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EnGenius SN-920 Ultra Industrial Cordless Phone System


Despite their ubiquity, mobile phones are still relatively expensive. Service providers coax you into their plans with free phones or package deals (while convincing you that they're saving you money), but then you have to give your clients a second phone number where they can reach you. And since cellular reception is often impossible inside buildings, many people who work away from their desks find themselves incommunicado for much of the day (and have to check their voice mail constantly). There should be another option.

The EnGenius SN-920 Ultra Industrial Cordless Phone System provides an alternative. By integrating 2-way radio capabilities with a very high range cordless phone system, up to 36 workers in any complex under a mile in diameter can be fully connected to a phone line and each other. And if you hook up a regular phone to the base station to serve as the central hub, you can have one employee answer all incoming calls and direct them to employees' handsets—no matter where they are in the building.

Whether you work in a hospital, a construction site, a manufacturing plant, a warehouse, or an office building, the EnGenius system allows you to reach your co-workers quickly, virtually for free. No more watching how many minutes you've used this month, no more worrying about coverage within your building, and no more monthly fees.

True to its name, the EnGenius is designed quite well. I only had to look at the instructions once during setup when figuring out how to get my base station into handset registration mode (press volume and page simultaneously). I just plugged the AC power cord into the base and connected my phone line to it. From beginning to end, setup (including the base station and 2 handsets) took about 3 minutes.

Handset features
Multiple extensions
Each EnGenius base station supports up to 9 digital, full-duplex handsets (priced at $199.99 each). If you like, you can add up to 3 additional base stations on the same phone line. Or if you have multiple lines in your office, connect a base station to each. EnGenius makes it possible to have 36 interconnected extensions using 1 to 4 phone lines. Whatever your configuration, all of your handsets can communicate with one another using their 2-way radio features. To avoid confusion, you can assign different rings to each handset and names can be programmed to appear on the LCD's idle screen.

Using the 2-way radio features does not require a base station for signal transmissions. For example, if 2 people take their handsets on a business trip (without a base station), they still have use of the 2-way radio. So when co-workers need to go off site (even just down the street), they can stay connected.

Exceptional range is the major selling point of the EnGenius system. When testing the product, I was able to retain a phone line connection from five times the distance supported by a typical 2.4 GHz cordless phone. With a relatively clear line of sight to the base station, I could walk one-half mile before losing my caller. When buildings and other obstructions were present, reception was reduced to one-quarter mile; still a very respectable range.

These same figures held true for 2-way radio operation, though range was a bit better when I switched each handset from its standard antenna to the slightly longer, non-retractable antenna (included). An optional external antenna for the base station (priced at $99.99) can also be purchased to increase the range for telephone conversations.

Handset design and durability
I only have one complaint about the EnGenius phone system: the handsets are somewhat heavy. If you are using the handset often, especially from your desk, you'll be well served by purchasing a headset adapter (priced at $19.99) and plugging in a Hello Direct headset.

Of course, the handsets' weight does make them seem more durable.

"Keyguard" is the first option you get when accessing the main menu. Once activated, "Keypad Locked" is displayed on the LCD along with the directions for unlocking. This feature prevents workers from tying up a line by accidentally pressing the TALK button.

Like many cell phones on the market today, most features are prompted by the backlit LCD and accessed using the up and down scroll buttons, thereby keeping button clutter to a minimum. These scroll buttons can also be used to access the 30-name phone book and the 30-number Caller ID log. Standard features such as hold, mute, redial, and Call Waiting are also supported.

Batteries and recharging cradles
Each EnGenius handset has its own nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery pack. Similar in design to many cellular phone batteries, they snap onto the handset backs and can be recharged while attached. However, unlike cellular phone batteries, the EnGenius versions can be fully recharged in only 80 minutes. If a battery already has a little charge on it, it will be fully powered even quicker.

Each charging cradle provides 2 compartments: one to accommodate a handset with the battery attached and one to accommodate a battery by itself. So if you have multiple handsets in your department, you can position the charging cradles in strategic locations, enabling 2 employees to recharge from the same place at the same time (one of them will have to remove the battery from the phone). Or keep a fully charged spare battery ready and waiting. On a full charge, handsets have 3 hours of talk time and 40 hours of standby time.

Base station features
The base station's design is simple, serving primarily as a relay station for handsets using the phone line. Since the base station does not have a dialpad, you might want to attach a regular telephone to serve as the central hub and set the handsets to receive only transferred and 2-way radio calls. Then an operator can answer all incoming calls, page the appropriate extension to announce a caller, and then transfer the call. However, if you have just a few employees and would rather not appoint someone as an operator, you can set the handsets to receive incoming calls directly and attach an answering machine to the base station to field those that go unanswered.

Additionally, an audio-in jack at the back of the base station supports a message or music-on-hold system.

The page button on the base station rings all of the handsets registered to it. The first handset that answers is then connected with the base. This is great for any office that has multiple employees that perform similar tasks (sales departments, customer support, trading floors, restaurants, etc.) since whichever employee is currently available can answer the page.

The EnGenius phone system is excellent for any business that needs to deliver prompt customer service or requires instant communication between colleagues not working together in the same department or on the same floor. By integrating a powerful cordless phone with 2-way radio communication, teamwork is encouraged and local toll calls become free. For $380, it's a very good deal.

What I Liked Best   What I Didn't Like
  • Easy setup
  • 2-Way radio capabilities
  • Excellent range
  • Fast battery recharging
  • Durable design
  • Great design
  • Music-on-hold capability
  • Heavy handsets
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