One of the problems with phone systems—whether standard phone systems or VoIP—is that you are restricted in where you can plug in the phones. Standard phones need to be near a phone jack, and VoIP phones need to be near a LAN port. Some VoIP providers offer wireless handsets to solve this problem. Ooma solves the problem another way by transforming the electric outlets into a phone jack by means of the Ooma Linx, a POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) adapter. The Ooma Linx ($49.99, list) acts as a phone jack for any telephony device, including a standard wired phone, answering machine, or even a fax machine. As old-fashioned as these items sound, there are still plenty of businesses that rely on them for day-to-day operations, and the Linx lets businesses set up these devices where they are convenient, regardless of where the actual phone jack is located.
Features and Hardware
Users need to already have the Ooma telephony system in place by setting up the Ooma Telo ($49.99 at Ooma Residential)(Opens in a new window) base station to take advantage of the Linx. While the Ooma HD2 wireless handset works just fine with the Linx, the first-generation Ooma Telo handsets do not. So if you have already deployed the older Ooma devices on your VoIP network, you will have to get the newer devices to work with Linx.
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The Linx is a sleek black box measuring 4.5 by 2.2 by 6.5 inches (HWD) and weighs a mere 6.4 ounces. The box has a standard RJ-11 telephone jack at the bottom of the unit that plugs into a standard electric outlet. There are no extra buttons or markings on the box beyond the Ooma flower logo. When the device is connected and operating, the Ooma logo glows blue. When it is out of range of the Telo base station, it glows amber, and if it is performing maintenance tasks, such as updating the firmware, it flashes amber.
The Linx has about a 50 meter range, or a little more than 160 feet, which means it can be used almost anywhere in the house or small office environment. It doesn’t interfere with the Wi-Fi network because it communicates with the Telo and other devices over DECT 6.0 technology.
Setting up the Linx was a snap. I plugged the Linx into a power outlet close to where the Telo was located. I pressed the Telo’s Page button—which has an antenna icon—on the Telo for three seconds so that it could look for supported devices. After the antenna icon began flashing, the Telo detected the Linx automatically and paired with it. Distance can be an issue—too close is as bad as too far. After some trial and error, I found the sweet spot to be about 6 to 12 inches away.
The status indicator on the Linx turned blue when the firmware was updated, a process which took about 20 minutes. While it was downloading the new software and registering the device, the Ooma logo alternated between amber and blue.
At this point, I moved the Linx and plugged it in somewhere else in the house. I was a little nervous about getting too far from the Telo, but I had no problems with having the adapter two rooms away, with three walls between the base station and the Linx. There were areas where the Linx was out of range when I went upstairs, so the range feels a little shorter than the standard DECT 6.0 cordless phones. However, that could have been more of an issue of other devices I had as well as the layout of the space. Overall, having the Telo in a fairly central location helped ensure I had sufficient coverage with the Linx.
I plugged my phone into the bottom of the Linx, and I was done. When a call came in, all the phones connected to the Telo—the HD2 handset and the basic phone plugged into the Linx—rang and I was able to answer the call without trouble. The call quality was fine, and I was able to use all the phone’s functions.
VoIP Features to the Phone
The Linx itself is just an adapter, but it does help bring some of the advanced VoIP features to your basic phone service. If your phone supports paging, it doesn’t matter that it’s not an Ooma device. Pressing the intercom button on the Telo will ring all the phones, even the one connected to the Linx.
Another reason to consider the Linx is if you are looking to set up two lines. If you upgrade your Ooma subscription to the Premier service for $9.99 a month (as opposed to the free Basic service), you can then set up the Linx to act as the second line with its own voicemail. For $50, that isn’t bad at all, considering your phone company can easily charge you $60 for the line and lock you into an expensive contract.
Along with your standard phones and answering machines, you can also plug in a fax machine, or more commonly, the multi-function printers that have fax capabilities. After you connect to the Linx, you will need to log in to the My Ooma portal (used to configure the Telo base station and the phone service) to configure the signal so that the Linx recognizes it. You will need to have the Premier subscription and put the fax on the second line, though.
A Very Small VoIP Network
At $50, the Ooma Linx is a bit pricey for what is essentially just a new phone jack. On one hand, it’s a one-time cost and will pay for itself in a few months because you will be paying less for VoIP than you pay for your standard phone system. If you are using the Linx as a second line, or if the Linx is going to finally make that all-in-one printer work as a fax machine, it would be a worthwhile investment. On the other hand, if you have three phones you want to connect, that’s $150 just to be able to hook them up. Whether the Linx makes sense for you is entirely dependent on your budget and what device you want to connect.
Because of potential range issues, if you want to get multiple Linx devices, I recommend getting only one first and trying it in all the places you want to set it up to make sure it can communicate with the Telo.
If you already have made the jump to VoIP with Ooma, then the Linx is worth adding to get that one device onto your network. Just remember, though, that the Telo is limited to only four devices, so if you already have four devices connected, the Linx won’t do you any good. If you haven’t made the jump yet, take a look at our current Editors’ Choice for VoIP, RingCentral, and do the math to figure out whether switching to Ooma works out better for you.
The Bottom Line
Ooma Linx lets you extend your VoIP system to work with any telephone, provided you are near a power outlet. This is a great way to add existing handsets, fax machines, and other devices to your VoIP plan.
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