Vonage V-Portal VoIP Phone Adapter
At a Glance
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Enough helpful features to warrant its bargain price.
If you're an Internet-phone user, you may not pay much attention to the VoIP phone adapter, the nondescript gizmo (aka digital voice gateway) that links your home phone to your cable/DSL modem or router. Vonage aims to change that with its new V-Portal, a relatively flashy adapter with a built-in LCD screen that helps with installation, troubleshooting, and diagnostic issues. While most VoIP adapters are homely contraptions best hidden behind a printer or in a corner, the V-Portal--with a curvy orange stripe framing its control panel--at least makes an attempt to be fashion-forward. Okay, it's no iPhone, but Vonage gets an A for effort.
Available to new Vonage customers for a nominal $10 fee (after a $70 rebate), the V-Portal does some handy tricks. Its 2.5-inch monochrome LCD eases setup by suggesting fixes for common glitches--though not always accurately. In my tests, for instance, the V-Portal detected an "incorrect network setting" during setup. The LCD posted a message suggesting I unplug the power connector and then reinsert it; unfortunately, this didn't fix the problem, and I had to call Vonage for help in getting the V-Portal to work with our 2Wire DSL modem/wireless router.
The LCD's interface is easy to learn. Four buttons--up, down, back, and select--located below the screen make navigating the on-screen menus easy. V-Portal works with Caller ID and displays the phone number and (sometimes) the name of the person calling. This feature is convenient if your phone is tethered to the V-Portal, but less so if you use a wireless handset that's usually in another room. The call timer is convenient for attorneys and businesspeople who need to log phone times, and the voice-mail indicator shows when messages are waiting, though the latter feature is fairly common among phone adapters. The V-Portal has two phone ports, one for the main line and the other for an optional fax or second voice line. And since the V-Portal is also a single-port router, you can connect a computer or another networkable device to it.
If you plan to sign up for Vonage service, the V-Portal, for a mere ten bucks, is a worthy upgrade.