The Gigaset Family of SIP/DECT Handsets For North America in 2010

Gigaset Communications reintroduced their line of SIP/DECT cordless phones into the North American market at CES in January of 2009. It wasn’t until a few months later that I received a couple of sample systems; the A580IP and S675IP. After actually using it for several months I reviewed the entry level A580IP system in July, and we have since been using it as our primary home phone.

One of the great things about the Gigaset phones is the way you can mix a variety of handsets against a single DECT base. The basic systems are complete systems, meaning that each includes one DECT base and one cordless handset. Beyond that you can add up to five more handsets, and they don’t need to be the same model.

The handsets that we’ve tried include the following: (in order from entry-level to advanced)

  • A58H entry level handset (2009)
  • C59H middle level handset (2010)
  • S67H middle level handset (2009)
  • S79H middle level handset (2010)
  • SL78H high-end handset (2009)

With five different models in-house the obvious thing to do is a little comparative description of the entire family. This is the first in a short series of posts that will describe each of the various Gigaset handsets. The idea is to help you understand the differences between the models, but not drown you in excessive minutiae.

In terms of features, the two models introduced in 2010 (C59H & S79H) fit neatly between the three handsets originally introduced in 2009.

It helps to understand that some functionality is built into the rather simple looking DECT base, while other features are implemented in the handsets themselves. For example, voice mail capability is a aspect of the S675IP base and not found in the A580IP system. No matter which handsets you pair with an A580IP you will not have local voice mail.

Gigaset S675IP Base - three views

In contrast, the S67H and better handsets provide a MIDI-like music-on-hold capability. These goofy little melodies are played by the handset when you invoke some function that puts an active call on hold momentarily. you won’t find any setting in the DECT base to disable this function. However, the menu on the handset itself allows you to turn it off/on as you wish.

In many cases core functions, like SIP Provider setup, may be accessed via the web GUI for the DECT base or from the menu tree on the handset. Often using the web GUI is more straightforward, but the fact that these things can be done from the handset means that someone can perform basic setup even without using a computer..

Turning our attention to the various handsets, let’s start by examining some features that all of the handsets have in common.

Battery Life

Battery life is one area where DECT systems triumph over other systems, and the Gigasets are no exception. Their battery life can only be described as “outstanding.” With support for >12 hours of talk time or >180 hours of standby on a single charge any of the Gigaset handsets will likely outlast your ability to carry on conversation.

Cordless Range

My experience with DECT systems is that they dramatically outperform Wifi handset when it comes to issues of range. I’ve experimented with my A580IP by walking down the street and I can easily get 80 yards away without any loss of call quality. One base, when centrally located easily covers our entire property, which is 7500 square feet.

Oh, and by the way, It’s possible to add a DECT repeater to extend the range of your system even further. Gigaset is not offering one in the US, but this one is rumored to to work with Gigaset handsets.

Contact Lists

Speaking of contact lists….all of the Gigaset handsets provide internal contact lists that can be provisioned by uploading a VCF file. Some models support 150 contact entries, while the top-of-the-line SL78H supports 500 contacts. They can also export their current contact list and copy contacts between handsets.

Codec Support

All of the Gigasets support G.722 based wideband calling over IP. Gigaset calls this HDSP, but that’s just marketing speak. Across the entire range of handsets audio performance is uniformly good. The microphone and the earpiece do a good job of supporting the wideband call path. The phones sounds very good when used in a traditional manner…that is, held to the head.

All of the Gigasets also support the use of the G.729a low-bit rate codec. This can be very useful if you are on a bandwidth limited DSL service. G.729a is the most widely acceptable reduced bit rate codec, providing reasonably good call quality at around 24 kbps including packet overhead.

They also support the less-commonly used G.726 codec. Sometimes known by the generic term ADPCM, G.726 is a moderate bitrate codec requiring between 16 and 40 kbps.

Of course, support for the common G.711a/u codec is a given.

