snom M3 Review
Asterisk and other SIP-based IP communications platforms are making major inroads with businesses of all shapes and sizes. One of the under-served feature areas in SIP-based communications is “mobility”. Many business VoIP users are looking for SIP endpoint devices that are not tethered to the desktop, and allow them to manage their phone communications while on the go within the workplace environment. In industries such as retail, warehousing, and health care user mobility is not a future consideration when choosing an VoIP phone system platform– it is a must have.
Hitachi, Linksys, UTStarcom and other vendors have attempted to address the need for mobility by introducing wireless SIP phones that connect to the LAN via WiFi, typically 802.11g wireless protocol. There are many inherent limitations with the current generation of WiFi SIP handsets that have limited their proliferation within the business user marketplace. Ease of use is certainly a factor. WiFI SIP phones must be properly configured, and WiFi infrastructure setup is critical. DHCP can be problematic when crossing WiFi access, often leading to dropped calls. Battery life on WiFi phones is generally sub-par. Wireless VoIP devices have suffered from acknowledged technical issues, and therefore do not offer enough reliability for demanding business applications. Durability is also questionable on many WiFi SIP phones, making them generally unsuitable for use in a commercial workplace.
Founded in 1996, Snom Technology AG is a German firm that manufactures traditional SIP-based desktop IP phones that are a very popular choice for Asterisk users. They offer high build quality, a robust feature set and competitive price points that compete well with similar offerings from Polycom, Aastra and Linksys.
Snom has recently released the Snom M3 is accompanied by a DECT radio base station, which allows for the connection of up to eight handsets, and offers a signal range of 50 meters indoors and 300 meters outdoors. Snom also offers additional DECT repeaters to extend the range as necessary.
The Snom M3 sports a 128×128 pixel color LCD display, Lithium Ion battery offering a respectable eight hours of talk time and 100 hours of standby, and a full duplex speakerphone. The M3 supports three concurrent calls per base station as well, three-way conference calling, and a range of headset options.
Configuring the Snom M3 is fairly routine; just enter the IP address of your SIP VoIP server and the relevant extension settings. Press the volume up key to obtain the IP address of the built-in web server. The Snom M3 reportedly works well with Asterisk, Trixbox and Elastix.
The Snom M3 allows you to configure and assign up to eight different SIP accounts (identities), which will please users who leverage multiple VoIP providers.
One shortcoming I noted was that there is no means of importing contacts into the M3. Your contacts have to be manually added using the keypad on the phone, which is a pain if you have more than a handful of contacts.
Operating the M3 is intuitive….no different than manipulating a cell phone, and a convenient belt clip is included, as well as a desktop charging station.
The two distinct advantages I see with the Snom M3, versus an 802.11G WiFi SIP phone such as the UTStarcom F1000G or Linksys WIP330 are:
A – Battery Life – 8 hours of talk time is more than 4X greater than any WiFI SIP phone I have tested.
B – Setup and Ease of Use – Since there is no need to configure LAN settings, nor worries about DHCP and roaming, the Snom M3 comes darn close to being “plug and play”, versus “plug and pray” with similar WiFi based offerings.
I have a hard time recommending WiFi based SIP phones for anything other than residential use. I don’t think the technology currently meets the demands of the business user. In contrast, based upon my limited experience with the Snom M3, I would recommend it to business users seeking mobility options for their Asterisk, Trixbox or SIP PBX deployments.