I thought my requirements were straightforward, I work at home a lot and I needed a hands-free phone, which included a digital answering machine for my study. Up to a month ago I had been using a Panasonic phone I bought in the states which had the key handsfree features but was cordless and didn't have an answering machine. I did consider getting a separate answering machine but this would take up desk space and need yet another power socket. Most importantly, I didn't want a cordless phone because I didn't need to walk about, you pay a premium for this capability and I always have problems with the batteries on these things. My basic requirements were; Handsfree - reasonable speaker volume and a good microphone that doesn't pick up too many extraneous noise but I don't have to shout Digital answer feature - digital so I don't have to mess with tapes and the quality is consistent. Also, a reasonable storage period - at least 10 minutes Corded - there seems to be a £50 or so premium for cordless phones with answering and handsfree. For my use I don't need cordless Speed dial - at least 10 stored numbers Try and find a phone that meets these requirements! After a lot of searching stores and on the Web I discovered there were very few phone which fit the bill and finally settled for the Cable & Wireless CWT300. The only information I could find on this product was in the Argos catalogue as the Cable & Wireless web-site only gives corporate information or links through to the NTL web-site. Let me say at the outset that this phone meets all my requirements with features to spare, except one feature which I thought was pretty obvious for a speaker-phone, more on this later. FEATURES 14 minutes digital recording Handsfree operation Privacy button 2 pre-recorded announcement messages Messages waiting beeper Recording feature can be turned off Dialled nu
mber/call timer LCD Recorded call counter Day/time stamp Voice prompts Memo facility 2 mailboxes Call saver Remote control security code Volume control BT and cable network compatible Speed-dial 10 x 1 touch memories and 10 x 2 touch memories Last number redial Recall Desk or wall mounted Black or white Ringer volume - high, Low and off INSTALLATION Installation is pretty simple and clearly explained in the manual. Turn the phone upside down and insert a 9v battery, plug the mains adapter in then plug the cable into the wall socket (BT or Cable). The battery is there to preserve messages and the clock settings if you move the phone and interrupt the mains supply. When the phone powers up it will do a self-test and then you need to set the day and time, which is used to timestamp recorded messages. At this point you are ready to go, you can change the announcement(s) referred to as OGMs (Outgoing Message) if you want to but the default is OK. At this stage I also set the ringer volume to high (switch in the base) and I turned of the message beeper. One final point - the mains adapter is what is sometimes referred to as a "wall wart" where the plug and transformer are combined. Thankfully this is not much bigger than a standard mains plug so it will happily share space on a multiway mains strip. ERGONOMICS The phone has a black silk finish, not at all garish or obtrusive. The number keys are big and bold, easy to read and have a positive action but the size of function keys are of mixed sizes and clustered by function. I would expect the handsfree and mute buttons to be large and placed for easy access as you need to use them in a hurry - to answer a call and to mute the microphone when a noisy dog or child bursts in to the room. The handsfree is medium sized and placed OK but the mute button is tiny and I keep having to hunt for it. The bigge
st button is the message playback control. Speed dial is well catered for with 10 buttons towards the back of the phone, clustered around a 'memo' panel where you can insert a card indicating what each does. The handset has a nice weight and the cord is well behaved, it stays out of the way - so far. The LCD is useful but I can't read it while sitting down as it is at the wrong angle with the phone at the back of my desk. MANUAL The manual is clear and readable and covers all the functions. One omission though is that while it tells you how to programme speed dial memories 11 - 20 I couldn't find were it describes how to dial them! IN-USE The LCD displays the number as you type it and it shows how long the call is lasting - except the timer starts when you lift the handset rather than when the call connects so while it is not totally accurate it does err on the side of caution. Handsfree works OK - you press the handsfree button then use it like a normal phone to make and receive calls then press the handset key again to terminate the call. If you want privacy during a call you just lift the handset and only you can hear what's said, the call is terminated if you put the handset back down. Speaker volume is good, though I find I have to set the volume at maximum and the microphone sensitivity must be OK because people seem to hear me OK and I haven't had to shout yet. When the phone is operating 'handsfree' the message counter displays an 'H' - just so you know someone might be listening. Last number redial key is provided but did you know that you can do this on most (tone) phones just by pressing the # key twice, which is what I always do rather than strain to find the redial key. Programming the speed dial is easy - lift the handset, press the store button, dial the number, press the speed key you want to set then replace the handset. The number
is displayed as you enter it which is good because there is no audible feedback tone when you press a key. The digital answer feature is good. You get 14 minutes of recording time and messages can be directed to one of 3 mailboxes - main, 1 and 2. By default, all messages will be left in the main mailbox, however a caller can select which mailbox to use by pressing 1, 2 or 3, so the phone can be shared and each person has separate messages. A bright red LED display indicates how many messages are left and different buttons allow you to review the separate mailboxes, skip and delete the messages. If there are messages the phone will also beep regularly but this can be disabled. You can also set the phone to answer only, in this mode it will not record messages but you do need to remember to change the announcement so as not to invite the caller to leave a message. You can also set this phone up with a security code to control the answering feature from another phone. You can turn the answer feature on and off, change announcements, switch between mailboxes and access recorded messages remotely. I haven't tried this function yet but it all looks pretty straightforward in the manual - just remember to keep a copy of the remote control codes with you. DRAWBACKS Generally this phone does its job well, however the mute button on this phone isn't really a mute function as found on business desksets. The button is labelled "privacy" and you have to hold the button down continuously to mute the microphone. On most other sets mute is a toggle function - you press once to mute and again to unmute. Mute is a very important feature because any sound made at your end tends to cut out the sound from the other end. On audio-conferences this means that I mute the phone so I can clatter away on my computer keyboard and still hear what people are saying. I find the way mute works on this phone is basically unusable. T
HINGS I WOULD CHANGE The main thing I would change is to make the mute key a proper toggle mute function and provide a visual indication when it was active. I would also colour code primary function keys, in this case the handsfree and privacy/mute buttons, so they stand out (I think the handsfree button may be colour coded with the white model). I would also make the mute key bigger. SUMMARY With the exception of the mute function this phone does everything I need, has a lot of useful features, the multiple mailboxes are a nice touch. For the price it definitely provides good value and I would recommend it to friends and family - in fact I have.