I’ve always had a wonderful relationship with my landline phone. Back before mobile phones took over our lives, you could only really get hold of someone by dialing their home number. I would sit and lovingly cradle my brick of a cordless phone as I chatted with friends, frequently having to shift around when I could hear static in the line. That of course was many moons ago, and I now pretty much do most of my talking on my mobile. But on those odd occasions where my phone isn’t nearby or I’m stuck in the kitchen, I go back to my home phone and rekindle my love affair.
The reason behind this fascinating story is because today I’m reviewing the sleek Gigaset SL910 cordless handset from Siemens, billed as the first home phone handset to feature a full touch-screen interface.
Build Quality & Design
As soon as you unpack the SL910, you’re greeted by some superior build quality and design standards. The phone weighs in at about 160g, and measures 134 x 58 x 16mm. The phone itself is designed with a sleek black look, and has a reflective metallic finish going around the edges of the phone. On the front are three buttons; answer, reject, and menu, and the screen is a 3.2" (TFT-VA 320x480) capacitive touchscreen. Overall the build quality is excellent, but the phone still feels heavier than other cordless phones I’ve used.
Screen and Touch Interface
This is the first cordless touchscreen phone that I've used, so I was intrigued to see how the touch interface would work out. The main display is divided into three screens which you can swipe through either left or right. The first screen is the numpad for dialing a phone number or selecting a contact from the built-in address book. The second screen displays icons for the clock, calendar, address book, and call history. The last screen lets you access your voice mailbox as well as any missed calls. Swiping through the different screens was quite easy, akin to how I would do so on a mobile phone. The screen is quite clear and text shows up strongly with the black and white theme that the phone has.
When it came to using the phone’s on-screen keyboard to add contacts, it was able for the most part to correctly identify what I was typing. Adding appointments to the calendar was also very easy, as was setting up and checking voicemail. While you can’ t edit the apps on each screen or add shortcuts to contacts, overall the interface is intuitive and easy to get around after a few minutes.
Software and Call Quality
What’s rather unique with this phone is the USB connector at the base which will let you connect your phone to a PC or MC and use the Gigaset Quicksync software to run a variety of tasks on your phone. You’re able to quickly update the phone’s firmware, or even enable Telephony mode, which lets you instantly dial phone numbers from your PC by just clicking on them. There’s also a Phone Explorer option which presents your phone in a Windows Explorer view, and lets you download pictures and ringtones to your phone or back to your PC. Lastly, there’s a Contacts option which lets you sync with your Windows or Mac address book so that all of your contacts download onto your Gigaset. There’s also bizarrely enough a Room Monitor option, which turns your phone into a baby monitor – when a certain noise level is reached, the phone will automatically dial either another extension or a mobile phone. It’s a cute gimmick, but I don’t know how many people would actually use it.
The phone also features “Eco Mode”, which when activated allows the phone to transmit less frequently when not in use, thus saving power. You can also turn on Eco Mode+ which saves even more power at the cost of reduce phone range. You can also pair the device with other headsets via Bluetooth, thus expanding the number of phones paired with your base station. Speaking of the base station, this is one thing that I love about the Gigaset SL910 – the base station and phone are two separate units, which means I can connect the phone jack to my base station and hide it out of sight, while keeping the phone and charging dock anywhere else and still being able to use it without any issues.
Call quality for the most part was quite good – roaming around to the first floor of my house I didn’t notice any static or difficulty in hearing my caller. The same was true when I walked outside to the furthest end of the garden – the call quality didn’t suffer at all, which was quite pleasing. The phone boasts 14 hours of talk time, but I wasn’t about to challenge that – the phone was almost never hit 50% charge in the days that I tested it out as it was always returned to its charging cradle.
But despite all of this, the phone doesn’t quite win me over. Yes, the touch screen is an interesting feature to have on a cordless phone, but the design of the phone doesn’t allow you to cradle it in your shoulder when talking. My current cordless phone goes everywhere with me in the house – when doing laundry, cooking, housework; cradling the Gigaset SL910 just wasn’t as comfortable, and the glossy finish is a wonderful way to display fingerprint art. I still find the weight of the phone to be an issue – maybe I’m just spoiled from using mobile phones all the time, but I became really aware of how heavy the phone felt when using it for longer periods.
The Gigaset SL910 is a fancy piece of home kit, but it might just end up being more of a showpiece than a practical phone. While it has some very pleasing design aesthetics and notable features, it just felt too much like a smartphone wannabe to really win me over.