ZyXEL – Omni.net LCD+M review

combined ISDN TA/modem
Photo of ZyXEL – Omni.net LCD+M
£239 + VAT

As most users have probably discovered by now, thanks to the ‘impurities’ of the telephone network, 56Kbps modems rarely attain their full rated speeds. Somewhere in the low 40s is more likely and, although this is an improvement on the previous maximum of 33.6Kbps, increasing numbers of people are turning to ISDN for higher speeds. But this often means that they have no way of exchanging files with other modem users, accessing bulletin boards (not likely to be too much of a problem) or sending electronic faxes. Combining all the features of an ISDN terminal adapter with those of a V90/56Kbps modem, the Omni.net LCD+M from Zyxel potentially offers the best of both the analogue and the digital world.

Quite large for a modem/TA, the Omni.net LCD+M is a grey box with an LCD panel on the front, along with four direction buttons. This panel is useful because it can display caller ID information (where the service is available), as well as allowing the user to configure phone number lists and view status information. There’s also a row of LEDs underneath this display that will light up to indicate power, link, B1/B2 and so on. Connecting to a PC via the supplied serial adapter, the Omni.net LCD+M installs easily under most versions of Windows, being detected as a Plug and Play device under Windows 95/98. Once installed, the additional configuration software can be used modify the settings to suit the user. This operation can be quite long-winded depending on which services you wish to use; the manual goes into considerable depth on these matters.

For use as an ISDN TA, however, there’s not too much to adjust. Simply plug in and you’re ready to go, with the device supporting 112 and 128Kbps channel bundling, up to 460.8Kbps DTE rate and various compression standards and international protocols. There are two phone connectors at the back of the unit, to which can be connected any standard telephone hand-set, allowing you to make voice phone calls via the ISDN line. One of these two phone ports is shared by the internal modem, so you can’t use it while simultaneously sending/receiving a fax or other data via an analogue transmission. For most users, that’s not likely to be too much of a problem.

The Zyxel Omni.net LCD+M is supplied with various trial Internet packages, cables and a mains power pack. It is flash-upgradeable, so in theory new features could be added at a later date simply by downloading new firmware from the relevant Web site.

Company: ZyXEL

Contact: 0118 981 0600

Zyxel claims that this is the first ISDN TA to offer a built-in V90/56Kbps analogue modem, and certainly we haven't seen any other TA that offers quite as much functionality as this grey box. Reasonably easy to set up and use under recent versions of Windows, thanks in part to its LCD panel, the Omni.net LCD+M is robust and well made. It's a convenient, one-box solution for analogue and digital communications.