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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Of course, support for the common G.711a/u codec is a given.
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.
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.
All of the handsets have a dedicated button to lock & unlock the keypad. This safeguards you against pocket-dialing the phone.
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.
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.