An upgrade to the heavenly (ahem) promoted BoB reveals there's still some room for improvement.
BoB2 is iinet's latest release of its foray into the appliance market with BoB -- a combined ADSL2+ modem and handset for VoIP. BoB2 changes the design and moves the handset to the side of the modem with a detachable holder that can also be used standalone.
Also new is a built-in answering machine that works well, except the speaker combined with the plastic housing has a raspy, somewhat grating sound. You also get an in-built four-port router, line-in for DECT phones (so you can hook up your current cordless phone through it), a PSTN fallback port and a range of standard features you'd expect: ADSL2+ with Annex M, 802.11n wireless with support for WPS, QoS for VoIP and the usual DHCP server, DDNS support, VLAN, port forwarding and of course a firewall. BoB2 will also let you hook up a 3G modem and plug in USB based external storage, which can then be shared via FTP, HTTP or SMB (Windows networking).
VoIP-wise, there are loads of features too, including call waiting, caller ID, call forwarding, call history and the ability to place a call over PSTN or VoIP based on number as well as send and receive calls via PSTN and VoIP independently.
Like other modems, the interface is web based and there are no complaints here. It's easy to navigate, there's plenty of feedback for status of services, and there's a wizard to help set it up. If purchasing with a VoIP plan from iinet, it will come preconfigured with your VoIP details including your phone number, so you can just plug it in and go.
It has a lot of features, but what's it like in practice? Mostly good, with a little bad. First up, the whole reason for getting a BoB2: making phone calls with VoIP. In terms of voice quality the performance was excellent, indistinguishable from a PSTN connection, if not better. The handset does an excellent job and is both a pleasure to hold and easy to use. It feels solidly built, in contrast to the modem that feels a little flimsy by comparison -- even the handset attachment, if you choose to use it, didn't fit snugly and would flex. On that note, BoB2 supports up to five handsets, though additional ones are a bit pricey at $89.95 each.
While the VoIP experience was good, performance dropped once we started saturating the broadband link. In fact, even though we made sure there was headroom to spare in the upstream, and with BoB2's QoS enabled for VoIP, we were unable to make calls out. This is somewhat disappointing as QoS is supposed to prevent this.
Another problem was the wireless. Changing any setting except the SSID wouldn't stick and we couldn't get any devices to connect until we performed a factory reset on the modem. After this, the settings would save and connecting worked fine. Speeds were as expected for 802.11n and the range was good.
On the whole, BoB2 is a nice step up from the original BoB, and the bundling of VoIP support and a handset makes it easy to get into naked DSL and cut the tether to your landline service for good. The addition of an answering machine helps make BoB2 even more of an appliance, although it's worth noting that messages can only be heard at the modem, not through the handset, and the answering machine message can't be customised.
With a few tweaks to QoS performance and perhaps a sturdier build quality for the modem, BoB2 would be hard to fault. As it is, it's a great upgrade to BoB, but there's still room for improvement.
BoB2 can be purchased standalone, with a 24-month contract or rented for $9.95 a month on top of your chosen broadband or naked DSL plan.Available from iinet, retailing for $279 or $199 with 24-month contract
.APC rating: 7/10