Surveillance questions, surveillance answers, and market updates
Aastra is a pretty well known name in the VoIP world. It sort of gets a bad rap because it’s not Polycom or Cisco, but it does well because of its affordable price tag. At least, that’s how I got to know the product. The problem with Aastra is they are just not sexy. Their phones look like futuristic phones from 80’s movies. They’re not modern.
This is my personal blog; it’s only here to help reviewers because that’s what I want–honest reviews about a product–so bear with me. Also, it’s only fair to cover these Aastra phones because they’re SIP phones and some surveillance cameras are SIP compatible (Grandstream and MOBOTIX) and if you’re clever, I’m thinking there’s a way to hack them to work together (but I don’t have a way myself–feel free to contribute).
Granted, Aastra phones are not Polycom VVX phones, but if you’re looking at Aastra in the first place, it’s because you don’t want the Polycom VVX phones. There’s nothing wrong with that, and in fact, if you know you don’t want Polycom or Cisco phones, then I strongly encourage you to look at Aastra 6800i Series phones. Let me tell you why:
Aastra visited my office with 3 new phones for Q2 2014. As a product manager, I went into this training session armed with the information available to the public: the typical corporate mumbo-jumbo of elegant design, enhanced audio capability, extensive call management; you get the drift. I was also skeptical of their HD sound. Aastra is really into pushing their Hi-Q audio as some big time sound revolution. Now, every company seems to have their own HD voice and audio branding, so big whoop, right? Well, actually…Aastra’s Hi-Q kind of is a big whoop.
The Aastra 6863i is the basic entry-level phone. It’s a two line SIP phone with Hi-Q audio technology, an HD handset, and very basic phone capabilities. We’re talking transfer, hold, redial, mute, and speaker. It runs on class 1 PoE. There is not a lot to this phone. However, that’s kind of convenient. When I saw it in person, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s very slim and streamlined. When I held it, the device felt solid. I pushed a few buttons and there was actually some resistance to them. The phone finish is half matte (the handset and key portion) and half glossy (the screen and softkey portion), so there might be some smudging from fingerprints. Other than that, it’s actually just a simple, clean, and dependable looking phone. For just straight up answering a handset phone for maybe a diner or strip mall office that only needs 2 lines anyways, this is probably going to be the $99 dollar phone you’re looking for. Seriously, it’s basic, but if you don’t need a headset, this is probably going to do the trick for you.
The next phone up is the Aastra 6865i. This phone has 9 lines, 8 programmable keys, XML capability, Gigabit Ethernet, and more call management features than the entry level 6863i: shared call appearance, busy lamp field, 3-way conferencing, call waiting, call park, call pickup, intercom and paging. If you’re looking for headset compatibility, this is the phone you want to check out: it has dual support for DHSG/EHS and modular 4-pin headset connections. This means that your wireless headset can actually just attach to the phone and you don’t need a QD cord (they never tell you about QD cords when you’re looking at a product page, do they? I hate those). We plugged a Cat5 cable into the 6865i just to see what it looks like when it boots up, and the monochromatic 3.4” LCD screen is exceptionally bright from what you would expect. Like the version a step below, the phone finish is half matte (the handset and key portion) and half glossy (the screen and softkey portion). Again, the product is robust, and the buttons are large and not at all flimsy. Don’t try to pop these keys out, because they will come out: they’re actually replaceable icon buttons so you can customize your phone however you like.
This phone, at $129 MSRP, is probably what you’d expect to see in settings like chain drug stores, department stores, and big box stores. It will handle really busy times whether it’s a seasonal crux or daily crunch time when several calls come through at once. The 6865i will let you park calls and get to the call as soon as you can. Because of it’s sturdy body, it’s going to be able to take a lot of abuse from those employees who might not have any respect for company property. This phones probably isn’t going to survive too many drops, but it’s going to stand up to a lot of wear and tear abuse workers are most likely going to inflict upon the device.
If the Aastra 6865i is still not cutting it for you, the next step up is the Aastra 6867i. Still a 9 line phone, this deskphone offers many of the same features, but has a 3.5” QVGA color backlit LCD display and ICON based navigation. Again: sturdy, large keys, slim design, this time a complete matte finish, and Hi-Q audio. The Aastra 6867i was plugged in and we made some phone calls on the speakerphone, since that’s what all this Hi-Q is promoting.
