* Prices may differ from that shown
Here at the Mc. residence, we were in desperate need of a new phone. The old one had been battling for months, dropping calls and generally misbehaving - it was time to retire. Although our phone receives more than its share of usage (both our mothers love to talk); we don't give our number out, remain ex-directory and prefer not to have an answer phone so we don't have to return calls if they're not wanted (I'm not going to say which family member here but they know who they are!!). So we didn't want to spend money on a phone with a huge range of features we'd never use. Seeing as it's just the two of us, we also didn't need a second or third handset, which so many cordless phones have now. In short, the kind of phone we were after was fairly basic but I still didn't want it to look 'cheap'.
Mr. Mc. loathes shopping. I could have picked up a squeaky dog toy shaped like a phone and he would have said something along the lines of 'Yeah, great. Can we go home now?' So I was really surprised when in our third shop I found him with the Siemens Gigaset AL180 in his hand. What had drawn him in was the price initially - £26.99. That morning we'd already discussed budget and neither of us wanted to pay over £40.00 for the kind of basic phone we wanted. The AL180 comes in an orange and yellow box with a picture of the phone on the front and a couple of symbols highlighting various features of the phone (which I will discuss throughout the review).
So Mr. Mc. liked the price. For me though, I'm quite environmentally conscious and as long as we were within a reasonable budget, the eco credentials would come first. One of the symbols on the front of the box says 'ECO DECT'. On the side on the box, it tells us that ECO DECT means an overall reduction of 60% power usage due to its energy efficiency, a 100% reduction of transmitting power in standby mode and up to 80% reduction in power in talk mode. The box also states that despite the reduction in power, you will get 210 hours of standby and 25 hours of talk time out of a fully charged battery.
The look of the phone was also pleasing for £26.99. The model was black and although it does state there are different colours, black was the only model we saw. It's fairly slim for a cordless: 2cm thick and stands at 14cm tall and nearly 5cm wide. I find this to be a really comfortable size to hold, even for my very small hands. We agreed that this phone was the right price, didn't look awful and cheap and was environmentally sound too.
When we got it home, I opened the box and started to set it up. I'm really not very technical and I managed this with no issues or help from hubby whatsoever. Inside the box you'll find: a simple instruction manual, one handset plus batteries, a base unit, a power lead and a telephone cable. The instruction manual is multi-lingual, which normally I hate as I find it so confusing navigating to the English parts in each section, but this was well laid out and extremely simple to follow. The first thing to do is attach the base unit to the power lead. Then you can attach the telephone cable. After that you register your handset by scrolling to 'register HS' on the simple menu and pressing OK. The phone automatically registers the handset to the base unit for you and viola! You're ready to make your first call.
Like most cordless phones, the batteries are rechargeable and require some care. First you have to leave the handset charging for a full 8 hours in the base unit, then remove the handset from the cradle and let the battery drain. After that, you can replace the handset back on the base after every call. This is no problem to perform and standard procedure to protect the battery life. Whilst it was on its first charge, I set about adding our numbers into the phone book. Again, this was really simple and fully explained in the manual. You simply press the button with the book icon, then new entry, add the number, add the name and press OK. I can't overstress - this really is one of the simplest phones I've ever had. For a budget phone, it also has an impressive 40 entry phone book, which won't fit everyone but covers family and close friends so suits our needs perfectly.
The Gigaset comes in various different models which have answer phones and more complicated features like messaging but as we went for the basic model, I can't discuss those features here. If you're looking for a phone packed with features, get a different model. My one gripe is that this phone only has 10 different ringtones, none of which I find offensive but none of which I find particularly inspiring. But you can't get everything for £26.99 so I'm certainly not complaining. As for the promised battery life - Siemens keep their promises: draining the battery down took 3 full days of stand by and making a few calls. The sound quality on these calls has also been superb. I have every faith then that this phone will continue to perform, but just in case, Siemens also include a helpline number on the front of the manual and a 24 month guarantee at the back. If you're after an inexpensive basic cordless phone, I really think you can't go wrong with the Gigaset AL180.
Corded telephones in recent times have started to make a come back - or so it would appear for the John Lewis store in Edinburgh who always seem to be out of constant stock of their cheapest BT handset! I was one of very many buyers recently who have signed up for a year of cheaper Internet and phone calls from a certain company that justified looking for a basic phone rather than something I'd pay over the odds for. The solution was then the next handset up in the John Lewis stores and it comes in the form of the unusually named "Gigaset" family by Siemens because at the price of other corded phones it simply didn't make any sense to consider anything more expensive. Certainly if I hadn't been stopped by the friendly sales member who recommended the Siemens AL180 single handset priced at £19-95 based on my initial disappointment, this single handset wouldn't be in my possession and instead a £25 Big Button BT phone would have come home with me instead!
** This is a long review! **
It pays to know what you are looking for and honestly declare it. After I got the phone home I was delighted to find that the Gigaset AL180 isn't as basic as it first appears. Although the buttons are mainly white numericals on black, there is a central scroller key with a metallic frame around it that adds a little class and grey LCD numericals on a pleasing orange-lit background. The buttons push finely with a spongy yet precise feel and all the decals are easy to read. Still, for the price I wasn't expecting very much but in actual fact the Siemens experience has so far been a positive one.
