GE 28128EE2 - cordless phone - answering system with caller ID/call waiting + additional handset review: GE 28128EE2 - cordless phone - answering system with caller ID/call waiting + additional handset
While a lot of young people are said to be ditching their landlines, the vast majority of households continue to maintain some sort of wired line in addition to their cellular phones. As a result, people are often juggling both lines at home--fielding calls on the landline while opting to use the cellular to take advantage of free night and weekend minutes, for instance. Imagine, then, the advantage of being able to access both lines from a single phone. That's exactly the convenience promised by the GE Cell Fusion, a family of cordless home phones that can take and make calls using your cell phone or landline connections--or even both at the same time.
We examined the main 28128EE2 Cell Fusion model ($180 list, less online), which includes two cordless handsets and a digital answering system built into the base station. The base station supports a total of up to seven handsets, with additional ones (model 28101EE1) available for purchase for about $50. All of the Cell Fusion models utilize DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) wireless technology, a communications standard designed to minimize radio interference from other electronics devices, use power more efficiently, and provide encryption--potentially resulting in better audio quality, longer battery life, and secure conversations.
Out of the box, the Cell Fusion 28128EE2 delivers what appears to be a fairly typical cordless phone system: two handsets, a base station with a built-in digital answering system (for the primary handset), and a cradle charger (for the secondary handset). Each handset gets its own rechargeable battery and belt clips, and the package includes a wall-mount bracket for the base station as well. GE also throws in a Windows software CD and USB cable for customizing ringtones and editing the speed dial lists (more on that later).
In terms of cosmetics and aesthetics, the GE Cell Fusion phones are perfectly functional, but they aren't going to win any beauty contests. The handsets offer a slightly curved, rubberized-like grip on the backside of the handset, making it easier to hold in your hand or on your shoulder. The steel-gray, hourglass shaped faceplate includes a blue-backlit 1x1.5-inch LCD display, with a big chrome menu/navigation button underneath the LCD. The buttons are slightly raised with a keypad backlight. The handset measures 6.54 by 3.0 by 3.39 inches and weighs 0.34 lb. We found the handset to be comfortable and light. The base station measures 6.65 by 7.36 by 5.24 inches.
Using the Cell Fusion with your landline is as easy as connecting the base station to your telephone wall connection. But the Cell Fusion lives up to its name when you bring a cell phone into the mix. Up to two cell phones can be paired with the Cell Fusion base station. Any Bluetooth-enabled cell phone should work, and the process is identical to that of adding a Bluetooth headset. It took us only about 5 minutes of setup and getting acclimated to the keypad layout before we were making and receiving calls over our cell phone connection.
Once paired, one or two cell phones can nestle in their chargers, letting you make and receive calls on their numbers--from any of the Cell Fusion handsets in the house. We found that call quality was crisp and clear with both the handset's regular speaker as well as its speakerphone. In most cases when our cell phone rang, the Cell Fusion started ringing about 2 to 3 seconds later, giving us the option to answer the call from the actual cell phone or from the Cell Fusion--saving you from making a mad dash for the stairs to intercept a ringing cell phone. Assuming you have both a landline and a Bluetooth-capable cell phone, the Cell Fusion easily works with both, allowing you to put one on hold and switch over to the other--even allowing you to conference the two together. Conversely, those with no landline at all may find the Cell Fusion system to be useful as a "cellular extender"--setting up the base station in the part of the house where cell reception is best (say, on the second floor) and letting a secondary handset cover a notorious cell dead spot.
In addition to its unique cell phone features, the Cell Fusion system still offers a laundry list of the sort of baseline bullet points you'd expect from a cordless home phone system. Each handset offers a headset jack, room monitoring, speakerphones (on both the handsets and base), a push-to-talk feature that allows communication between handsets and base, a digital answering system with three mailboxes, call waiting, caller ID with 40-name memory, and phone book and directory memory (up to 200 contacts). You can add calendar entries, contacts, and polyphonic ringtones to the GE Cell Fusion from your Windows computer using the bundled software and USB connection on the handsets. And the wireless transmissions are said to be encrypted so that your neighbors can't listen in on their cordless phones or scanners. Additionally, the Cell Fusion comes with a one-year limited warranty and toll-free tech support.
In terms of general usage, the Cell Fusion is an all-around strong performer. The DECT wireless performed as advertised, with no breakup or interference, even in an office environment crammed full of competing wireless signals. Call quality was loud and clear, both on a landline and when using the Bluetooth link to a cell phone (though, obviously, cell quality may vary depending on the strength of your signal). GE says you can expect up to 7 hours of talk time and up to 10 hours of standby time. We didn't have the opportunity to formally test the battery life, but we did use the phone on and off for several days without recharging, and the battery-life indicator still showed a full charge. Like all multihandset systems, each handset communicates with the master base station, and we were able to get a good 125 feet before experiencing any breakup. In other words, most reasonably sized homes shouldn't have a problem, so long as the base station is centrally located.
While we could ding the Cell Fusion for not including the network connectivity that GE's Skype and InfoLink phones do, that would likely be overkill for most users at this point. Instead, the biggest gripe with the system is its old-fashioned run-of-the-mill cosmetics. It would've been a lot cooler, for instance, if GE used a look and feel similar to its Ultra-Slim cordless line. To that end, many users may find the stylish Vtech LS5145 to be a compelling alternative, even though it only includes a single handset and uses the older 5.8GHz wireless standard.
Its ho-hum looks notwithstanding, though, the Cell Fusion remains an impressive product. Its ability to make and receive calls on up to two Bluetooth-enabled cell phones easily trumps other cordless phone systems.
Labs Director Daniel Begun contributed to this review.