General Electric 26981GE3 review: General Electric 26981GE3

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The Good Built-in AM/FM clock radio; healthy battery life.

The Bad Keys on both sides of the handset; ultrabright clock display; only one alarm; poorly positioned snooze button; no speakerphone.

The Bottom Line General Electric should take this quirky cordless phone/clock radio back to the drawing board.

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6.3 Overall

General Electric has a well-deserved reputation for producing quality clock radios, but this cordless phone/clock radio is a bit of a blot on the company's record. The combo's design is awkward, and important features are conspicuously absent. The General Electric 26981GE3 does cost less than a telephone and a radio purchased separately, but the device isn't worth even its $60 list price.

While the phone has some nice design elements, its flaws are hard to overlook. For example, the handset's front and back both have buttons. This arrangement decreases clutter on the dialing side, but laying the handset faceup will activate the caller-ID/volume key. Eventually, you'll probably keep the phone facedown, but that decision will be Pavlovian rather than intuitive. Another problem is with the snooze button; it's the tiniest in the array and located near the base's center. On the plus side, the earpiece fits nicely--just don't impale yourself on the three-sided, sharp-edged antenna. Backlit in split-pea green, the LCD is easier to read by candlelight than in a bright setting.

Transferring caller-ID data to the 10 speed-dial slots is simple, and the call-back button is handily positioned right next to the caller-ID scroller. The base holds two radio on/off keys, one on the top and the other on the bottom. The green clock display is superbright, casting an eerie glow even at its lowest power setting--good if you need to know the time but not conducive to sleep. Surprisingly, you can't wake up to both music and a beep, an option that's de rigueur for most clock radios today. The alarm sets in gradually, starting at a low volume and building slowly.

As for the radio, its speaker's location in the handset alters the acoustics, making FM music sound fuller, a little softer, and less tinny. And the volume goes all the way up to 16. But note that this model has no speakerphone, a feature we've come to think of as standard. Talk time came in at two hours less than the rated seven hours--decent but not stellar. Standby time fell a day short of its seven-day rating.

While the clock radio gives the General Electric 26981GE3 a bit of an edge over its 900MHz competition, design flaws keep the phone out of the top ranks.

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