Firstly, the quality experience starts right from the moment you open the orange box and I was presented with quite a large user manual, the phone itself, the charger base, the charger adaptor, a wall mount, 2 screws, a phone clip, loose battery cover and what I wasn't expecting, two rechargeable long life AAA batteries of which this phone uses. My last DECT phone (BT) had short life non-rechargeable batteries so this is a welcome surprise generally. Everything is packed in neatly and doesn't scream "cheap," either despite the UK price.
Although the phone looks rather plain, it doesn't feel it from its initial light weight or its slightly speckled plastic. Despite the added black/grey colour contrasts and soft grain my initial experience made me drop it a number of times when it slipped out of my hand but surprisingly, the handset hasn't cracked or broken in any way and it feels slightly bigger than a mobile phone coming in at 14.8cm (height) by 4.9cm (width) and 3cm diameter. The base for the phone is easy to assemble in terms of aligning the adaptor cord through it and it has been of good advantage to see a page facility located on the base itself should the phone get lost. For £20 the features and quality don't just stop there; the phone cord you get from the socket to the base and the plug adaptor itself are slightly longer than average so there's no worry to have to place it close to wall socket.
Despite my love for checking out features the moment I get a product, I had to use the phone straightaway when I purchased it. The moment I plugged it in I was unsure as to whether the batteries would take straight away but I was surprised to find that there is some power in the phone that can be used even though the batteries may well be fresh. The call lasted a minute before the phone shortened out but I was happier that my mum could hear me and that the initial quality of the speech and signal was quite strong even as far as one room away from where the base was located. The phone however should be charged continuously for at least 7 hours before first use.
With an outdoor range of 300-metre range however, for some buyers this could be an advantage in terms of the actual maximum range that the AL180 offers from the home charger/base. However the range drops to just 50 metres if used indoors. However I've found no downside as the clarity of speech and the quality of volume is extremely clear with little interference from other appliances and that's from the kitchen, three rooms away from the home charger/base. This seems to be an important advantage for this phone as Siemens claim that the phone will reduce transmission power automatically if it used further from the home charger/base. As such battery life is well marked on the screen and generally clarity from the main LCD panel is well achievable. If however you take or make calls from the AL180 sited nearer to the home charger/base battery life can be extended and I've been delighted to find that this phone in particular has 2 ECO modes (including one that is claimed to be radiation free) that substantially lengthen the strength and longevity of the batteries. Not only this but Siemens claim this phone has the ability of being left on standby at 210 hours and a total talk time of 25 hours. My longest call in one use has been around two hours and that was to a call centre following a dispute with a certain mobile stick broadband Internet company. In that instance, the handset does become warm but it isn't any different from other DECT phones I've used in the past in this respect and the sound quality from the call centre was fabulously clear - which may agree with Siemens High Sound Performance (HSP) components built in. There are also some other surprising features such as an alarm clock built into the phone, the ability to receive the call openly once the handset is lifted from the base automatically or manually having to press the green accept-call button to standard features that I've seen in my other phone such as time/date/day. For different languages, the AL180 has 28 different language options including Arabic.
The Gigaset AL180 isn't that far away from a standard mobile phone in terms of menu display or its basic functions either. Everything is accessed through the central scroller key and then additionally as the fonts show up on the orange back lit screen, there are two buttons on the top that can further access the Menu or go back function. In terms of memory however, the AL180 impressed me in the store as it has a 10 number last dialled memory capacity outside of its 40 number memory. I tend to use the Internet for keeping in touch and don't keep forty or so many telephone numbers anyway. What I do appreciate more however is the fact that it shows up to 25 last calls received or missed and if you work long hours during the day as I do, it often helps to see who has called. The AL180 also has SMS capability and is fairly easy to set up without having to call the phone company you are with.
That aside the AL180 has a wonderfully easy and intuitive way about it without reading much into the heavily Germanic user manual. I say Germanic because it reminds me of our old Bosch oven and dishwasher user manuals (the fact that Siemens and Bosch are one company could well have something to do with it) and if you don't like logical bullet points crammed into bold paragraphs and then line diagrams, you won't appreciate the strictness of the user manual. It is easy to understand eventually but the constant wording on the starter pages easily put me off and it is written in tiny font size such as size 8 from Windows Microsoft office document if you want a comparison.
The downsides to this phone are very few and far between however; for the price it won't vibrate on alert and bar one key button, the numerical keypad does not light up in use. Externally the ring tones however are slightly tacky, ranging from just 10 in total, which are all monophonic and have 3 to 4 levels of volume. You'll get classics such as a Mozart Piano sonata to low sounding tones that are enduring rather than endearing! The volume of the tones are also soft to loud and on the highest setting the Siemens does have quite an output. Another downside and one that I greatly miss is that there is no speakerphone on this model so hands free just isn't an option here. Those points aside, I'm relatively happy being the owner of my first Siemens phone where normally I've chosen cheaper brands in the past that have wowed me on feature rather than known speech/call quality issues and power problems. One final fact is that you can add up to 4 other handsets with this phone.
For the price then, the quality and thought that has gone into this single DECT Siemens AL180 is refreshingly different, environmentally friendly and very well thought out. Tie in the long battery life, good call signal/quality and a wonderfully easy to set up system and it is almost the perfect budget priced DECT phone around. Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2009