ooma Core Home Phone System Review

User Rating: / 2
Monday, 27 April 2009

The ooma Core has been replaced by the Ooma Telo

ooma Core Home Phone System Review

Got high-speed internet? Ditch Your Landline (and its bill) with the ooma!

At and we are constantly testing and reviewing 3G phones, modems, routers and accessories. We do this to provide a comprehensive collection of information about 3G and all the products that help you get the most out of your 3G service. Every now and then we stumble across a product that doesn't exactly fall into any one of those categories but works so well with 3G technology that it certainly deserves a spot on our site and in our store!

Enter the ooma Core Home Phone System. The ooma itself is not a 3G device - it is a replacement for your landline home phone service. The ooma provides VoIP service, which allows you to make and receive phone calls using your high-speed internet connection, including 3G technology like EVDO! What makes the ooma so special is the lack of a monthly phone bill. There are plenty of providers that offer VoIP phone service, but the ooma is the ONLY one we've found that offers this service with no monthly bill at all. All you need is any standard phone, high-speed internet, and the ooma device.

How Much is it?

After the initial $249.99 cost of the ooma device itself, there is NO monthly fee to make calls to anyone anywhere in the US! For more advanced features, ooma does offer a subscription service called ooma Premier, which provides features like an instant second line, the ability to use that second line for one touch conference calling, advanced privacy features, and more for $12.99/mo or $99.99/year. International calling also incurs an additional cost, but ooma makes international calling affordable - calls to Canada are just 1.4 cents per minute, and other countries are comparatively cheap. Alternatively, your overseas buddies could simply use an ooma registered with a USA phone number themselves and avoid the international charges altogether!

The only other charge associated with the ooma (other than your high-speed internet connection, of course) occurs if you want to keep your existing phone number. Ooma will give you a new phone number for free, but if you want to transfer your existing landling phone number over to ooma there is a one-time fee of $39.99 (and ooma will waive that fee if you sign up for one year of ooma Premier service).

What do I Need to Use ooma?

Using ooma is simple. You'll need:

How Does it Work?

Like other services of its kind, ooma uses a base station to make all of its connections. Called the ooma Hub, this base station is where the Ethernet and phone jacks are located, as well as where the user interface takes place. Using the large backlit buttons, the user can check voicemail, make conference calls (requires ooma Premier subscription) and manage features such as call forwarding and forwarding to voicemail. A speaker that plays your voicemails and allows interaction with the device is located next to the buttons. Interestingly, the speaker and buttons are the only way to interact with ooma Hub - there is no display, so if you want to use call-waiting you'll have to have a handset that supports that feature.

Setting up the ooma is very easy, thanks to proper labeling on the device itself as well as the included easy-to-follow setup guide. This guide walks you through setting up the ooma system using most standard configurations of Internet connections. It explains how to hook up ooma to cable and DSL modems and even routers without guesswork. Unpacking the ooma box yields a number of sleek looking accessories, colored white to match the ooma's design. In the box is everything you need to set up and use ooma immediately, including the power adapter, Ethernet cable, phone line, and a two-way phone line splitter. The only thing not included which you need to have already or purchase separately is the phone (any standard phone will work - no need to buy a special handset).

The contents of the ooma box.

In order to use another phone on the same connection (for example, if you have one phone jack downstairs and another upstairs) you can use an optional ooma Scout (the ooma Core system includes a Hub and one Scout). While the Hub requires a direct connection to the internet (or router), the ooma Scout simply plugs in to your second phone jack and second phone and allows you to use all of the ooma services without having to go to the Hub. You'll need one Scout for each additional phone you want to connect, but for most people this won't pose a problem due to the popularity of cordless phone systems that use base stations on which multiple cordless receivers can operate.

How Does it SOUND?

In true 3Gstore fashion, we ran a series of tests on the ooma service to see how it performed using various Internet providers - including, of course, 3G!

The first test was using high-speed cable service from Cox Cable. At the time of testing we had excellent speeds, around 24 Mbps/download and 4Mbps/upload. Our ping was 19ms (click here to view our speedtest results). Call quality on the ooma was great - in fact it sounded like the caller was in the same room. Voices sounded clear and crisp, with almost no lag, and there were no background noises that could be attributed to the ooma. We noticed virtually ZERO difference in quality between a landline call and a call made using the ooma and cable internet. Click here to listen to a test call that we made using the ooma and cable internet!

Next, we connected the ooma to a Cradlepoint MBR1000 router with a Sprint U720 EVDO modem attached. Our Sprint signal strength was around -65dBm. Speed tests gave us around 1.8 Mbps/download and 440 kbps/upload and our latency was a very solid 84ms (click here to view our speedtest results). Before disclosing our EVDO test results, we want to reiterate that this device requires a quality connection to the Internet to function properly. When using 3G like EVDO or HSPA as your internet connection, your signal strength must be -85dbm or better in order for the ooma to perform satisfactorily (you can read more about signal strength here).

Call quality over EVDO was pretty great - about what you would expect from a good cell phone. We noticed that the calls were a little "tinny" sounding over EVDO when compared to our cable internet tests, but certainly nowhere near enough to keep the ooma from being enjoyable to use. Click here to listen to a test call that we made using the ooma and Sprint EVDO!

What we love:

  • Easy to use and set up
  • Call quality was excellent with cable internet and very good with EVDO
  • No special phone needed - use your existing landline phone
  • Can be used with any high-speed Internet connection (DSL, Cable, 3G)
  • Keep your existing phone number (ooma charges a one-time fee of $39.99 to port in your existing phone number)
  • Very low bandwidth use - ooma uses 1/3 the bandwidth of Vonage, so the 5GB Sprint/Verizon/AT&T cap should not be an issue.
  • Use it anywhere you have high-speed internet (and take your number with you if you move)
  • ABSOLUTELY NO MONTHLY FEE for basic services! Call anyone anywhere in the US for FREE.

What we're not as fond of:

  • Extra features like advanced privacy settings and conference calling require a subscription to ooma Premier ($12.99/month or $99.99/year)
  • No visual display on Hub
  • 3G signal strength must be very strong (a minimum of -85dmb) for quality performance over EVDO/HSPA

The bottom line: Overall the ooma is a great product and is very enjoyable to set up and use. Anyone with high-speed internet can eliminate their landline phone bill and even keep their phone number in most cases! 3G users should take care to make sure they have adequate signal strength before investing in the ooma, however.

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Last Updated ( Monday, 22 February 2010 )
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