TMC Labs Reviews the Htek UC926 IP Phone and UC46 Expansion Module
(This review originally appeared in INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine.)
The Htek UC926 is a wired IP deskphone with a modern design and feature set to meet the needs of any business today. TMC Labs tested the UC926, along with the UC46 Expansion Module connected to an open source-based PBX (News - Alert), in both in-office and remote environments.
Connectivity & Compatibility
Htek provides an easy cloud-based Remote Provisioning Server, which makes adding new extensions simple and quick. If your PBX is among those certified for use with Htek’s IP phones, the RPS completes the task automatically once the MAC has been added and the phone has been plugged in. The current list of compatible PBXs includes: 3CX, BroadSoft, Alcatel-Lucent, Asterisk, Bicom, Elastix, FreePBX, Yeastar (News - Alert), Xorcom, with more to come. In our case, our Fonality PBX is not among those currently certified but, we were able to register the UC926 on the system as an extension with some additional assistance from Htek (see more under Support), at which point the phone functioned as anticipated in the office as well as at remote locations.
Features & Controls
Adhering to the latest SIP standards, the UC926 is packed with all standard IP phone features you would expect, and sports dual Gigabit Ethernet PoE ports, 4.3- inch color LCD display, 6 line keys, 10 programmable keys, 5-way conferencing built in, an RJ9 headset port, and an LED indicator lamp.
The location and design of the feature keys are intuitive and deliver a high level of usability – we didn’t find ourselves searching for features or buttons at any point. Menu options, likewise, are intuitive and easily negotiated. The volume up/down buttons are easy to find and conveniently placed at the bottom of the phone where they aren’t confused with other functions.
We like the ability to position the UC926 at different angles on the desktop. While it’s not unique to the market, there are many deskphones that offer only a single, usually fairly horizontal positioning option. The vertical positioning makes the screen much more visible to the user and gives easier access to keys.
The screen, while not the HD resolution display most of us are used to on our monitors and televisions, is clear and easy to read and, frankly, an HD display is not necessary and would only serve to increase cost. It’s also not a touch screen and, while that’s not a deal-breaker, our testers’ initial instinct was to try to push the screen, as any digital native would. Again, there is a cost factor involved, as a touchscreen display would raise the price point, but we are told it is on the roadmap. In the meantime, learning to use the arrowpad for menu items quickly becomes second nature because of the location and identification of the keys. While a touchscreen is a nice-to-have, it doesn’t change the overall experience, unless you’ve had one on your desktop previously. This screen does its job more than adequately.
In fact, for users with admin privileges, an easy to use interfaces allows simple uploading of images for the display (think small digital picture frame on your deskphone), adding a high degree of personalization.
This is where Htek outperforms many of its competitors, being the first to integrate TI’s independent dedicated AIC3100 chipset for independent voice processing, delivering a sharp, clear voice quality. Naturally, all-IP calls – such as extension-to-extension dialing – are clearest, showing the full power of HD voice powered by the TI chips. But, mobile and PSTN calls, while losing the HD clarity, were superior to other IP phones we’ve used. Whether calling locally, across the US, or to China, voices were clear and intelligible.
The speakerphone was clear enough on the “inbound” side, but we found some degradation on the outbound side. Both sides of the call were immediately improved when switching to the handset. Finally, using a Jabra (News - Alert) Biz 2300 headset, we found call quality on both sides on par with the handset. One of the nice features of the UC926 is the ease with which users can switch between handset, speaker or headset modes with a single button push. Headset and speakerphone have dedicated buttons that light up green when in use, leaving no doubt they are active.
Call quality did not vary between locations where we tested the phone.
Htek UC46 Expansion Module
Our testing also included the UC46 expansion module – ideal for admins, but useful for anyone who uses the phone as a regular communications device, as it allows one-touch dialing to 40 programmable buttons (laid out on two navigable pages), as well as programming other functions, including BLF, park, etc., expanding the customization and programmability of the phone beyond other comparable products.
Installation was simple – plug the power cord into the jack on the back of the UC926, and connect the two with a (short) Cat 5. The only catch is making sure to change the settings on the phone to accept the expansion port(s) – it supports up to 6 expansion modules for admins and receptionists – as opposed to acting as a common network pass-through.
Programming the buttons on the expansion module – and also the line keys and programmable buttons on the UC926 unit – is easily accomplished in the Function Keys menu in the Web Interface. Likewise, the Setting menu allows customization of the screen saver on the UC46, just like the phone itself.
Admittedly, the UC46 takes up a little more real estate on the desktop, but it creates a much more convenient communications system on the desktop for anyone who has more than a few recurring contacts.
Durability, Reliability, Support
While it’s difficult to project out to several months or years, the UC926 looks and feels like a solid business phone that should stand the test of time under normal usage conditions. The company clearly stands behind it, including a full two-year warranty, instead of the one year most phone vendors offer.
As noted in the Connectivity & Compatibility section, we did have occasion to work with Htek’s support team when encountering problems configuring the UC926 for our Fonality (News - Alert) PBX. In this case,
the issues were on our admin side, not with the Htek phone or normal configuration scenarios. Htek representatives say they have many Fonality installations and, in each case (including ours), the phones function without issue.
That said, the situation allowed us to work directly with Htek for support, which we found to be a positive experience. Htek’s support team was pleasant, polite, and knowledgeable in helping resolve the issue, and if your administrator has questions, they stand ready to assist.
Firmware, user guides and other documentation are readily available on the Htek website (http:// www.htek.com), which is less cluttered and more easily navigated than many.
As a phone, the UC926 comes with all the features you would expect in an IP phone, but it packs additional punch in additional capabilities, including customization and personalization capabilities that are easily managed by users or IT support (depending on who has access to them). Its collaboration with TI gives it an advantage over other players and, as we move closer to an all-IP world, the clarity of communications is an important differentiator. All in all, the user experience is overwhelmingly positive and, with a compatible PBX, installation should prove quick and painless.
While the UC926 is presented as an executive phone – and certainly performs to such standards – this is truthfully a phone that can easily find itself on every desktop within an enterprise. It offers a feature set and peripherals that make it adaptable to every corporate position, from CEO to admin to call center agent, at a price point that really commands a second look from businesses, integrators and service providers alike.
Having put this through the tests of daily use, we are convinced this is a phone that will not only meet day-to-day needs, but from an aesthetic and feature perspective, meets the particular demands of most users. As stated earlier, the only shortcoming in today’s app-centric world is the lack of a touchscreen display, but once Htek adds that to its portfolio, we expect that will deliver equal quality.
Overall, we recommend the UC926 and the UC26 expansion module for any business looking for a full-featured IP phone that delivers high-quality voice at a price point that delivers a certain level of reverse sticker shock.
Edited by Erik Linask