to find the perfect phone number.

Step 1 of the Ooma Setup
Step 1 of the Ooma Setup

Next step in the process is connecting the Ooma Telo to your network. Like other VoIP solutions, one recommended configuration of Ooma is to have the Telo inserted between your modem and router. The Ooma documention mentions this will result in the best voice quality, as it allows Ooma to prioritize the phone calls over the network traffic. I don't like the idea of something in front of my router, so I chose Option B, which entailed simply plugging the Ooma "To Internet" port into my network switch. I plugged in the Telo and it initialized fine.

If I'd had a home phone I could have plugged it in to the back of the Telo at this point. However we don't, not really at least. We do have a Skype VoIP phone that I "integrated" in to the setup later, but the Telo's phone jack was left open.

From here I moved on to the HD2 handset. To be honest, this was the toughest part of the installation for two reasons. The first was that my documentation stated the Telo would "say" a 4-digit number, which I would then enter in to the handset. But the Telo never spoke the magic digits. When I pushed the button for registration, the two simply started communicating and registered automatically. This was a nice feature. Upon completion of registration, the handset's LED flashed orange indicating it was automatically updating the device's software.

The problem for me was the registration button on the Telo itself. The button isn't a physical button at all, but an icon on the continuous plastic Telo face. The image below shows Step 3 of the handset registration and the button on the Telo. Until the Telo started "speaking" I really had no indication that I'd pushed the "button" or not. It wasn't a big deal, I just didn't expect it.

Ooma HD2 handset registration showing button location
Ooma HD2 handset registration showing button location

It's important to note that you can't mix old and new handsets with the Telo. If you have an old handset and want to use the new HD2, you have to dial a special code to update the Telo software. Once updated, the HD2 will be registered and your old handset will no longer work. The good news is that the Telo base unit will support up to four wireless devices, including HD2 handsets and Linx adapters.

Speaking of the Linx, it is used to connect any telephony device, such as fax machines or normal phones, to the Ooma system. (In VoIP parlance, Linx is a POTS or FXS adapter.)

We use Skype for our home phone service and the Skype base unit allows for RJ11 connection, so I felt it was an obvious choice. I could have used any home phone if I had any.

Ooma Linx for wirelessly adding other telephony devices
Ooma Linx for wirelessly adding other telephony devices

Connecting the Linx was easy and I was impressed with the range. I had the base unit initially set up in my workshop, which is in an enclosed patio with an exterior wall separating it from the house. I installed the Linx across the house three walls away, including that exterior wall. It connected right up and started updating the device software. Once it finished updating, I connected the Skype base unit via the RJ11 jack and was ready to test.

If you are familiar with the Ooma Scout, the Linx is similar to it from the perspective that it extends Ooma to other portions of your home or business. Whereas the Scout was connected by phone wire, the Linx is connected by DECT 6.0 wireless technology. It also does not have all the voicemail and other buttons that the Scout had.

If you use an Ooma Linx, it counts towards the four device limit of the Telo. It also is incompatible with the original Telo handsets. With Ooma Premier the Linx can provide access to a second line as well. The Linx device is rather simple, yet it's a great idea and very versatile.

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