snom m3 DECT IP Phone

Snom m3 IP DECT Phone Review

From experience, one of the main areas of IP business communications that’s been a long time coming is “mobility”.

Well wait no longer - the Snom m3 has arrived. It’s a sophisticated IP DECT phone system that has an elegant stylish design with maximum flexibility and dependability which we’ve come to expect from snom phones. The snom m3 is true mobility.

First Impressions
The snom m3 has a good size colour display with impressive design. Also easy access to all those important functions which means - High end design + High end functionality

Rating:  Great!

What IS the snom m3?

The snom m3 is a cordless VoIP phone that uses the Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) protocol and is not a WiFi phone. There are many advantages to DECT technology including better call quality, battery life, and range. DECT technology also allows for multiple handsets to register to the same base station and the m3 takes full advantage of this.

Many business phone users are looking for VoIP devices that are not attached to their desktop and allow them to manage their business phone communications while moving around the workplace. In industries such as retail, warehousing and health care phone mobility is not a future consideration it is a must have feature.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just another cordless phone as unlike traditional corless phones, attached to a single base, each handset operates as an independant "line" with it’s own registration and functions like holding / resuming calls and call forwarding via SIP. In some cases you may want a single extension to ring on multiple devices, just like a standard cordless phone, for other situations you want each handset to have it’s own extension.

M3 GUIOther important functions relevant to the business community like three-party conferences, polyphonic ringtones, and up to 8 different SIP registrations on each handset are accessible from the easy-to-use, well laid-out graphical user interface which make the snom m3 an efficient mobile tool rather than just a new toy.

Main Features

  • Display: 128 x 128 pixels, 65536 colors, backlit
  • Li-Ion battery pack for 8 hours of calls or 100 hours standby
  • Range: 50 meters indoors, 100 meters outdoors
  • 12 numerical keys, 5 navigation keys, 2 function keys
  • Speakerphone on mobile handset
  • Polyphonic ringtones
  • Automatic registration of handset
  • Separate charging cradle for handset
  • 8 handsets per base station
  • 8 SIP registrations with different servers/registrars
  • Up to 3 concurrent calls per base station
  • Three-way conference
  • Remote setup, password protection
  • Open DECT GAP standard

Setup

Setup of the snom m3 is fairly simple as there isn’t anything to connect except the ethernet and power cables. Once connected and turned on, simply press the volume up control on the handset and the current IP address, of the base station, is displayed. Start up your favourite browser and navigate to the IP of the base station and commence setting up the base to connect to your IP PBX in much the same as any other SIP device. The thing that is different about the m3 is that it can support up to eight SIP registrations (extensions) and for each handset you can specifiy which registration rings which handset and what SIP registration to use for outbound calls on each handset.

Usage

If you care to ignore the fact that the snom m3 sports a 128 x 128 pixel color LCD display, Lithium Ion battery, full duplex speakerphone, 3 concurrent calls per base station, three-way conference calling, and a range of headset options...

Then, there is not that much different about the snom m3 than any other cordless phone on the market in terms of how it works, it is after all still a phone. It makes and receives phone calls and does it well but is it any better than other cordless phones?

The two most common types of cordless phones used for VoIP are analog cordless phones attached to an ATA or a WiFi VoIP phone connecting via your wireless router. Since that is the market the m3 is competing in, let’s use that as the comparision.

Frequency Range

There are three standard frequency ranges used for analog cordless phones. The 5.8GHz (ISM bands) range is common amongst the up-market models and tends to produce a good sound quality thanks to technologies like DSS. By far the most common range is the 2.4GHz which is commonly referred to as WDECT. Unfortunately this is the same frequency as the standard WiFi range used in most home wireless networks. It is also susceptible to interference from micro wave ovens. The DECT standard uses either 1.8GHz or 1.9GHz depending on your location. (Note: the original 900MHz frequency is not generally used in Australia any more)

Distance

Using a decent WDECT cordless phone should enable your to walk out the front door and up the drive before you start to lose the signal. A Wifi phone will get you about another 10 metres or so before it starts dropping out. A 5.8GHz cordless handset often has problems in a large (and/or solid brick) home reaching the door. The snom m3 with the full DECT implementation will get you much further. As far as range goes, the snom m3 is a clear winner.

Battery Life

WiFi was never designed for the preservation of battery life and as a result is absolutely horrendous when it comes to cordless phones. The main reason is that there is no real “standby mode” so the radio is at full power all the time. The m3 handset can go without a charge for 4 to 7 days depending on usage. Again, the m3 is a clear winner.

Address Boook

The snom m3 has a generous address book with a maximum of 170 entries. Usually the cheaper cordless phones offer 10 or 20 with the most I have seen is 50. Not only does the snom hold the most entries, but it also allows you to upload addresses in a CSV file. Clearly this is a big advantage if you want to manage a large number of phone numbers.

Audio Quality

The snom m3 supports the most common VoIP codecs, including G.711u (PCMU), G.711a (PCMA), G.729ab, and iLBC. G.711 is the standard used by traditional phone systems and it features the best voice quality at the expense of more bandwidth used (90kbs), which isn’t ideal for some ADSL plans that only allow 128kbs upstream. Fortunately, the snom m3 supports G.729a which only use 30kbps at a slight loss of voice quality. iLBC (Internet Low Bitrate Codec), although not as widely supported, is designed for narrow band speech and has a higher robustness in dealing with packet loss than G.711 and even G.729. It also has a higher audio frequency range than G.729a. So it’s great that snom included iLBC as a choice.

What are the Cons?

The m3 is not perfect and has been improved, via firmware upgrades, since it originally appeared on the market. While I am more than happy with quality of the the calls and speakerphone their does seem to be some more work needed to provide the same range of features as snom’s new 8 series desktop IP phones. If there is one feature I think is really a shame that the m3 doesn’t have, its Power over Ethernet for the base. With PoE support it would be easier to place the base station into a place that provides optimum coverage without having to run power. The documentation is also a bit limited at this point. It’s adequate if you understand SIP but more information could be provided in places.

Results

Overall Rating For just over $320 you get a base station and one handset. Additional handsets currently cost around $200 each so after you put two or more handsets onto the system the price is around the same as a quality desktop version. The call quality is good, the speakerphone works well, the range is terrific and the battery life is much better than most. Sure it could use some refinements but overall its a really solid device with a good set of features. The m3 may have some faults but, overall, the pros outweigh the cons enough that I would recommend this phone to anyone looking for a truely mobile VoIP phone solution.


Price: Base unit + Handset $329.95

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Additional Handsets $197.95

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IP DECT Repeater $227.95

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