* Prices may differ from that shown
These BT Versatility phones were installed in our office 8 months ago, and I quickly became something of an authority on them, after managing to completely clear the entire programming a day after they were installed and having to work my way through a complete re-program.
The phones are business phones, designed to be installed on business systems which have either multiple lines or a need to communicate between different stations.
A quick tour of the phone...
The phones are a significant presence on the desk, around 25x20cm and standing around 12cm tall at the back. The keypad and display screen are angled towards the user, and it is all well designed in that respect, easy and intuitive for dialling and accessing the menus. The handset is ergonomically designed, curves in all the right places! It does feel quite heavy in the hand; this is a well-built piece of kit. The phones are matt black finish which means they don't attract great quantities of dust or fingerprints, ideal for office use where cleaning is down to the individual!
The top section of the phone is given over to a fairly large semi-circular speaker, and beneath is a large button to activate the speaker, mute button and volume keys. I like this arrangement as all the connected features have their buttons all together.
The main central area of the phone is given over to the keypad on the left side and the screen to the right. The screen has 6 buttons alongside it, 3 on each side, which are linked by means of a groove in the body of the phone, each to a line on the display, used to make selections from the prompts/menus which appear there in various functions.
The top line of the display shows the date and time, and the remainder of the display is given over to other menu items, which can be scrolled through using the scroll buttons which are handily positioned beneath the screen.
Above the screen are four permanent one-touch keys: 'program' to access programming features, 'message' to access all voicemail options, 'directory' for stored numbers and 'network', only needed if the phones are installed on one.
Finally, the bottom section of the phone has the 8 programmable keys, which are customisable.
A bit about the system
As this is a review of the V8 featurephone rather than the 'Versatility' system they're designed for, I will keep this to a minimum, but I will say that the system works perfectly for our small business.
The system operates by nominating one station as the "master" and extensions from that as "slaves", which can further be managed by arranging into groups. The master is the station through which external calls come into the business, and the system can then be managed according to individual business needs in terms of directing or diverting calls to other handsets, groups, voicemail boxes, or to external numbers when no-one is in the office. You can determine how long a call should ring for before ringing at another station, or to mailbox, and whether it should ring in a certain sequence or on all phones in the system.
The more advanced features of the system leave me somewhat out of my depth, but I will quote from the manual, as they may be important to other potential users:
"... an Integrated Communications System supporting all your voice call needs and also provides an 'Integrated Data Solution' which allows multiple simultaneous Internet sessions and Voice over IP (VoIP) trunks. The VoIP trunks can be set up with a Broadband Voice Service Provider or on a managed IP network."
Each phone station has certain features which can be programmed to individual users needs. For instance, the system works so that there is a "system" phone number directory (up to 500 numbers) which all users can access, but individuals can also programme their own personal directory (up to 30 numbers), and these are easily accessed from the "directory" key.
Similarly there is a "system" mailbox but also individual mailboxes for each user, where users can record their own messages to the system message, and calls can be easily routed accordingly via the programming menu. There is a large red illuminated panel when a message has been left on your phone.
The 8 programmable keys can be dedicated to any function within the phone or assigned to frequently used numbers, meaning that whatever the key is programmed to is executed by a single button press. We have it set up so that it's a one-touch operation to switch the whole system over to voicemail when leaving at the end of the day or to switch over to an external number if you are just popping out. The first two buttons are preset to our two lines, and illuminate depending on which line is in use.
When a call is made or received, the screen displays an "in-call" menu, which enables transfer, hold or consult with another extension at the touch of a button. For incoming calls, caller number is displayed, or if it is a number programmed into the system, the callers name is displayed. In call the duration is constantly displayed on the screen.
Calls can be made and answered completely handsfree, but all of us find that the speakers are not the clearest, and using the handset gives a far superior quality to the call. That said, when the need arises, it is more than adequate for an odd use, both in terms of listening and also the person on the other end hearing us, it's just a preference of ours to use the handsets.
Programming the phones for the system from my extensive experience is straightforward but very long-winded. Reprogramming the whole system (1 master + 2 slaves) took me over 2 hours, and ours is not a complicated system in any way. My impression is that this is in no way a state-of-the-art system or phone, so the navigation through the processes required are not especially intuitive and it did require a lot of concentration and patience to programme the phones and system.
The same applies to the overall navigation through the system. Some of the menus don't seem to be arranged in the most user-friendly way... for instance wherever you are in any menu, there is an "exit" option somewhere on the screen, but it would be far more intuitive if "exit" was alwas in the same place, whereas it will flit from top right to bottom left as you go through a process.
The last major point I must make is that scrolling through the main menu, the last option is "Reset Phone". I wanted to change one of my personal programmed keys when I pressed this, and I recall it was just one more screen and press and the entire system was wiped. [Sorry, but my dedication to this review doesn't extend to trying it again in order to verify what happened!] I'm pretty sure it was more than simply pressing that button once, but I also definitely remember that there was no "Are you sure?" prompt, so please beware of following this function! I should add that I did not find out how to change one of the programmed keys once stored, and haven't attempted to do so since, so again take care and plan your choices before programming!
My sum-up would be that these are good, solid phones which meet our business needs just fine. The phones are widely available online, refurbished for around £50, and at that price there is nothing I would want them to do where they fall short. All the basic features are present as well as a few neat extras, without being over-specced, and all in all this is a great value business phone.