Uniden EXAI 5180 Review

While the Uniden EXAI 5180 is a very attractive looking phone, its performance and usability are very poor.
While the Uniden EXAI 5180 is a very attractive looking phone, its performance and usability are very poor.
While the Uniden EXAI 5180 is a very attractive looking phone, its performance and usability are very poor.

Highs

  • Very stylish design

Lows

  • Poor reception past 30 feet
  • not a 100% digital phone

DT Editors' Rating

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Summary

While the Uniden EXAI 5180 is a very attractive looking phone, its performance and usability are very poor. We ran into consistent interference issues with the EXAI 5180 through walls and any point past 30 feet. Contrary to what the EXAI 5180 packaging says, operating at a 5.8GHz frequency will usually give the phone worse range than a 900MHz phone, and we found this to be true with the EXAI 5180.

Another thing worth pointing out is that the EXAI 5180 is not a true 5.8GHz phone. It also uses the 900MHz band when operating. The package shows a large 5.8GHz graphic on the front of the box, but if you look in the lower left hand corner you will find the fine print that says the EXAI 5180 also uses the 900MHz band to increase clarity. Clarity on the EXAI 5180 is only good as long as you are within 20 feet of the base.

And lastly, the EXAI 5180 is not a 100% digital phone. So there is still the possibility that you can get interference from other cordless phones in your area. If you want a true digital 5.8GHz phone, then we recommend looking at one of Unidens TRU or TCX product lines which feature DSS (Digital Spread Spectrum). If you can stand the look of Motorola’s MA560 phone, then we would recommend it over the Uniden EXAI 5180.

Introduction

Following hot on the trail of our Motorola MA560 phone review, we get a chance to review one of Unidens newest 5.8GHz phones, the EXAI 5180. Where the Motorola MA560 we reviewed last month was lacking in style, it made up for its bad looks with solid features and good reception. Unidens EXAI 5180 certainly is attractive, but we will have to see how it compares to the Motorola MA560’s performance.

While Motorola is relatively new to cordless phones in the consumer market, Uniden has thrived here for several years. The EXAI 5180 is priced around $80 and can be found at most office and consumer electronics stores.

Uniden EXAI 5180

Image courtesy of Uniden

Features and Design

 

The Uniden EXAI 5180 is a phone that we decided to purchase on our own rather than have the manufacturer supply us with.  We were drawn to the EXAI 5180 because of its good looks. The Uniden EXAI 5180 is a very attractive phone that should look good in most settings. Its rounded corners and silver highlights give the phone a very contemporary techie look as opposed to the sharp edges that most tech products had in the 80’s and 90’s.

For a phone that features an answering machine, the EXAI 5180 is very small in physical size. It is not particularly wide and will not take up a lot of space. There is only one antenna on the base and one on the handset. The buttons on the base unit feature distinct icons that represent your basic play, pause, stop, and fast forward buttons. There are no text labels to describe or name what each buttons do. Most people should be able to recognize the icons since they match the very same symbols used on home DVD players, CD players and other household electronics. The speaker on the base unit is located behind the handset cradle. This location is good because it helps accent the design of the unit by hiding the speaker holes.

On the handset, the caller Id and “Rocket Dial” keys are located near the 3-line display while the volume and end keys are located on either side of the talk button. The “Rocket Dial” button is unique because it stores a single programmed phone number. This should be the number that you call the most, allowing easy recall. Redial, select, delete/channel and memory buttons are located on the bottom of the phone underneath the general number keys. While we initially thought the key layout looked easy to use, it was only after prolonged use that we found some very serious errors in how the keys function. Read our Testing section to find out what went wrong.

As we mentioned in our Motorola MA560 review, there are several different types of cordless phones to choose from. Some operate on the 900MHz band while others operate at 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz. Most high-end phones today will be sold as using the 5.8GHz band. The 5.8GHz band promises less interference with home WiFi and other products that operate at 2.4GHz. However the real important thing to look for when purchasing a phone is not necessarily the frequency, but whether the phone is digital or analog. The Uniden EXAI 5180 combines both 5.8GHz and 900MHz frequencies in its operation, and is thus not 100% digital.

The EXAI 5180 features an integrated digital answering machine capable of recording up to 13 minutes and a large 800mAh handset battery which should provide several days of standby time. Caller ID is built into the phone’s handset and can be accessed via the Caller ID buttons located on the handset. Basic settings for changing the password, greeting, ringer and adding a memo are located on the base, while area code and Caller ID settings are found on the handset. The handset features a plug for an external headset should you choose to use one, but Uniden does not include a belt clip with this phone.

Testing and Performance

 

Setting up the EXAI 5180 is very easy to do. Uniden provides a relatively detailed manual to walk you through the process. The microphone built into the base works very well and does not require you to put your mouth close to it while recording a greeting or a memo. Recordings left by callers are loud and clear when being played back. The buttons on the handset and the base work very well and are not mushy when pressed.

When we first started using the EXAI 5180, we thought the button layout looked good. But after using this phone for a while, problems started to present themselves. The first thing we found irritating is the separate “end” key on the phone which hangs up your call. Pressing the Talk button will initiate the call but pressing it again will not hang up the phone, it simply acts as a flash. We found ourselves accidentally pressing the talk button to hang up only to find out we left the phone on. We think that if the talk button is going to be so large and prominent on a phone, that it should serve as both the on and off button. Another problem is that the EXAI 5180 has multiple uses for other buttons.  For example, the redial button serves as the pause button and the channel button serves as the delete button. Most people will get the hang of this, but we just think the usability could be much more intuitive.

We found the operating range and clarity of the EXAI 5180 to be sub par. Reception is very bad and fuzzy when the phone is being used through walls or from a distance further than about 25-30 feet. This is no doubt do to the fact that the EXAI 5180 does not use DSS (Digital Spread Spectrum) technology; it is not a digital cordless phone.

Battery life on the EXAI 5180 is pretty good and we were able to use the handset for close to 5 hours before the battery life started to go out. All of the cordless phones we have reviewed use a Nickel Cadmium battery so after a year we recommend replacing the battery to make sure the phone works properly.

Conclusion

 

While the Uniden EXAI 5180 is a very attractive looking phone, its performance and usability are very poor. We ran into consistent interference issues with the EXAI 5180 through walls and any point past 30 feet. Contrary to what the EXAI 5180 packaging says, operating at a 5.8GHz frequency will usually give the phone worse range than a 900MHz phone, and we found this to be true with the EXAI 5180.

Another thing worth pointing out is that the EXAI 5180 is not a true 5.8GHz phone. It also uses the 900MHz band when operating. The package shows a large 5.8GHz graphic on the front of the box, but if you look in the lower left hand corner you will find the fine print that says the EXAI 5180 also uses the 900MHz band to increase clarity. Clarity on the EXAI 5180 is only good as long as you are within 20 feet of the base.

And lastly, the EXAI 5180 is not a 100% digital phone. So there is still the possibility that you can get interference from other cordless phones in your area. If you want a true digital 5.8GHz phone, then we recommend looking at one of Unidens TRU or TCX product lines which feature DSS (Digital Spread Spectrum). If you can stand the look of Motorola’s MA560 phone, then we would recommend it over the Uniden EXAI 5180.