Speakerphone

All of the handsets have a built-in, full-duplex speakerphone. This I find to be of limited value. It sounds decent if you’re in a quiet room. I find it less than useful when there’s significant background noise. For example, my wife likes to use the speakerphone to call me when I’m traveling, and she always has a TV on in the room. I always have to ask her to turn it down, and she always thinks that I’m a crank. (That may be true, but it’s completely irrelevant!)

The issue with the speakerphone is the microphone. When in speakerphone mode all it can do is vary the gain to compensate for the distance to the voice. The mic pickup pattern is not omnidirectional, leaving you open to turning the phone the “wrong way.” Also, I don’t think that there’s any effort at background noise suppression, which would be helpful.

I accept that the speakerphone is good as an occasional use convenience feature. I have been told that many people find it very handy. I merely wish that it could be defeated in software to keep my wife from using it all the time.

Alarm Clock

All of the Gigaset handsets provide a basic alarm clock function. The handsets can be set to ring automatically at one particular time of day. The ring type for the alarm clock can be set to be different from an incoming call.

Keypad Lock

All of the handsets have a dedicated button to lock & unlock the keypad. This safeguards you against pocket-dialing the phone.

Ringer Defeat

All of the handsets have a dedicated button to turn off/on the ringer, making it a simple matter to ensure that you’re not disturbed  by unwanted calls.

Dialing By Number vs SIP URI

Despite the fact that the Gigasets can make wideband calls over IP, none of the Gigaset handsets support dialing by way of alphanumeric SIP URI. They support only numeric dialing. This is somewhat to be expected given the traditional form factor and keypad. However, I think that it would be great if the firmware allowed for the use of SIP URI within the contact lists.

Gigaset.Net

Every complete Gigaset system sold includes an account with their Gigaset.Net SIP registrar. That means that any two Gigaset systems can call each other using a numeric Gigaset ID number. This is very handy if you want to gift a Gigaset to someone in your family. They don’t need to setup anything. Just plug the base into their home network and locate the Gigaset account ID. The phone is automatically set to register with Gigaset.Net and start making calls.

Next week in part 2 I’ll start going through the handsets, giving a brief description of each model’s strengths and weaknesses.

  • Any chance you could address headset use in a future installment? Particularly, are there any over the ear headsets you know of that work with these phones that have the wideband range for HD Voice? I need portability, headset, AND G.722… Thanks!

    • John Walshaw

      You could use a dedicated DECT headset (e.g. GN9330) connected to a SIP desk phone. The audio quality is obviously the same as a wired headset. If you do the research ahead of time you can also identify an EHS (electronic hook switch) that is compatible with the specific SIP desk phone you choose. This will enable you to use the headset to answer and hang-up on calls. I do not know if Gigaset offer a deskphone that integrates with their DECT base (i.e. centralized accounts). The GN9530 adds an additional feature to the GN9330 and can also be connected via USB to a computer. The computer sees it as a sound card and at the touch of a button, the headset switches to the computer, i.e. doubles as a skype headset.

    • This is definitely part of my plans. I routinely use a couple of wired headsets with the middle model handsets. I’ve also used a Bluetooth headset with the SL78H handset, but that BT implementation doesn’t support wideband audio.

  • Shamus

    Is it still the case that you can only get the S675IP SIP base bundled with the A58H? It would be great if you could buy it separately and then pick & choose which handset(s) to add to the bundle.

    • When you buy the initial system you buy the base and one handset. The S675IP comes with an S67H handset. The A580IP system comes with an A58H handset. The fundamental difference between the two, from the perspective of the base, is local voicemail. Once you have that base system you can add other models of handset as you desire. The bases are not sold on their own.

      • Shamus

        Does that mean there is a S79H and a SL78H system that includes a handset and IP-enabled base? I have not see either of these in any online store…

        • No. They are not offered in the US with an IP capable base. They are only offered as expansion handsets.

          You may see them offered with a base elsewhere. In those cases the base only has POTS capability. No network connection.

          Such questions suggest bring to mind some things that might make a good extra section for this series.

          • Shamus

            That is too bad… I don’t want to buy a base with a handset I’d replace (your review depending, of course ;-)). Not sure if you have any contacts at Gigaset, but it would be great if they did offer the IP-enabled base separately and allowed customers to mix & match.