When the person on the other end of the call has a regular deskphone, the speakerphone sounds like any speakerphone call you experience with superb volume. However, when the person at the other end of the call is also using Hi-Q, there is a noticeable call quality difference. Both calls came through loud and clear–the speakerphone has incredible volume and dual microphones do a remarkable job picking up sound waves–but the dual Hi-Q call between the two Aastra phones made for a genuine life-like conversation (those are Aastra’s words, but based on my experience, it’s a legitimate claim) The voice was identifiable and there wasn’t any confusion as to what the other person was saying. So Aastra’s Hi-Q really does hold some weight, but only with other Aastra Hi-Q phones. All other calls just come through loud and clear, and the speakerphone is going to work great for small conference rooms or large executive offices.
Speaking of coming through loud and clear, if you or someone else in the company who will be using these phones is outfitted with a hearing aid, all of the 6800i series HD handsets are hearing aid compatible, which as our trainer explained, means the hardware in the handset is synced to work especially with the hardware in hearing aids. As the average age of people wearing hearing aids seems to be lowering (either that or I’m just aging–maybe a little of both), this isn’t really just something to ignore. HAC is becoming a factor in purchasing decisions, and Aastra has already acknowledged and responded to that need. It wasn’t until after the training that I even realized the trainer had a hearing aid, so there you go, proof from the horses mouth.
If your hearing is great but your sight isn’t at it’s best, the 3.5” screen was very readable even from a distance where I was sitting down at the far end of the conference table. The color screen read so well I can’t imagine what the 6869i could possibly offer that the 6867i can’t. Whenever it comes out, the 6869i is going to look great.
Update:I’m now using the Aastra 6867i as my own personal desk phone. To hear what I think about it as a phone for daily use, read my Aastra 6867i Review!
Alas, I cannot report on the Aastra 6869i as it is not yet set to be launched. As of our training, the launch date is set for October 2014, but our trainer believes the release date might be bumped up. So set your expectations for October, but hopefully we’ll see it sooner. The 6869i will offer everything the 6867i offers only the color LCD screen will be 4.3” inches, the unique audio design of the 6869i allows it to build on the impressive audio characteristics of the 6867i to further enhance audio performance. From what I can gleen from the pictures, it looks as if the 6869i is going to have a matte finish.
If you need to mount any of these on the wall, a wall mount will be available for the 6800i series in May/June 2014. The 6865i, 6867i, and 6869i are all expandable phones, which means they’ll be capable of handling up to 3 expansion modules for large directories with either the low cost M680i expansion module or the digital LCD screen M685i expansion unit. The M680i will be released in May, and you can expect to see the M685i in August 2014. Along with the digital expansion module will be the full QWERTY Aastra keyboard, the K680i. It’s a little mind-blowing, but this detachable keyboard is ideally going to be for front desks at large corporations. The sky’s the limit as to why you need a QWERTY keyboard for your Aastra 6800i series phone, but ideally the K680i is going to pair really well with your 6867i or 6869i and up to 3 M685i to easily type in and find contacts in your phone directory. The K680i isn’t going to be the size of a full computer keyboard either, but perhaps more what you would expect to attach to a tablet: it should only be about the length of the 6867i at most. The stand is also the easiest stand you’ll ever use: the stand is one solid plastic piece that slides into a slot built into the phone’s body. If you slid the stand in one way, it props the phone up at a 60° angle, or you can slide the stand out, flip it, slide it back in, and the phone will be propped at 35° angle.
Aastra has worked to make their 6800i Series environmentally friendly as well. All 4 models are shipped without power supplies as they’re Power Over Ethernet devices and can detect how much power to pull in order to function alone or to support any expansion modules you might add on. All shipping materials are recycled and recyclable, and there are no extra materials such as software CD’s or instruction manuals–Aastra wants you to download or view everything from their website. Not only do they cut back on materials, but it also cuts back on costs for you–the consumer. It’s win-win all around.
Now I’ve run through my opinions on the phones, let’s get down to applications. I see these SIP phones working great as real life, everyday use phones in non-office and office settings alike. They will work great in schools, chain stores of all types, warehouses, and anywhere else you might think users might not be particularly nice to their equipment. The MSRP might seem a little more than you like, but after handling the phones myself, I can attest that they going to hold up to some wear and tear use. Also, if you have a project where you need to deploy a few phones, don’t be shy to call some retailers and see if they can work with you get to get a bargain. It might not be possible on a handful of phones, but depending on your needs, you might be able to come out better talking to a rep than strictly buying online.
Should you have any experience with the new Aastra 6800i series, I’d love to hear about it. Leave comments for myself and readers below!