Motorola SD4500 review: Motorola SD4500

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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The Motorola SD4500 advanced digital cordless phone system has decent audio quality and comes with a range of accessories, including a lot of options and features not normally found in cordless phones.

The Bad The cordless phone for the Motorola SD4500 feels cheap; you have to pay extra for all the other accessories; the user interface is complicated; and the system works with only Motorola cell phones.

The Bottom Line The Motorola SD4500 offers a unique if complicated solution for integrating your cell and landline phones.

6.6 Overall

Motorola SD4500 advanced digital cordless phone system

As more consumers now use their mobile number as their primary contact, there's a growing market for products that integrate a cell phone and a cordless landline phone into one system. The Motorola SD4500 advanced digital cordless phone system is one such solution as it allows you to make calls on your cell phone's network using a standard cordless phone. Expandable and customizable, the SD4500 system includes the Motorola SD4505 cell phone dock ($99.99) and a choice of up to six Motorola cordless phones with varying features. We used the Motorola SD4581 ($89.99) for our tests, but you also can choose the Motorola SD4502 cordless phone, which plays video from the accompanying Motorola SD4504 wireless camera. Though all pieces are sold separately, the system may be worth the expense if--and only if--you already own a Motorola cell phone. It's a convenient arrangement not only because most cell phones are uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time, but you can also place the cell phone dock at a spot with the best reception, thus guaranteeing crystal-clear sound no matter where you are in the house.

The core product in the Motorola SD4500 system is the SD4505 cell phone dock station. Styled in basic silver, it's relatively compact (3.4 by 4.0 by 1.5) and lightweight (0.3 ounce), so you can fit it almost anywhere in your house. On the outside, its only feature is a small LED that glows when your cell phone is connected. Only Motorola phones are compatible with the dock (check with Motorola for the full list of models), so if you have a mobile from another manufacturer, you should check out the RCA Cell Phone Docking System instead. We plugged in our Motorola V330 and found that the dock also charges the phone. The V330 fit securely in the docking station, and we had no problem making the connection.

As stated previously, we tested the docking station with the Motorola SD4581 cordless phone, which includes a 2.4GHz cordless phone, a charging base, and an answering machine. Like the RCA Cell Phone Docking System, the SD4581 can support both landline and cell phone calls, but you don't need a landline to connect it to your cell phone. The base looks fairly complicated, with a total of 13 buttons on its surface, all of which were tactile and easy to use. Just under the handset charging dock is a Page button, which is used to page the handset, as well as register accessories such as the cell phone dock (see below). On the left of the Page button is a charge-indicator light, and on the right is an indicator light that remains lit when the handset is in use and blinks when there's new voicemail if you're signed up with such a service from a landline phone provider--though having an answering machine makes voicemail seem superfluous. Next to the dock on the right is a circular LED that displays the number of answering-machine messages. Underneath are four answering machine buttons in a diamond shape--play/stop, skip backward, skip forward, and delete--while below them are three pill-shaped buttons that turn the phone on and off, record announcements, and record memos/forward messages. At the bottom right, there are three more circular buttons that are used to set the date and time. The most prominent feature of the phone base, however, is the large speakerphone grille on the bottom left that's appended with two volume buttons.

While we like the base, the same can't be said for the cordless phone itself. The handset feels cheap and lightweight, but the orange-tinged monochrome screen left much to be desired. The color scheme of the handset is silver and black, which matches the base. It has a stubby external antenna like most cordless phones, and it comes with a rubberized grip on the sides. The button layout of the handset almost mirrors that of a regular cell phone; there are left and right navigation buttons, along with two keys in the middle that scroll the screen up and down. Below those are the green flash button for talk, a red cancel button for hanging up, and a redial and delete button. Besides the number keypad, there is a hands-free button that activates the speakerphone and a connect button that acts as a shortcut to a user-defined feature. Unfortunately, the handset's buttons were a little too soft and squishy for our tastes, and we had to press the number keypad all the way to make them work.

You can't use the handset out of the box; you have to register the handset with the docking base first. It was a simple process overall, requiring you to navigate to a Register option on the handset and press down the Page button on the base. A similar process registers the Cell Phone Dock--just hold down the Page button until it's set. You can also customize the names of the handset, dock, and any other accessories.

Using our Motorola V330 and the SD4581 cordless phone, we managed to make and receive calls from T-Mobile's network in San Francisco. Calls were clear throughout the house as long as the cell phone was situated so that it gets good reception. Making calls was not a simple push-and-play act, however; the extra steps were maddening, and we would have preferred a dedicated cell phone button as on the RCA product. We liked that you could share your cell phone's contacts list with the handset's phone book, and you even have the option of downloading your entire contacts database into the handset. There are also 15 ring tones to choose from, so you can differentiate between landline and cell phone calls. The handset also offers a walkie-talkie function if you have other handsets that go with it.

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