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In the electric department of Asda my eye was caught by a price tag, above which was an answer phone. I quickly studied the tag just to confirm it related to the phone, and it did. They only wanted £4.99 and that seemed too good a bargain to miss so in the trolley it went. At the check out the price came up wrong (£17.99 if I remember correctly) so I pointed out the ticket price. Away went a supervisor who adjusted the price, in my favour, and home I went. The moral is, if you think you're getting a bargain, check your receipt!
What Is It? ______
It is the Binatone System 500, a corded analog telephone with digital answering machine. It comes in a box with pictures portraying the phone. Inside are the handset, base unit, extending coiled cord, AC adapter and telephone lead. All these components are individually wrapped in clear polythene bags. there is also a set of instructions and a remote access reminder card.
Does That Mean You've Got To Put It Together? __________________________________
Yep, I'm afraid it does, but it's not difficult. The first thing the instructions tell you to do, is fit the 9 V battery into its housing, at the bottom of the base unit. Hang on, 9 V (PP3 / 6FL22) battery, what 9 V battery? You have to provide this yourself and it's not very clear on the box! Fortunately, I have a supply of these batteries for other electronic equipment I use, so I didn't have to rush out and buy one. Do I need a battery, I hear you asking? Technically, no you don't need one. The battery is there as a back up in case of AC power failure, thereby preventing you from losing any messages stored on the answer phone. To fit the battery you unscrew the battery cover with a Phillips screwdriver and carefully remove the connecting lead. Once you've connected and fitted the battery into it's new home, the cover is simply screwed back on. Battery life is around the one year mark depending on how many power failures you have.
The coiled cord plugs into the base unit and handset using two plugs, similar to those used on a modem. This can be awkward if you've got chunky fingers, as the plugs are fairly small. Once plugged in, the cord is fed from the bottom of the base unit into a slot, allowing the cord to exit from the side of the base. This prevents the base unit sitting directly on the cord and damaging it.
As you need AC power, the unit must be positioned near to a wall socket. Before plugging the adapter in, make sure the socket is switched off! The adapter connects to the rear right hand side of the unit. As the phone only has one socket suitable for the adapter plug, you can't go wrong. Honestly!
The final lead has a standard BT type plug at one end, and a modem type plug at the other. Get's easier doesn't it? The modem type plug fits into the back of the base unit, and is again awkward to fit. The other end goes into your phone supplier's socket. Job done.
Before going any further, lift the handset. Is there a dialling tone? Yep, all OK so far!
What Does This Bargain Look Like? __________________________
The top of the phone, including the handset is silver. The bottom of the base is black. It is higher at the top and lower at the front giving a nice
gradual slope. the base unit is 13 cm wide, 6 cm deep at the top and 1.5 cm deep at the front. The overall base length is 22 cm.
The handset is 20 cm long. At the top it is 4.5 cm wide, tapering to 4 cm at the 15 cm length where there is a recess on either side, before tapering back to 4 cm at the bottom. The recess's add an attractive looking curve to the handset. The depth of the ear piece is 3.5 cm and it curves nicely into a good hand grip, before curving out to the mouth piece which is again 3.5 cm deep.
What's What And Where? _________________
The handset sits on the left hand side of the base unit. Underneath the handset are two 'hollows, one to the rear and one to the front. It is the rear hollow, which being the deepest at 2 cm, holds the phone on the base unit when not in use.
Also underneath the handset are six very small buttons. These are labelled, m1 to m3, store, recall and secrecy. Buttons m1 to m3 are one touch dialling, and memory storage. The recall is used to access call waiting, conference calling or any other services you have with your service provider.
Do I need explain the secrecy button? For those that don't know. It's used during a call, to prevent a person at the other end of the line, hearing a conversation at your end of the line. For instance. Your partner is talking to their mother who is inviting you for Sunday lunch. Knowing the expletives you will come out with, your partner presses the secrecy button before telling you. This way you get to express yourself, and your partner prevents mumsie from hearing. Clever eh! By the way the button doesn't stop you going to lunch!
On the right side of the base unit are two push buttons and one slide button. The push buttons are marked + and -. They are used to increase or decrease the volume of the answer phone messages. The slider is used to adjust the ringer volume. All three buttons are coloured grey with black identification which is in picture form.
At the top right of the base unit, the model number is shown beneath a clear plastic window. This space would make a great area for writing your telephone numbers, but unfortunately it can't be removed.
You now have the main bank of buttons, which if you have one of those fingers that just love to push buttons, will please you immensley. You are faced with 23, yes 23 buttons.
Just below the model number, the first set of buttons are set at an angle. These buttons are oval in shape.
The first button on the left is the backward button. It is used to return you to the beginning of a message you have just listened to.
The button immediately to the right of this is the time / date stamp. This is used to set the system clock so that received messages can be time / date stamped.
Then there's the on / off button. Yes, I know you all know what this does, but on this model it's not that simple. The System 500 can answer with one of two message types. The first is your usual leave a message after the tone. The second, which is great when you're having a bad day, is a please call later message. This second option doesn't allow callers to leave a message, it's basically telling them to go away you don't want to talk to them. To turn the answer phone on / off it's a simple quick press of the button. To select one of the messages you have to hold the button down longer.