            … please!

          • I deal with a contact at Gigaset US, but even they are a subsidiary of a larger company. Some policies are not so easily changed, especially when they’ve been doing things that way in the rest of the world for many years.

    • When you buy the initial system you buy the base and one handset. The S675IP comes with an S67H handset. The A580IP system comes with an A58H handset. The fundamental difference between the two, from the perspective of the base, is local voicemail. Once you have that base system you can add other models of handset as you desire. The bases are not sold on their own.mailto:shamus@srask.ca

  • Marc Brunelle

    I’ve been watching the development of the Gigaset IP phones for a couple of years, from before DECT was available in North America, and recently have bought a S675IP, thinking: finally I’ll get rid of the ATA. However I was quickly disappointed with the phone. The hardware is nice, but there are irritants at the software level that, if it’s anything like my other digital gadgets, will never get fixed. The main thing: it is not loud enough. Maybe I’ve got wax in my ears, but with the settings on the web configuration page and on the handset both at max, I’m constantly pushing the phone against my head, or I use it in speakerphone mode. Also it is slow, and if you dial quickly it will miss digits. By comparison, my really cheap uniden DECT phone behaves perfectly, is plenty loud but it is not GAP and will not interoperate with the Gigaset base. I’m not giving up though, I’m looking for a cheap GAP compatible non-Siemens handset. I came to this page before I bought the S675IP and I thought I’d share my experience.

    • Are you running the latest firmware? There is a setting in there to adjust the output volume for VoIP calls. It’s only two position, but I find that I need it set to high. Even so I have the S67H handsets turned up to maximum volume all the time. However, the Gigasets are actually better than some other systems that I’ve used over the years.

      I do agree that the S67H is slow to respond to keypresses. Some of the other models are much more responsive. This all part of the reason for the series of posts, to highlight the differences between the various models.

    • Gigaset_Man

      Mark, can I send you a different model handset to try out? And let me know if you notice a difference in volume level for the earpiece?

  • John Kold

    I’m getting the impression that the newer handset, S79H is actually available with a base: then sold as S795. At least the pictures seem ti indicate that. It the one with a big base and handset dock all-in-one.

    Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    • You are not wrong…but the “S795” is NOT indicated as “S795IP”…and so NOT IP capable.

  • gosiemens

    Do you know if the base stations are the same for all models?
    Now I have A580IP.
    Is that possible I can get all functionalities of A685IP from purchasing S68H? or they are just compatible in the DECT aspect?

    • I think that this post and the earlier review both spelled that out quite clearly. The only feature that is purely an aspect of the base is local voice mail. You can add expansion handset and realize all the feature of that handset, but you will not add that voicemail capability as it resides in the S675IP base unit.

  • Scott

    Hi,

    Excellent write up! However you mention at the end of the post “next week in part 2….”, yet I can’t seem to find part 2 on your blog? Have you managed to get round to doing this bit yet, or am I just being blind? 😉

    Cheers

    • I was delayed a few days. I wanted to shoot some supportive video but was forced into a business trip this week. It should be ready to go some time in the next day or two. Parts 3-5 are already in progress.

    • Just posted part two Friday. There’s a link at the bottom of part 1.

      • Scott

        Great, thanks! I’m heading over the read part 2 now….

  • Scott

    I’m based in the UK and trying to decide between the S685IP and the C475IP. Your articles has been useful, but wondered if you could help me out on a couple of issues please 🙂

    You say that all the gigasets support wideband audio, but apparently according to Gigaset.com only the S685 supports wideband?

    On my current (old dect) phone, you have the ability the use different ringtones for different groups. This is handy to quickly identify if it’s someone you don’t really want to speak to! I see you can assign different melodies to ‘VIP’ groups but this only seems to be available on the S685?

    Can you record/upload your own ringtones do you know?

    Does the phonebook on the S685 really only display names in the Surname, Firstname format? This won’t go down well if there is no way to have the much more preferred Firstname, Surname usual format?

