Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Really good, really cheap cordless from (GASP!) VTech

The VTech CS5111 cordless comes from a company I’ve had little respect for.

Despite the company's pioneering work in 900MHZ cordless phones, VTech’s quality control has been so erratic, that I doubted the company's ability to make two properly-functioning phones in the same week.

It was really frustrating, because VTech had the ability to make some really excellent phones -- but you might have to open up a dozen boxes and charge up a dozen phone batteries to find that one excellent phone.

In my other life as the owner of a company that sells phone equipment, I refused to sell anything with the VTech label, and in recent years I was wary of AT&T-branded phones that were really made by VTech (actually they're fine phones).

Vtech's quality was often so bad that some people in the business referred to the company as V-dreck. (“Dreck” is the Yiddish word for crap, or inferior merchandise.) At one time Vtech made multi-handset cordless phones for Panasonic and Sony. Panasonic quickly replaced it with their own Panasonic-made phone. Sony got out of the phone business. Should we blame VTech? Maybe a little bit.

In April, my parents needed a cordless phone with a particular combination of features and color, and the only phone that had what they needed was the Vtech CS5111. The price was so ridiculously low ($17.95) that I was afraid to try it. But, on the other hand, the price was so low that the risk was also low.

I am pleased to point out that after more than a month in the hands of my decidedly low-tech parents, the phone is still performing flawlessly, and it would have been a fine phone at two or three times the price.

Features: 5.8GHz radio transmission to avoid interference with wireless networks, Caller ID on call waiting, stores Caller ID information on 45 calls, 20 name-and-number directory, 9 number speed dial, any key answer, backlit keypad and display, handset volume control, last number redial, page/handset locator, selectable ring tones, trilingual prompts (English, Spanish, French), voicemail waiting indicator, wall mount bracket included.

The only bad thing about the phone is that the profit is so low (less than one dollar difference between wholesale and the suggested retail price), that you may have trouble finding a dealer who sells it.

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