Uniden has squeezed a full slate of useful features into its 5.8GHz TRU-8885-2 cordless phone/digital answering machine system ($239.99) but has sacrificed ergonomics in doing so. However, if you can live with the tiny buttons on the base, you'll be rewarded with a convenience-filled, high-performance cordless phone.
Like several of their expandable systems, the Uniden TRU-8885-2 can support up to 10 handsets. The 8885-2 includes two handsets and a separate charging cradle for the second (extra TCX800 handsets cost $69.99 each; Uniden also offers a single handset system, the TRU-8885, which lists for $169.99). Additionally, the base speakerphone serves as a third phone.
Adorning the 4-by-4-inch square face of the base wedge are 24 tiny, rice-shaped buttons, which include the numeric keypad as well as controls for the system, the features menu, and the answering machine. The miniscule black lettering on the silver surface is nearly impossible to read except in good, nonreflective light and from no more than a foot away. Fortunately, the 6-inch-tall handsets are much easier to operate than the base. Buttons are slightly larger and better spaced than on the base or, for that matter, than on other smaller Uniden handsets. The TRU-8885-2 receivers are also a bit heavier than others we've seen from the company, but they're comfortable against your ear and easy to cradle with your shoulder.
We're particularly fond of the unit's large, bright, and easy-to-read orange backlit LCDs. The base screen, which lights up when new messages are waiting, clearly displays date, time, caller ID indicator, and the number of messages; the handsets' screens also show this information, as well as a handy three-segment battery meter.
The TRU-8885-2 isn't wanting for features. Handsets can be used as walkie-talkies in Uniden's DirectLink mode or for baby monitoring. You can also combine the two receivers with the base to enable four-way conferencing. Thanks to the large side-mounted speaker on the base, the full-duplex speakerphone allows cross talk. Callers' voices are loud and clear with little of the typical
As with most full-featured phones, the TRU-8885-2 includes an answering system. Unfortunately, the base's small buttons make the answering machine awkward to operate. Worse, the short 12-minute record chip will fill up quickly in a busy household with multiple extensions, especially if you take advantage of the call record feature, which can be used only at the base.
The Uniden TRU-8885-2 performed well in all of our tests. Handset range was around 300 feet, only a bit wider than Uniden's 2.4GHz systems (which is typical of 5.8GHz phones), but reception was crystal clear throughout its range. In our battery tests, we got the rated five hours of talk time but nearly twice the rated seven-day standby time.