Many more professionals are telecommuting these days than in the past, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. You can tax deduct your home phone usage, however, only if you have a line dedicated to business. This means that if you’re working from home, you need a two-line phone. What you want is an expandable two-line expandable cordless system using DECT 6.0, the most advanced cordless digital phone technology available, with a built-in answering machine. But unbelievably, there are only three two-line DECT choices.
Panasonic’s KX-TG9391T includes a corded handset on the base, which defeats the whole cordless purpose. And the RCA ViSYS 25250RE1 has been savaged by consumers on sales Web sites. Flying under the sparse two-line DECT phone radar though is the Philips SE659, an unassuming system that is likely the answer to your two-line DECT prayers.
Features and Design
The Philips SE659 is a two-line DECT 6.0 cordless landline telephone system with built-in telephone answering machine. The system can be expanded to include up to eight cordless handset extensions.
On the base is a separate dial pad and speaker, which creates, in essence, a ninth extension. The base station keys, both dialpad and function, are nice and large, with bold white-on-black lettering that makes them easy to read even though they aren’t backlit.
Pea green perimeter outline backlights around the Line 1, Line 2 and Speaker keys blink when active, making it easy to see what line is ringing and if the speaker is on or off.
The display screen has a bright amber backlight, a good thing since it’s hard to read without it. There’s also a “handset locator” call button in the handset charging cradle of the base station.
Happily, handsets are perfectly-sized. They can be cradled comfortably (relatively speaking) between shoulder and ear, and are flat on the bottom so they can be stood up on a tabletop for speakerphone calls. The handsets also have a bright and easy-to-read color LCD screen, and are equipped with a 2.5mm headphone jack. In idle mode, the handset clearly displays the time in large white-on-black type. Like the base station, all handset keys are large and easy to read, especially when backlit, and their functions are clearly discernable.
It took us a couple of days to get used to the thinner sound from the handsets when compared to a Panasonic DECT phone. While not as full-bodied as the audio provided by Panasonic models, calls achieved a lot more volume than expected, although boosting it one step louder would have been a plus, helping to compensate for louder environments. (For example: Rooms full of noisy kids running around.) However, voices are clear and conversations easily understood, so no complaints there.
Even better is the remarkable vocal clarity from the full-duplex speakerphones, both on the base and the handsets. Voices are the most lifelike we’ve heard from a speakerphone, with hardly any of the usual echo or hollowness one would expect to encounter.
Ringtones also are plenty loud, although we do wish there were a wider selection of tones, such as an old-fashioned bell ringer.
Philips SE659 Base
It took us a couple of tries and re-reading the instructions before we successfully registered both the base and an extension handset. Thankfully, you can easily rename each handset once registered. Menus and varying Line 1 and Line 2 settings options, such as changing the LCD wallpaper, are easy to navigate too.
A red LED blinks on the handset whenever calls are received, and annoyingly continues to blink until you’ve scrolled through the caller ID list. More annoying though is the delay in hearing the digital key tone when dialing. Push a numbered key and you hear a faint tone, then a micro-second later, just as you’re pushing the next number in the sequence, you hear the musical digital tone.
One of DECT’s primary advantages is range. We maintained a clear signal more than 100 feet from the base, which was located in the back room of an NYC apartment. Clarity extended all the way out into the hallway outside, even through several steel reinforced, concrete bearing walls.
You get 30 minutes of message recording on each line, which is above-average, with a three-minute limit per message. Toll saver – the first call is answered after four rings, subsequent calls after two – is preset as well. None of these settings is adjustable, but you can turn the answering machine off on either line.
Messages can also be retrieved from the base or any handset. The red LED blinks when new messages are received, but there’s no way to differentiate this blinking from incoming calls received with no messages left. You’re alerted to phone company voicemail messages by the same blinking LED, which, sadly, is like having no alert at all.
Philips SE659 Base and Handset
Brilliantly, the SE659 uses standard AAA nickel-metal hydride rechargeable batteries. If and when the batteries stop holding a decent charge, you don’t have to scour the earth for an over-priced proprietary replacement.
The trade-off is that you don’t get much battery life from them. Talk time is 12 hours, which is exactly what we got in our tests, and a bit above-average for the category. But 150 hours of standby (six days) is a bit below average. In our own experience, the handset retained a charge for only four days off hook. But this isn’t a huge problem as long as you exercise a little OCD and put the phone back in its cradle each time your calls are complete.
Saying that the Philips SE659 is the best choice among two-line expandable DECT systems may sound like faint praise, considering the dearth of choices on the market. But other than the annoying blinking call received light, the poor message-received alert and the dial key tone delay, realize. The SE659 is a well-functioning and solid sounding landline phone which we don’t hesitate to recommend.
- 2-line expandable DECT phone
- Great sound, especially from speakerphones
- Shared contact list
- Great range
- Large and easily identifiable dialpad and function keys
- Standard AAA rechargeable batteries
- Short battery life
- No blinking alert for received message on either the unit’s or phone provider answering machine
- Constant blinking “call received” light
- Annoying dial key tone delay
- Contact list not alphabetized