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Saturday, January 17, 2004  

Consuming: Electronics buy tests decision making

Things fall apart. It eventually happens. My 900 Mhz answering machine, which lasted for years, has been failing to date and time stamp accurately for a while. However, I don't want to be like this whiner at Amazon.

Reviewer: An electronics fan from Ann Arbor, MI USA

The predecessor to this model (MA350) has what appears to be the same handset. We had the phone for a little over a year (just beyond warranty) and the buttons started malfunctioning -- which is maddening! I thought Motorola would be a good quality brand, but now I must add it to the list of companies whom I don't buy phones from: Panasonic, Motorola.

Better to accept the inevitability of products having limited life spans (like people). I received an answering machine as a gift after missing the immediacy of a friend's messages one time too many. It is the Vtech 2656. I must decide whether to keep it. On my own, I selected the Motorola MA361. Though a smaller, less complex unit, it seems to be tailored to the kind of use I engage in. I also like getting just as much recording time, fifteen minutes, as more ritzy models offer. Both meet my basic requirements - 2.4GHz, digital and cordless.

The description of the Vtech 2656 is pretty impressive.

Features Include:

  • 2.4GHz Digital Spread Spectrum Cordless Technology
  • 95 Communication Channels
  • Operating Range: Up to 50m Indoors/300m Outdoors
  • LCD Display (Number Dialled, Call Duration and Icons)
  • SUPERFLEX Speakerphones on Handset and Base Unit
  • Multi-Handsets (up to 4 handsets per base unit)
  • Intercom Calls and Call Transfer Between Handsets
  • Conference Call (1 external and 2 internal)
  • 50 Name & Number PhoneBook
  • Call Waiting & Caller ID Ready (50 # Log)
  • 2.5mm Headset Port
  • 5 Last Number Redial, Recall, Hold and Mute
  • Handset Receiver Volume Control

    Digital Answering Machine Features

  • Up to 90 Seconds of Outgoing Message
  • 15 Minutes Recording Time
  • 3 Mailboxes
  • 2 Outgoing Messages (Record and Announce Only)
  • Time/Day Stamp
  • Voice Prompt Memu
  • Full Remote Access including TURN ON/OFF
  • Selectable Ring Delay (2, 4, 6 or Toll Saver)
  • Includes Rechargeable 600mAh NICAD Battery Pack
    and Built-in Belt Clip on Handset
  • Handset Size: 171.5L x53W x45D mm
  • Handset Weight: 134 grams (including Battery)
  • Colour: Silver
  • Another attractive, if iffy, feature is this model promises to be compatible with 802.11b. I am not sure whether this is a solution to a problem or not. I've not encountered interference with my wireless network from my previous answering machine. Nor am I seeing lamentations about such a problem online.

    The Motorola MA361 is a more basic unit, not intended for expansion.


  • 2.4 GHz analog operation
  • Tapeless digital answering system
  • Caller ID with call waiting
  • 6-hour talk time, 6-day standby battery life
  • 1-year limited warranty

    I am leaning toward my prejudice in favor of small things. That would mean keeping the Motorola and returning the Vtech. The reviews at Amazon are mixed, with two score people either loving or hating the Motorola and few comments on the Vtech. I've decided to make the decision based on information, not experience, so both units remain unopened. I doubt either answering machine is a truly bad buy.

    Since "things fall apart" is a philosophically fraught sentence, I suppose I should end this entry by saying something profound. The best I can muster on a lethargic Saturday afternoon is: When small things fall apart, get up off your arse and replace them.

    4:13 PM