    Cheers 🙂

    • Q: You say that all the gigasets support wideband audio, but apparently according to Gigaset.com only the S685 supports wideband?

      A: There are many models of Gigaset that support wideband, aka HDVoice, aka HDSP. All of the models that I have used certainly do. That includes: A58H, C59H, S67H, S68H and S79H, SL78H. Consider that their own web site may not be absolutely up to date. As the C475 is not offered in the US I cannot speak to the capabilities of that model.

      Q: I see you can assign different melodies to ‘VIP’ groups but this only seems to be available on the S685?

      A: I see this capability on the C59H, S67H, S79H and SL78H that are currently on my desk.

      Q: Can you record/upload your own ringtones do you know?

      A: Only those models that support USB or Bluetooth connection to the Gigaset Quicksync software allow user created ring tones.

      Q: Does the phonebook on the S685 really only display names in the Surname, Firstname format?

      A: It’s trivially simple to get around this. Just put the the entire name into the surname field. Of course that means that it will be sorted by first name.

      • Scott

        Thanks for the information, very useful. Whilst researching these phones, I spoke to someone who said that Siemens were going to be bringing out a new range of ip phones. Apparently you will be able to just buy the base only, and then choose which handsets to use since they will be compatible with all bases. If some new range is coming out, I don’t want to buying old tech!

        I was also pointed in the direction of the Gigaset blog wiki, but that and http://www.gigaset-blog.com seem to no longer work? Do you (or your Siemens contact) know whats going on?

        Thanks

  • John G

    Any update on the audio level of the handsets? I find it very disappointing. What other options are out there for a 5 handset system?

  • Ian H

    Firstly congratulations on an excellent site/blog. I’ve been scouring the various Siemens Gigaset websites (gigaset.com/uk, gigaset.net) and getting somewhat confused.

    I already have a ‘Gigaset S685 IP’ with a single handset and after a long time considering a wide range of other SOHO telephony solutions (CUCM Express, Trixbox etc) have decided to simplify things somewhat. Basically I’ve decided life’s to short to mess about (too much) with this stuff at home since it’s not too far removed from what I do in my day job, albeit with systems having 1000+ phones 🙂

    So I wandered onto the gigaset.com/uk website (being UK based) to see what the latest Gigaset IP based systems looked like (since I bought the ‘S685 IP’ ages ago).

    I was somewhat perplexed to find that the the only “Internet Phones” that have listed are an IP phone (the ‘DE380 IP R’) and the ‘A580 IP’.

    Next I happened upon the gigaset.net website and that show more choices (this time called “NextG Internet Phones”), as follows:

    * S685 IP
    * N300 IP / N300A IP
    * C610 IP / C610A IP
    * C590 IP / C595 IP
    * C470 IP / C475 IP
    * A580 IP

    i also spoke to the customer service team and they told me that there would be no new firmware updates produced for either the ‘S685 IP’ or the ‘A580 IP’, so I’d rather go for a more current model.

    So now I’m not really sure what to do? I guess I either stick with my existing S685 IP and add handsets (probably the S79H based on your excellent handset review, thanks), alternatively I start a-fresh.

    The problem seems to be that all of these models seem to be very long-in-the-tooth and also feature-wise there doesn’t seem to me too much between them. For example I can’t see any differences between the ‘C595 IP’ and the ‘C610A IP’. Also I find the Gigaset comparison option on their website of limited use and somewhat contradictory at times and the compatibility feature on the website seems to be pretty limited too.

    The only feature I can find that I don’t think my S685 IP has is “speech transmission encryption” (which seems to be available on some of the later models).

    Any comments/thoughts appreciated.

    Cheers Ian

    • Ian,

      In may respects we are like you, we have an A580IP with three handsets as our primary household phone. It has served us well for two years, although the handsets are very basic.

      As I have said elsewhere, the S79H is IMHO the best of the handsets. I prefer it to the S67H simply because it of the faster hardware platform. I alo like the volume buttons on the side of the handset. It’s simply better.

