Cisco is one of the largest and most popular networking

Cisco is one of the largest and most popular networking equipment manufacturers in the whole world. Today we're going to check out some IP phones from this American conglomerate.

Gone are the days when small businesses would get terrified by just thinking about the potential hassle and, most importantly, charges of installing a phone network in their office compound. With the invent and rise of the Voice Over Internet Protocol (aka VOIP) even the small and medium scale companies are able to afford their very own telephone network. And this is where the IP phones come into the play.

Even though Cisco manufactures all kinds of IP phones from the most basic (such as the sleek and slim SPA-301) to the high-end, space-age ones (those which can burn a hole in your pocket easily; honorary mention DX650- $500!!) the models included here are pretty affordable. Let's jump into the discussion then.


Cisco SPA525G2


Cisco SPA525G2 is a 5-line business grade IP telephone with the Wi-Fi and additional Bluetooth. For the exterior, it comes with a 3.2-inch QVGA (320 x 240) colour panel. Even though it comes with enough buttons accounting for a swift and efficient navigation, you can also opt for a couple of SPA 500S (32-button) expansion modules which would greatly increase the efficiency.


Okay then, let's take a look at some of the features that SPA525G2 offers. The thing that sets it apart from most of the others in this range is that it comes with Wi-Fi (supports the 802.11b/e/g standards). Other than the Wi-Fi, as mentioned earlier, it also comes with the Bluetooth connectivity enabling you to pair easily with some wireless headset. It also lets you transfer calls from your mobile to it and vice versa smoothly. Another feature that can prove to be pretty helpful for many is the PoE which enables you to deliver power to it through the Ethernet cable. Rest of the nifty features include embedded AnyConnect SSL VPN client, Cisco MonitorView which lets you monitor your Cisco video cameras, and a built-in USB port.

The major drawback is, once again, related to the PoE -- it isn't shipped with any power adapter other than the RJ-45 cable. Certainly an issue to point out but can easily be fixed as you can buy that stuff separately. Another minor complaint is that upon reboot there's a chance of losing some of the settings. But overall it's a pretty darn good option.


Pros: 

  1. The price indeed is the most alluring feature of SPA525G2. At even less than 150 bucks, it's much more affordable than most of the competitors that touts a steeper price tag.
  1. It supports 5 SIP accounts which is pretty useful for small or medium grade businesses.
  1. It offers features like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth which can only be seen in some of the costlier models.
  1. You can easily attach two extension modules which increase the number of programmable buttons to 64.

Cons: 

  1. One major complaint that came from almost every second customer is that, as stated earlier, it doesn't come with a power adapter- you have to make do with the Ethernet cable. Or you have to buy that $15 stuff separately in the worst case scenario.
  1. It's prone to resetting the settings options upon a restart.


Cisco SPA504G


Cisco SPA504G, unlike the other two, is a rather affordable VOIP phone featuring 4 lines and PoE. 

Let's take a look at what it has to offer. Voice clarity is one of the first things that is going to catch your attention. Thanks to the HD voice capability, it is able to capture a wider range of the sound spectrum (aka wideband audio). And it outperforms many others thanks to the sheer quality, although this feature would only come handy if the phone at the other end also supports it. It comes with a 128 x 64 monochrome display for convenience and easy handling. It supports both the SIP and SPCP with support for up to 4 different SIP accounts. Other than these, it also offers standard features such as call hold, waiting, blocking, forwarding and some really handy features like NAT Traversal for easier IP problem settlement. It comes with both the 2.5 mm headset jack, and dual switched Ethernet ports which help greatly minimise the cabling and maintenance cost. And as told earlier, you can also take advantage of the PoE facility and deliver power through the Ethernet cable. The addition of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth would have been welcomed, but again, it's a budget phone.

The absence of a power adaptor is, once again, going to be a headache for those who are not going to use the Ethernet cable to deliver power. Or it might simply be just too far away from the router or switch. The automatic provisioning is said to reset all the IP settings- so you better watch out.

