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Uniden EXAI398 review: Uniden EXAI398

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The Good Easy-to-use digital answering machine; long range; strong battery life; low price; integrated speakerphone.

The Bad Limited recording time; awkwardly placed volume controls.

The Bottom Line We'd like to see some design improvements, but overall, we're fans of this basic, long-range 900MHz cordless phone.

7.0 Overall

This 900MHz cordless phone is like a Ford truck: basic but solidly built. You'll get an integrated digital answering machine, strong battery life, and great range. And if you shop around, you should be able to find the Uniden EXAI398 for almost half of its $60 list price.

The well-formed handset fits nicely on the ear. Keys are color-coded; white is for functions and black is for dialing. But we wish that differentiating the buttons by feel were easier. The volume controls are in the middle of the handset instead of on the spine, so midcall adjustments are difficult.

Many of the answering machine's functions have dedicated buttons on the base, but you still have to drill through a voice-prompt menu to access some basic amenities, such as activating a security code and setting the length of incoming messages. And speaking of recording time, although you can choose 1 minute, 4 minutes, or announce only, the chip maxes out at 11 minutes, so we suggest signing up for your phone company's voicemail service. Otherwise, you'll still miss calls while you're on vacation. A large LED on the base blinks when messages are waiting. The caller-ID memory can store up to 30 numbers, and the RocketDial (Uniden's fancy name for the speed dial) has 10 slots. Finally, both the handset and the base include a ringer, and you control each independently.

Exactly as advertised, the EXAI398 gave us nearly two weeks of standby time and seven hours of talk time. The handset's sound is a bit shrill through its speakerphone but is otherwise clean and clear if a bit thin, and the phone outputs plenty of volume.

When it comes to range, the EXAI398 rates above average among the 900MHz phones we've tested. Depending on conditions, you should be able to wander 125 to 150 feet from the base without experiencing any breakup. Uniden claims that the Extended Range mode "offers you extended range, voice clarity and performance," though the company also admits that the feature drains the power more quickly. The improvements weren't very noticeable, and the battery lasts a long time, so we think Extended Range should be the default setting. But there's no need to split hairs. Overall, the Uniden EXAI398 is a well-built, high-value phone.

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