Needed: Reviews of SIP Hard Phones

Would you like/use a forum on this website which is dedicated to reviews of products for Asterisk?

  • Yes
  • No

0 voters

I am currently in the process of developing my Asterisk phone system, and I have been testing out soft phones and hard phones, and am finding some interesting quirks with the different devices that I have been testing. I am sure that I am reinventing the wheel with each test, other people have probably discovered all these issues before, so why isn’t there a central location, or even a forum board here solely for the purpose of reviewing the many different SIP devices?

For example, some people (myself included) find it really obnoxious that the Grandstream phones have their own cheesy music on hold that cannot be turned off. They also seem to require a barely functional workaround for paging and intercom purposes…

Some devices are incapable of implementing certain common Asterisk features, and I would really like to know that before I buy a dozen of them. Perhaps there are workarounds, but I don’t see a location dedicated to that sort of discussion.

What phones have the best sound quality? The best reliability? The best implementation of Asterisk features? Flexibility? Ease of installation and upgrades?

For that matter, I have all the same questions about soft phones. X-Lite has a few annoying issues, and I would love to see some real reviews of as many different products as possible to decide which ones are best.

Google is your friend: … tnG=Search

Yeah, I’ve been there before, and I’m sure that anyone here who is at the level of being able to put together a computer system and configure a barely documented software package like Asterisk can do and has done basic Google searches… If the information was there, I would not have had to post my previous message.

The reason why I suggested a dedicated forum for the telephone hardware is because the random listserv garbage doesn’t generally result in coherent threads, and the answers can’t be seen as definitive.

There really aren’t that many ready for prime time SIP phones out there, but most of them will have there own little quirks. There needs to be a single location where each product is reviewed, the problems in implementing that product in an Asterisk system are pointed out and the answers are regularly reviewed and updated.

A Google cache of an old listserv really doesn’t do that.

The problem is that a lot of people have different opinions. I personally HATE Grandstream and love Polycom, Sipura and SNOM. If you think this is something that should be on the forum maybe take it up with the ones that control this forum.

Back to your original question what is your budget ? How many phones do you need ? Will you be behind NAT ?

I am also in the process of installing Asterisk in my companies office as per my bosses request. I have done it at home using soft phones. But obviously in the office we will be using hard phones. We have looked around and put a budget of about 200 per phone, we do get dealer pricing on most phones, so my question I guess we are looking for the best phone we can get for our money. The features we are looking for are ease of configuration, have to be able to support atleast two lines for transfers, on hold and such. I would like it to be able to work over NAT just in case we use one at home.

We were looking at the Linksys SPA 941 or 942, which are of course our price continious minds. I have also heard bad things about these phones from people so I am hoping to find some more experienced people who can suggest my best route.


So far I have tested out the Grandstream GXP-2000, and was not satisfied with the device, largely because of the reasons I mentioned earlier. I currently have a Polycom 650 on order, and will test it out when it arrives. Currently my whole Asterisk phone system is in development and testing. Once I get everything to demonstrate what I want it to do, I will scale it up for a full office.

My goals are to create a telephone system for the office that has a minimial learning curve for the people here. That means that features that people are used to from the current Nortel system should be available in some fashion, and should be easy for less technical people to understand. Features such as call park, call transfer, speed dialing, voicemail, paging and intercom are all easily implemented by Asterisk, but the hard phone has a role in the interface that actually makes them work.

I would also like to be able to adapt whichever phone I choose to many different purposes, many of which I don’t even know yet. One of the great benefits of Asterisk is the fact that it can be expanded over time and the software can be further developed to do new things that may not be even conceived of right now. I would like a hard phone that can grow as our needs grow.

So for me to simply ask a question “Which phone is best” will not give me the answer that I really need. I need to know about all the phones. I need to see other people’s experiences with that phone, and I need to get new ideas along the way that will help me develop a system that is more than just the next generation of phone system replacements.

As for costs, I have flexibility. Obviously I would have liked to be able to do this with Grandstream $70 phones, but if those phones don’t do everything I want them to do, then the cost savings is less compelling.

