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Product Reviews
September 2000

 

Komodo Fone 300

Komodo Technology, Inc. (recently acquired by Cisco Systems, Inc.)
170 Knowles Dr.
Los Gatos, CA 95032
Ph: 408-871-3488 
Fx:
408-871-3480

Price: approximately $199

Editor's Choice Award

RATINGS (0-5)
Installation: 5
Documentation: 5
Features: 4.75
TUI: 5
Overall: A


The Komodo Fone 300 (KF300) is a small Internet appliance (sporting a neat blue translucent cover), which turns a regular phone into an IP phone without a PC. This product works with the various broadband types, including cable modems, xDSL, fixed-wireless, and other Ethernet connections. The KF300 can also be connected simultaneously to an Ethernet link and a regular telephone line so users can place or receive VoIP calls as well as regular phone calls.

In addition, with an Internet telephony service provider (ITSP) such as Net2Phone, calls can be routed to any phone in the world at a rate much less than standard long-distance. One final usage of the Komodo phone is the ability to call directly to another Komodo Fone, which is 100 percent free, since it is an IP-to-IP phone call. The version that we tested supported SIP, but not H.323. Another flavor of the KF300 is available that supports both H.323 and SIP.

INSTALLATION
Setting up the KF300 was relatively simple. First, we connected a telephone to the PHONE input on the back of the KF300. We also connected a standard analog phone line to the KF300, which is only required if you wish to make or receive regular phone calls through the KF300. Next, we connected an Ethernet cable from a cable modem sharing gateway to the RJ-45 Ethernet port on the KF300. Finally, we connected the 12-volt power adaptor to the DC input on the back of the KF300, which immediately powered on the unit. (There is no on or off switch.)
We picked up the telephone handset and could hear the KF300's simulated dial tone. We pressed the only button (on top of the KF300) twice to access the IVR-like main menu of the unit. A friendly female voice greeted us with a list of menu choices, including entering the configuration menu, and reviewing the Komodo number assigned to the unit. We entered the configuration menu, followed by the advanced menu, where we were able to confirm that the unit was set to DHCP mode and also confirm that it had acquired a proper IP address. In our case, it was set to 198.168.0.4, assigned by our NAT-compatible UMAX UGATE-3000 cable/ADSL modem-sharing gateway.

We could have changed the modem from DHCP to static and then assigned the IP address, subnet mask, and route address, but since the UGATE-3000 supports DHCP, this was the preferred method. Had we connected the KF300 directly to our cable modem and bypassed the UGATE-3000, our broadband provider (Cablevision) also utilizes DHCP. From the voice-prompted menus, we could also enter our Net2Phone ITSP account number and PIN. Komodo set the unit up with a $5 Net2Phone test account, so we didn't need to enter the account parameters. All in all, except for some strange network issues discussed in the Operational Testing section, the installation process was very easy.

DOCUMENTATION
The documentation was concise and to the point. It included step-by-step instructions for setting up and configuring the KF300. Diagrams of the KF300 were included to show how to connect various items, such as the telephone line, power, Ethernet, etc. Overall, we were pleased with the documentation.

FEATURES
The KF300 includes advanced pre-processing to optimize full-duplex voice compression. Also, high-performance line echo cancellation eliminates noise and feedback. Another feature included is "Voice activity detection" (VAD), which saves bandwidth by delivering voice, not silence. Similarly, the unit provides a regular telephone call experience with comfort noise generation (CNG). Several voice codecs in the H.323 version are supported, including G.723.1, G.729a, and G.711.

Other features include:

  • Dynamic network monitoring to reduce jitter artifacts;
  • DTMF tone detection and generation for touch-tone compatibility;
  • Out-of-band DTMF signaling for reliable transmissions;
  • On-board flash memory for configuration storage and upgrades;
  • On-board controller to establish H.323 and SIP calls; and
  • DHCP and static IP support.

OPERATIONAL TESTING
Since Komodo had already pre-configured a $5 Net2Phone account and DHCP had already taken care of assigning the network settings, all that remained was trying to make a VoIP call. We picked up the telephone, entered a phone number (i.e., 12125551234) followed by the "#" key to initiate the call. After a few seconds, we heard the voice prompt say "Your current balance is five dollars..." and then the phone we were dialing rang. We picked up the phone and tested the voice quality of the call. We noticed that only the remote party (regular phone) could hear the KF300 user speaking, but not the other way around.

Immediately, we knew this was due to the UGATE-3000 cable/ADSL modem-sharing gateway we were connected to, which is both a hub and a firewall. We logged onto the Web interface and attempted to allow the VoIP traffic through the firewall. Unfortunately, we weren't sure which UDP ports the KF300 uses and we couldn't find it in the documentation, or on their Web site.

Fortunately, we discovered a feature on the UGATE-3000 that allows you to grant "unrestricted" two-way access to an IP address you specify. After entering the IP address of the KF300 into the "unrestricted" field, we attempted another VoIP call and this time it worked flawlessly. The VoIP packets could be sent both inbound and outbound. Alternatively, we could have unblocked all the UDP ports from range 1025�65535 on the UGATE-3000.

Overall, the voice quality was excellent. We had a fairly lengthy conversation and only noticed a few breakups in the voice, and latency was minimal. However, we did notice that we had to hold the telephone that was connected to the KF300 very close to our mouth when speaking or else the voice sounded very soft and distant on the other end.

For our next test, we tried connecting the KF300 directly to the cable modem's Ethernet port. (After all, not everyone has a firewall/Internet-sharing device.) After resetting the cable modem (required, since our ISP only allows one device and one IP address, unless we pay more money for additional IP addresses), we also reset the KF300, and we checked its network settings to confirm that it had attained the proper settings. Sure enough, it had been assigned an IP address in the range that we know Cablevision assigns. The subnet mask and router address were also correct, and we proceeded to try and make a VoIP call once again.

Unfortunately, all we heard was silence when attempting a VoIP call. We waited a bit longer. Nothing. We checked the LEDs on both the cable modem and the KF300 and could see that some sort of activity was going on, but still no connection. We tried various diagnostics to resolve the issue to no avail. For some reason the KF300 would only work when it was connected to our UGATE-3000 firewall device. Usually VoIP products have problems working with a firewall, not the other way around! Go figure. We contacted Komodo, but it was the first they heard of such an issue.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
Adding a security code to the KF300 would be a nice addition to prevent others from making changes to the configuration. Also, a feature that allows the customer to enable a security code for making outbound calls to prevent phone abuse might be useful. Fans of the Brady Bunch will remember the episode where the father installs a pay phone and grants each of the kids a "phone allowance." Similarly, we feel that the Komodo 300 would benefit from the ability to store multiple accounts (currently it only supports one), each with their own private PIN. This would also help aid in tracking who is making the most calls. Support for other ITSPs in addition to Net2Phone would certainly be a plus. Although the documentation contains a diagram of which RJ-11 jack is "phone" and which RJ-11 is "line," it would be nice if the unit itself were labeled. Finally, it would be great to be able to add minutes to the ITSP account via the KF300, simply by dialing a special IP address or phone number and entering the proper account information, password, credit card information, etc.

CONCLUSION
Besides sporting a cool translucent blue cover, the Komodo Fone 300 sports some very good features. The voice-assisted menus make it easy for novices to configure the KF300 and be up and running in no time, which is important since this product is targeted towards consumers. We should also mention that Komodo has an OEM arrangement with Net2Phone, which will release the Fone under its YAP Jack brand. TMC Labs was pleased with the performance of the Komodo Fone 300 and would highly recommend it to those looking for a non-PC VoIP solution to save on long-distance charges.

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