The cordless phone business is highly competitive, with not many features differentiating new DECT 6.0 models from one another. So what is it that makes Uniden's basic DECT 6.0 phone models, the DECT1500 series, compelling? Well, in a word, price. We've seen five-handset versions of this model advertised for $80 during special discounts and the three-handset model costs about $60. You can get the DECT1500 in packages of one to five handsets (the system is expandable to 6 handsets). The series is available in two tiers: The DECT1560 models are the baseline models, while each of the DECT1580 models adds an integrated digital answering machine in the base unit. They're not a bad deal, though they are pretty basic.
Here are some of the highlights and our impressions we got of the series while testing the DECT1580-3, the three-handset model with the integrated answering machine.
Uniden's design for its DECT1500 series isn't particularly inspired; it is about as straightforward and ho-hum as you get. We liked that the keys are flush to the phone and made of hard plastic, and they are spaced well, so we had no trouble dialing numbers. The keys are backlit with an orange glow as is the 1.2-inch LCD. If you're looking for a phone with a bigger screen with bigger numbers (font size), this isn't it, but users with decent vision shouldn't have any trouble seeing numbers and icons on the screen.
As with many cordless phones, the top part of the handset, where the LCD is housed, is covered by a hard, translucent plastic that will pick up the oil from your face. It's not a big deal, but if you do want to keep your phone clean, you'll end up wiping it down after a few conversations.
The base unit also isn't going to wow you with its design. There are a few buttons on the base for listening to and erasing messages, as well as turning the answering machine on and off. All of the setup for the answering machine is done on the handset and we found the user interface relatively straightforward and easy to navigate. The speakerphone is built into the back of the handset (it sits right in the middle) and Talk/End buttons are clearly labeled and within easy reach of your thumb as you hold the phone.
Pop open the battery compartment and you'll find a 500mAh Ni-MH battery pack that, according to Uniden, will give you up to 12 hours of talk time and 7 days of standby time. In our tests, these numbers were a bit on the high side. If you leave a handset too far from the base, it will struggle to keep a connection and will drain the battery more quickly. However, according to Uniden, your operating times will vary depending on your actual use and the age of the battery.
In a wider context, those numbers match up well against the competition. By comparison, Panasonic's KX-TG6400 series includes two 650mAh Ni-MH AAAs that provide approximately 5 hours of talk time and 11 of standby time.
As noted, the DECT1500 series comes in packages featuring 1, 2, 3, 4, and even 5 handsets, and you can have a maximum of 6 handsets connected to the system. You don't get some of the features found Panasonic's latest DECT 6.0 models--including Talking Caller ID, Talking alarm clock, Talking battery alert ("Please charge the phone"), or ringer ID (you can attach various ringtones to contacts in your phone book). However, most of the standard features are here: call silent mode, a handset-to-base intercom function (as well as call transfer between handsets), and a speakerphone in the handset. With the exception of the DECT1588 models, which include a base station with a corded phone, the 1500 series doesn't have a speakerphone or dialpad in the main base unit. There's also no headset jack on the handset for hands-free operation.
On the DECT1580 models, the digital answering machine can store up to 14 minutes worth of messages and any of the handsets registered to the system (up to 6) can access the phone book, which lets you store up to 70 names and numbers. However, only one handset at a time can access the phone book and, surprisingly, it's a little tricky to record a custom message for the answering machine. The default outgoing message is prerecorded and can be changed from English to French (some models come with English/Spanish bilingual menus), but you'll have to do a little digging in the manual to figure out how to record your own message. (See page 43 in the manual for more info: PDF link).