      That said, the C610A IP is truly the new entry level. We have one sample from Gigaset and it’s very good. That the software development will be ongoing for that platform may eventually yield some benefits. I’ll have more to say about the C610A IP eventually.

      I completely understand that software development ceases when hardware resources are consumed. However, if you are happy with the A580IP or S675IP then what does it matter that there is no further development? If it truly addresses your needs then further firmware seems unnecessary.

      We are in fact transitioning to the C610A IP system. That is, once I have another couple of C61H handsets. Not because we need to, but because we can.

      I’m curious about the N300 as this is not offered in North America. It seems like a kind of piece-by-piece approach to the systems, which would be most welcome. The fact that some handsets are only sold with analog-only systems seems rather arbitrary. I will inquire with Gigaset about this. Also whether the N300 base is the same one offered with the C610A IP system.

      • Ian H

        Thanks for your thoughts.

        Regarding the different models capabilities it seems that there’s a wide range of systems which use the same firmware. I had a look at the release notes (which show the latest/recent release and back through the previous releases). The C470 IP, C475 IP, S675 IP & S685 IP are all referenced in the same release notes and the A580 IP has separate release notes, but with identical release versions and comments as the others.

        Unfortunately I can’t find any release notes for the N300 IP / N300A IP models or the C5xx IP, C6xx IP ones to do any comparisons.

        As to the N300 IP & N300A IP models, yes I wonder whether that’s going to be the way forward, i.e. buy the base station and whatever phones you need.

        It’d be useful if you can get any viewpoint from Gigaset.

        • I have posed the question to my contact in their Dallas TX US HQ. He’s a busy guy so it may take a few days to get an answer.

          They usually offer a variety of products based upon the same reference hardware platform, making arbitrary feature distinctions to reach various pricing targets. It seems that the hardware underlying the S67H was in fact maxed out, so that further development can only occur on a newer device. That being the C610A IP.

          Even so, if you have the S675IP base then you could add S79H handsets and have a very functional installation. But if you would like to take advantage of using SIP URIs in the address book you’ll need the N300 or C610IP.

          • Ian H

            Thanks again.

            Regarding the SIP URI phonebook functionality on the N300/C610IP I wasn’t aware of that, thanks.

            One thing I have been wondering is whether it’s possible to make use of the online phone directory option? What I mean is use that functionality to set up some sort of local consolidated phone directory that all phones use rather than the hassle of manually keeping the individual phonebooks on the separate handsets synced. I haven’t investigated further, but I assume the URL/address/service destination used by the system isn’t configurable?

          • Ian H

            Any news from Gigaset HQ 🙂

          • No, not yet. That is unusual. I wonder if my contact is travelling? I’ll give him a call.

          • Ian H

            Thanks

          • He proved unreachable, but I’ll keep trying.

          • Ian H

            Thanks again.

            I think I have just about settled on an N300A IP with multiple S79H handsets.

            I haven’t got much choice (here in the UK) really, the N300A IP is the only base station on offer. Anyway as far as I can tell it seems to mirror the functionality of the C610A IP (rather than the C595 IP).

            As to the handset choice I was pondering the C610H vs the S79H, but I think the S79H is the better option?

            Cheers Ian

          • Yes, of all the handsets I still prefer the S79H.

          • stroom

            Hi,

            I have got the N300A IP, but cannot figure out how to call to sip using SIP URI.
            You can enter an email address/URI in the address book, but I do not know how to use this to dial. Any hint? I am using the C610H handset.

            ” But if you would like to take advantage of using SIP URIs in the address book you’ll need the N300 or C610IP. “

          • There was another post where I highlighted the ability to dial by SIP URI on my C610A.

            http://www.mgraves.org/2011/08/the-gigaset-c610a-dialing-by-sip-uri/

            Of course, in order to do this your ITSP must support such activity. If they don’t you can always register a free account with SIP2SIP.INFO or GetOnSIP.com.

  • stroom

    Thank you for pointing me to this post.
    I succeeded now: I had to change to provider who support calling to sip uri, (and had to disable the area code prefix when dialing).
    Thanks!