I believe that this sort of thing would be a very compelling forum for this website, and I believe that a lot of site visitors will get tremendous value out of it. I don’t know what cage needs to be rattled to get a site administrator to consider this for action, so I am posting here in the hopes that more people post their opinions on the matter.

Maybe I’ll go back to my original post and create a poll…

If you already have a legacy system on site (in your case, the Nortel system) you could keep the phones which the users are familiar and replace the Nortel PBX with a Citel Portico TVA This unit takes the proprietary signaling of the phones and converts it to SIP, allowing the phones to talk to an Asterisk box.

That does look like a useful solution… I’d love to test it out and find out how the Nortel Norstar phones match up to an Asterisk system. Unfortunately, even the 12-port Portico is about $1300, which is a bit much for feature testing.

It looks to me like the Portico converts a current system to SIP for a price of about $100 per port. If the implementation is very good, then it appears to be a cost savings, but if it isn’t any better than a $70 Grandstream phone, then there isn’t a cost savings, particularly in my case where I was looking to resell the used Nortel equipment once I get my Asterisk system fully functional.

Do you have experience with the Citel system, and can you offer some information about those experiences? How does it convert the Nortel feature key based functions to something that is usable by Asterisk?


I do have some experience with the Citel Portico TVA - I’m a software engineer with Citel!

What Nortel (I’m guessing Norstar) PBX features did you have in mind? There’s a massive feature set that can be implemented using the Citel/Asterisk combination, so picking a couple that you are particularly interested in might be a good start.

Most of the phones that we have are Nortel Norstar 7310 phones, with a few 7316 and 7208 phones as well. The 7310 phones have a large BLF (Busy lamp field) that would be nice if it could be adopted to an Asterisk system. I know that the BLF on this phone was not a part of all 7310 phones.

With the Nortel system the special functions are done with the feature codes which is the Nortel “Feature” button followed by a numeric code, and individual buttons on the phone are programmed like macros to replicate the code sequence.

Features that are commonly used: Individual buttons have been programed to send feature codes for accessing voicemail, conference calls, speed dial, last number dial, DND, call park, handsfree/mute, paging, intercom and transfer to voicemail.

These phones also have soft keys below the LCD screen, and it would be interesting if those keys could be used in a similar fashion as other SIP phone soft keys.

Is the feature set for the Citel/Asterisk combination available for download? This is certainly something that I would love to read…

Also, if you have any information about the optional FXO ports for the Citel device, I’d love to hear more about that…

I was able to find the installation manual for the Citel Portico…

This really looks good… The FXO port is a bit limited, but I’ll probably be installing a Digium card for my backup copper lines anyway, so it isn’t that big of a deal.

I’m still a little twitchy about spending $1300 for a device that I haven’t had a chance to do some hands-on work with, but I’ll finish the rest of the system testing and then try to find a place with a satisfaction guarantee that will allow me to make sure that this will do everything that I need it to do.

To answer your questions for the list…

The Portico TVA does support M7301, 7316 and 7208 phones.

Programmable key functions can be assigned via a web interface by the system administrator, or optionally the end-user, and can be assigned to the following functions (there are more, but not applicable to Asterisk):
[ul]Auto Answer
Do Not Disturb
Message Waiting
Missed Call
On/Off Hook
Analog FXO Pool
Analog FXO 1
Analog FXO 2
Lines 1…80[/ul]

The Portico TVA BLF keys interwork with Asterisk ‘hint’ priorities to show idle / ringing / active / held. BLF call pickup (target ringing) and transfer (target idle) are supported.

The Menu-Next, Menu-Previous and Menu-Select functions are assigned to those keys, allowing access to local directories, call logs and some phone settings (e.g. ringtone selection).

There is a new release of firmware coming soon that will support the following programmable key functions:
Feature (mapping of “Feature” key + digits to local or remote functions)[/ul]
This new release of software will also allow SIP access to the FXO ports.