Finally in this bank is the forward button which is used to skip to the next message.
Below the top buttons are four Light Emitting Diodes (LED's.) These show battery failure, full message bank, the answer machine is on or there are new messages and finally when the phone rings, a light flashes. Not that you need the light, my ringer's set on maximum so it can be heard throughout the house!
The next set of buttons is the standard keypad, 1 to 0, the * and # keys. Along with the one touch memory buttons mentioned earlier, the * and # keys can be used as memory storage. All of these keys are round.
To the left of the next sequence of buttons, is the system microphone. This is used to record your own outgoing message(s). The next three buttons again change in appearance.
The centre button is rectangular nestling between two triangular buttons.
The left hand triangular button is used to delete your messages, either those received or if you wish to alter your outgoing message.
The centre button plays your messages and the right triangular button is the stop button which, you've guessed it, stops playing your messages.
The final bank of buttons are again set at an angle, and like the top bank, are shaped oval.
The first one, OGM (Outgoing message) 1, is for the answer phone message asking callers to leave their details, etc. You can use the pre-recorded message "Please leave your message after the tone." You can, of course, record a more personal message by pressing this button until you hear a beep, so activating the microphone. There's a 60 second record limit which should be enough for most people. To stop recording all you do is press the 'stop' button.
My favourite outgoing message is activated by the next button, OGM 2. The pre-recorded message says simply "Please call later." As I mentioned earlier, in my warped mind, this is telling the caller to go away, you don't want to talk to them. You can record your own version by following the same steps as OGM 1, only this time pressing and holding down the OGM 2 button. It is very tempting on a bad day to record a message to suit your mood, but be it on your head if you do. We have the telecommunications act in the UK and If you break it, you're deep in the smelly stuff!
We then have a memo button. This can be used as a simple reminder, where you can store up to 90 seconds of speech. This is useful for leaving messages for my children when I'm out and I want them to do something. Not that it gets done! They're both amazing at using hi tech mobile phones, but remembering how to recall a message on this phone, not a chance! When you leave a memo the answer LED flashes to let you know it's a memo.
The memo function can also be used to record both sides of a phone conversation. To activate this you hold the button down until the system beeps and away you go. The instructions don't clarify how long you can record a conversation for! NOTE: If you plan to record a conversation, remember to inform the other person you're recording it. This is important if the conversation is going to be used in some type of litigation!
At long last, the final button. Labelled LNR/P this is the last number redial and pause button. Last number just redials the last number you called. Should the need arise to pause a message whilst listening to it, this is the button you use.
What's It Like To Use? __________________
It's straight forward really! Although the memory buttons are small they are set far enough apart so you don't hit the wrong one. Storing numbers into the memory is fairly easy, and soon becomes second nature.
The standard keypad buttons sit in circular dimples, making it difficult to hit the wrong number when dialling. All the buttons have a nice sprung resistance which makes them feel sturdy.
In this day and age, it's normal to have a multitude of channels you can select when reception is poor. This doesn't, there's only the one. I've not had any problems, and the clarity of the caller's voice is always clear.
The handset is comfortable to hold, even during long conversations. This is also made easier by the extending cord.
Any Other Features? __________________
It has caller breakthrough and remote access.
Caller breakthrough is a numerical code, which when activated, will interrupt any conversation you may be having. There is a default code or you can programme your own. The code is four numbers long and you provide it to realtives or friends. Should you be on the phone and they need to contact you urgently, they enter the code and your call is interrupted by the new caller. It is designed, according to the instructions, for emergency use.
Remote access allows you to retrieve messages, or set up the answer phone, from any other touch tone telephone. Again it uses a numerical code, either default or you own. To help you remember how to carry out the various remote functions, a wallet sized card is provided. The card is well designed, easy to use and thinly laminated. It won't last forever though, so I made my own, stronger, laminated copy.
The instructions are eight pages long, with nine chapters on how to set up and use the phone. They cover basic calls, advanced features and a diagram is used to show you where everything is, The instructions are clearly written with bullet points, so they're easy to follow. This is a big plus when you first start using the more complicated functions. The final page covers the guarantee and conformity certificate.
Overall Opinion __________
For what I paid I've got a real bargain. It's a well-made phone that seems sturdy, so I expect it to last a long time. I've seen better looking phones, but this one isn't an eye sore. You don't have a choice of ring tones, but you can adjust the ringer volume which is quite loud on full volume. I've not tested the minimum volume, so I don't know if it's audible or not. If your looking for a simple analog phone with digital answer phone, this may be worth a look. If you can get hold of one!
Colours - All Black or Black/Silver 2 x Outgoing messages 13 minutes digital recording time Caller intercept Remote access Memo facility 10 number memory Message Day/Time stamp Memory Full Indicator (Approx 60 messages after which OGM2 automatically activates)
The phone conforms to the following standards: EN 55022, EN 55024, EN60950, CTR21 and CTR38
Manufacturer - Binatone Telecom Plc, Unit 1, ponders End Ind. Est. Enfield, Middlesex EN3 7SP