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Uniden DECT1500 review: Uniden DECT1500

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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.

uniden-dect-1580-4-cordless-phone-answering-system-with-caller-id-call-waiting-dect-6-0-plus-3-additional-handsets.psd
6.3

Uniden DECT1500

The Good

Inexpensive; DECT 6.0 cordless phone; speakerphone on handset; expandable up to six handsets; integrated digital answering machine (on most models); decent battery life.

The Bad

Ho-hum styling; basic feature set; range isn't quite as large as other models we've tested; process to add customized outgoing answering machine message is unnecessarily convoluted.

The Bottom Line

Uniden's DECT1580 series of phones will appeal to those looking for a relatively no-frills, inexpensive DECT 6.0 cordless phone.

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.

Design
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.

Features
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).

Overall, this cordless phone is pretty middling in terms of features, but the staples are here.

Here's a chart of all the models in the Uniden DECT1580 series:

Model Number of handsets Color Answering machine included?
DECT1560 1 Black/Silver No
DECT1560-2 2 Black/Silver No
DECT1560-3 3 Black/Silver No
DECT1560-4 4 Black/Silver No
DECT1580 1 Black/Silver Yes
DECT1580-2 2 Black/Silver Yes
DECT1580-3 3 Black/Silver Yes
DECT1580-4 4 Black/Silver Yes
DECT1588-5 5* Multi Yes
DECT1588-5PT 5* Multi Yes
DECT1588 1* Black/Silver Yes
DCX150 Extra handset Black/Silver n/a
DCX150_WHITE Extra handset White n/a
DCX150_RED Extra handset Red n/a
DCX150_BLUE Extra handset Blue n/a

*plus 1 corded phone

Additional compatible expansion handsets: DCX210, DCX300, DWX207 (waterproof), EZX290 (for hearing/sight impaired)

Performance
DECT 6.0 (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) phones broadcast in the 1.9GHz band and are designed not to interfere with other electronics in your home, such as microwaves, Wi-Fi networks, and baby monitors. It's also supposed to offer extended range (up to 200 feet), though distance will vary depending on obstacles and the material in your walls.

Most DECT 6.0 phones offer similar range, but they're not all equal. In our tests, we found that the Uniden DECT1500 series didn't perform as well as Panasonic's KX-TG6400 or KX-TG7400 series and VTech's LS6225 series. In our tests, we roam as far from the base as we can while talking to a caller. With this model, our voice signal started breaking up at shorter distances than both the Panasonic and VTech models. We're not talking huge discrepancies, but there was a difference. The Panasonic offered about 30 feet of additional range while the VTech performed slightly better than this model.

That said, as long as we didn't roam too far from the base station, its call quality was quite clear, overall, and we got ample sound volume.

Verdict
The Uniden DECT1500 series may not have a great feature set or the strongest performance in terms of range, but it is inexpensive. A three-handset model costs about $60 online, which is a good $30-40 less than competing models from Panasonic. That's a pretty good deal, especially if you don't care about any extra bells and whistles or whether your cordless phone looks ultra cool. But those looking for a more premium DECT 6.0 phone--or one with the best available range--should pass on this model.

Editors' Note: This review has been updated to reflect that the messaging system can be programmed with a customized outgoing message--though programming it to do so is more complex than it should be.

uniden-dect-1580-4-cordless-phone-answering-system-with-caller-id-call-waiting-dect-6-0-plus-3-additional-handsets.psd
6.3

Uniden DECT1500

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 6