Vonage V-Portal full review

Introduced at CES 2008, the Vonage V-Portal is a digital voice adaptor and router with an LCD display.

If you're an internet-phone user, you may not pay much attention to the VoIP phone adaptor, 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 adaptor with a built-in LCD screen that helps with installation, troubleshooting, and diagnostic issues.

While most VoIP adaptors 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 fee, the Vonage V-Portal does some handy tricks. Its 2.5in monochrome LCD eases setup by suggesting fixes for common glitches - although not always accurately.

In our tests, for instance, the Vonage V-Portal detected an "incorrect network setting" during setup. The LCD posted a message suggesting we unplug the power connector and then reinsert it; unfortunately, this didn't fix the problem, and we 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 onscreen menus easy.

Vonage 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 voicemail indicator shows when messages are waiting, though the latter feature is fairly common among phone adaptors.

The Vonage 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 Vonage V-Portal, for a mere few quid, is a worthy upgrade.

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