Plantronics has made some of the most popular Bluetooth headsets ever to grace our desks; the Voyager 510 was a reader favorite for a long time, as was the Discovery 655. But few people know that Plantronics doesn't just make headsets for mobile use; in fact, it has quite a burgeoning home and small office market as well. The Plantronics Calisto Pro Series is the latest device intended for use in the home--it is a cordless phone system that comes with a multifunction Bluetooth headset. It works with a regular landline, a cell phone, as well as VoIP services like Skype. Plantronics has made this specifically for those who work from home, but anyone who likes the convenience of having a single headset for all three services can make good use of it. The Plantronics Calisto Pro Series is quite expensive, however, as it retails for $279.95.
The Plantronics Calisto Pro Series consists of a cordless handset, a Bluetooth headset, as well as a silver and black charging base that can charge both these devices simultaneously. The base is then connected to a power supply via an AC adapter as well as a phone line via the included telephone jack. If you wish to use the Calisto Pro with VoIP, you can also connect the base to your computer with a USB cable. From there, just go through the instructions on the install CD. The headset is automatically paired with the handset right out of the box.
Clad in silver and gray, the handset has a very business-like appearance. It's also on the chunky side, measuring about 4.24 inches long by 2.23 inches wide by 1 inch thick, though it does have curved edges that make it easier to hold. Like most cordless handsets, it also comes with monochrome display for caller ID, a recent calls list, date and time information, keypad tones, and more. You can download Outlook contacts into a 200-entry phone book (with about three numbers in each entry), or choose to enter those names manually.
Underneath the display is a navigation array with two soft keys, a four-way toggle, a middle OK key, and the Talk/Flash and End keys. All keys, as well as the ones on the number keypad, are tactile and easy to press. There are also a dedicated handset and speakerphone key underneath the number keypad for when you want to toggle between handset and speakerphone mode. A volume rocker and headset jack sit on the right spine. On the back of the handset is a clip which you can then attach to your belt. It's positioned so that you can flip the handset up easily for viewing caller ID or dialing numbers without having to remove the handset from your waist.
The Bluetooth headset looks a bit like something for telemarketers, since it has such a long boom mic. Measuring about 5 inches long, 0.8 inch wide, and 0.7 inch deep, the boom mic is slightly curved to mimic the curves of one's face. The controls are dead simple--there's only one multifunction button in the middle, which can also act as the volume rocker when toggled up and down. On the back of the headset is an in-ear tip plus a flexible ear hook. The ear tip should sit around the opening of your ear canal and takes quite a bit of adjustment before we could put it on and get used to it. The overall fit was all right, but it's not the most comfortable.
Features and Performance
Toggling in between handset, headset, and speaker mode is pretty easy. To switch to the headset, simply hit the headset's multifunction button for a second. You can switch to the handset by pressing the "handset" button, and to switch to speaker just press the "speaker" button. Sound quality is excellent, as to be expected from a landline phone. However, we did hear a distinct static hum in the background, perhaps because of the number of electronics in the vicinity. This isn't a huge deterrent, since voices still came in loud and clear, but the static hum in the background is still a little annoying.
Of course, one of the best features of the Calisto Pro Series is that you can also pair the Bluetooth headset with your cell phone. We paired it with the RIM BlackBerry Pearl pretty easily, though you do have power down the headset before you can turn on pairing mode. Because the Bluetooth headset doesn't have a lot of controls on it, you'll have to use the cell phone itself to make the majority of your calls. That said, the Bluetooth headset does support voice dialing, so you can make calls that way if you wish. Another downer is that you can't use the headset for both cell phone calls and landline/VoIP calls simultaneously, as the cell phone and charging base can't speak to each other. This means that you'll have to hang up on the landline/VoIP line if you get a call from the cell phone and vice versa.
The sound quality on the Bluetooth headset was excellent, regardless of whether it was used with the landline, the cell phone network, or VoIP. As we mentioned, there was some a bit of a static hum in the background, but it wasn't a big deal.
In the end, we did find a few things lacking. We would've preferred a tighter integration with a specific VoIP service, Skype for example, so that you could get your contact list directly on the handset itself. Another thing we would've liked was a way to use the Bluetooth headset with both a cell phone call and a landline/VoIP call without having to hang up on one (by putting one on hold, for example).
Overall, however, the Plantronics Calisto Pro Series is a pretty good home phone system for those who work from home a lot, such as telecommuters or stay-at-home parents. The ability to walk around the house with a Bluetooth headset and a cordless handset with a belt clip frees up your hands for other household tasks.