SPECIAL FOCUS

Panasonic SIP Phones: Feature-Rich Solutions in an Attractive, Durable Package

By Rich Tehrani, Group Editor-in-Chief, TMC  |  September 24, 2014

Panasonic (News - Alert) is very serious about the business phone market, and its latest entries in the space show the company has put its considerable consumer expertise behind a pair of phones that leave little to be desired.

The KX-UTG200B and KX-UTG300B SIP phones are the latest additions to Panasonic’s lineup of advanced UTG Series SIP-based telephones, and they are good looking additions to any desk. The G300B has a capacitive-touch screen, and both are extremely durable (we banged the handsets on a wooden desk to check for rattles and loose connections just to make sure).

Connectivity and features

Both devices are certified to work with BroadSoft, Digium (News - Alert), and Metaswitch solutions. They feature HD voice support; two-class two PoE Gigabit Ethernet ports; and 24 programmable keys with 1,000 phone book entries and 300 log entries for placed, received, and missed calls.

The company also touts the products’ ability to support 36 additional extensions and their two-year warranty. There is also a low-power mode, which reduces networking speed but will save on electricity costs. This table includes some of the other important specs.

KX-UTG200

KX-UTG300

Screen

3.5 inch 320/240

5-inch 800x480

Codecs

G.711, G.729AB, G.722, G.726

Electronic Hook switch

RJ11 Jabra and Plantronics

Expansion Module

No

Yes, KX-UTA336B

MSRP

$269

$379

Target (News - Alert) market

The company is touting its phones as the perfect companions for hosted providers as well as the open source market. This is one of the reasons it launched the phones at the recent Metaswitch Connections event in New Orleans.

Education, health care, and hospitality are some of the vertical markets for which this phone was designed.

Connectivity

The phones were tested on a Fonality (News - Alert) phone system, which is open source based and they were not preconfigured to work with such a system making the setup process more difficult. In addition, the device did not support DHCP and the web interface had to be enabled out of the box. Panasonic was nice enough to send someone to help configure the phone, but it took two hours. My advice here is be sure your phone system is supported, or just get familiar with the process for your particular system, and be aware it may take time for your initial deployment. Bluetooth on the other hand was bulletproof – we were able to connect the system to a Plantronics Savi phone system on the second try and the quality of the connection was impeccable.

Sound quality

Panasonic is almost a legendary name in the home and small business phone market. The quality the phones delivered was exactly what we expected it to be based on the many decades of experience the company brings to the table. In addition, the speakerphone was excellent – vibrant and clear.

Controls

You have to love capacitive touch – it seems we have become so accustomed to it that when we don’t have it, we get frustrated. Thankfully, the KX-UTG300B supports it. The interface is good, but has some interesting quirks. For example, when you have a full screen of menus and need to scroll, you can’t swipe. Instead, you use the down-arrow key on the pad below the screen. If you select a menu with the enter key, you would imagine the arrow key pointing to the left would move you backwards. This is not the case – instead you use the back button on the screen (the 200B has a dedicated back button). In a way this makes sense because Android (News - Alert) and many car companies (Nissan, for example) use this system, but if you are using the arrows to go down, it may be just as intuitive to use the left arrow to go backwards.

Reliability

It is difficult to determine the long-term reliability of products without having hundreds or thousands of them to test for many months or years. Having said that, the company has done some impressive things to ensure reliability. Panasonic touts its manufacturing facility, which is accredited by quality management systems certification, ISO9001/14001, TL9000, and OHSAS 18001. There is the two-year warranty we mentioned, eight-hour burn-in testing, toll-free U.S.-based tech support, no charge for return shipping, etc.

Value

Considering the heritage of the company, the features, functions, and solid construction of these devices, we feel these phones represent a solid value. You can purchase a KX-UTG200B UTG for about $214 as of this writing, representing a 20 percent discount.

Future roadmap

The company doesn’t support video calling at the moment and plans to support Microsoft Lync going forward.

Room for improvement

Aside from minor UI improvements and support of the specific phone system we chose to test with, we can’t recommend many improvements. Having said that, USB support across all phones and connectivity with mobile devices would be nice additions to the roadmap.

Conclusion

Panasonic wants to become more entrenched in the high-end business phone market, and these two devices do an admirable job of presenting the customer with a solid value. Frankly, we believe the company is very late to game with these new phones, but at the same time, for many customers they will be worth the wait. After all, you get the well-known Panasonic quality and durability and decades of experience with lots of features at a reasonable price.




Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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