Pros:

  1. Cheap- enough said!!
  1. It can be set up with 4 different SIP accounts which is helpful for small-scale businesses.
  1. The Power over Ethernet protocol allows you to power it solely via the Ethernet cable.
  1. The addition of two extension modules allows it to extend the number of programmable buttons to 64.

Cons: 

  1. It doesn't ship the power adapter with the unit as Cisco puts more emphasis on the PoE feature.
  1. Both the included Ethernet ports are of the type 10/100Base-T, not Gigabit. The latest Gigabit ports are considerably faster than the 10/100 ports.
  1. The web interface may not be suitable for the faint-hearted peoples. And the auto-provisioning, according to some, is more of a menace than help as it tends to wipe almost all the IP settings off after an update.


Cisco SPA514G


Just like the earlier one, here's another budget phone from Cisco- the SPA514G featuring 4 lines and 2 Ethernet ports.

This business-grade IP phone can be used in both SIP and SPCP mode enhancing its usage value and productivity. There's a 128 x 64 monochrome LCD which is satisfactory, if not good. Even though it comes with a sufficient number of backlit keys you can always opt for a couple of expansion modules to expand the number of buttons greatly. Other than those it offers plenty of standard calling functions such as call hold, multiparty conferencing and 'do not disturb' mode along with some advanced stuff like report generation, event logging and NAT traversal for solving IP translation issues. 


While both SPA504G and SPA514G are nearly similarly specced there is a subtle difference between them. SPA504 comes with a couple of 10/100Base-T ports whereas this one is equipped with two Gigabit ports which are able to handle higher bandwidth. And lastly, it supports the PoE standard implying it can be powered simply with the help of the Ethernet cable, provided that you have a PoE PSE switch.


As with any other SPA500 series phone, the users are having trouble with the power adapter as it isn't usually shipped with the power adapter. It seems that Cisco put more emphasis on the PoE aspect but, sadly enough, forgot that most of the general users wouldn't have access to a PoE switch. Another gripe is that, despite being costlier than the SPA504G model, it neither features the Wi-Fi nor Bluetooth.


Pros: 

  1. It's a mid-range IP phone. So, it won't be hard on your pocket.
  1. Although limited, the 4 SIP accounts are going to be good enough for the small-scale businesses.
  1. The Gigabit ports are a major enhancement from the similarly specced SPA504G.
  1. You can always go for two additional extension modules which would add 64 additional, programmable buttons for the convenience of the user.
  1. Power over Ethernet (simply PoE) makes it possible to power it even via the standard Ethernet cable.

Cons: 

  1. Although some sellers do give the power adapter with it, more often than not you'd have to opt for a power supply separately which is certainly bothersome. Unless you have a PoE enabled switch, that is.

  1. No Wi-Fi + no Bluetooth = no wireless connectivity.



Comparison:

Now is a good time to have a small comparative study among the previous 3 models after going through them briefly. Although none of the phones can actually be termed as high-profile they fall into different categories. Cisco SPA525G2 is the most expensive one among the 3 and as a result, provides the users with a wide array of cool features. It should be fit for some of the rather senior and high-ranking executives. The SPA504G and SPA514G are, on the other hand, somewhat more affordable than this one but are much basic and comes with only the bare minimums. These two are much more suitable for the trainees and are made to withstand some not-so-delicate handling. Even between them, SPA504G seems like a much better deal if you ask me. As mentioned, there's barely any difference between them other than the Ethernet port. So, if the bandwidth need is not going to be the make-or-break factor for you, I'd suggest you to go for the cheaper one.


Conclusion

Well, that's all for today. Hope that was helpful. And lastly, always do lots of research before hitting that buy now button. 

Have owned one of them before? Was it a rock-star? Or had a bad experience, maybe? Let us know what your thoughts about them are.