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INTRO

Staying in touch with the outside world is even more important when you’re  working from home. Rick Maybury looks at some of the latest phones, fax and answering machines, many of them designed specifically for home office users

 

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Working from home will change your life. Usually it’s for the better, but it can just as easily turn into a nightmare. The biggest problem for many first-timers is communications, or more often than not, a lack of them. The majority of home office users spend a lot of their time working alone, in which case there’s no-one else to answer the phone, take messages, or make excuses... If your business is going to thrive it’s vitally important to make sure that callers and clients -- existing and potential -- can get hold of you whenever possible, and are never left feeling frustrated or ignored. However, the simple fact is you can only be in one place at a time; inevitably there will be occasions when you are unavailable, busy or unable to take calls. 

 

That needn’t be a problem. In the past few years there’s been a minor revolution in the office equipment market, with an increasing number of phone products now specifically designed for the SoHo (small office, home office) applications.

Well chosen telephone systems can give your business a professional ‘big-company’ image, and give callers the impression that you’re accessible, even if you can’t actually speak with them in person at precisely that moment. It’s not necessary to spend a small fortune on office equipment though, and many small businesses run from home offices function perfectly well with just a single residential telephone line.

 

At first sight the huge range of telecommunications equipment can look intimidating. To help you sort the wheat from the chaff -- and there’s no shortage of that -- we’ve been taking a close look at what’s available, by focusing on three key areas: cordless phones, answering machines and fax machines.

 

Cordless phones are a quick and easy way of putting an extension phone into a room or outbuilding -- handy when you’re just starting out -- and they’re very popular with those lucky enough to be able to take their work into the back garden, on sunny days. Answering machines are the home-office worker’s best friend; the right message will ensure you never miss a call. Fax machines have become an indispensable tool for all types of business. Quite simply you cannot exist without one, if you expect to send or receive documents, and you can’t afford to trust your livelihood to the vagaries of postal and courier services, at home and abroad.

 

CORDLESS PHONES

In the past cordless telephones have played only a peripheral role in the home office equipment market but now there’s a whole new generation of products, designed specifically for SoHo users. Early cordless phones had a reputation for poor quality, unreliability, and because they all operated on a small handful of frequencies, they were not very secure.  When they first appeared, back in the early 1980’s, it  was possible to walk up and down a street, accessing other people’s base-stations in shops and houses; interference from other users was a constant problem. Modern analogue phones are now reasonably secure, they use coded signals to reduce the chances of interaction. They operate on a much larger set of frequencies, interference is not a big problem, and the quality has improved dramatically. Features worth looking out for include two-way intercoms, Mercury dialling, auto channel selection (to ensure the best line quality), speakerphone,  out of range warning and the option for additional handsets. Some cordless phones have an integrated telephone answering machine, which can be useful, if space is at a premium.

 

Whilst analogue technology still has a lot to offer, the future is digital. The next generation of cordless phones, now reaching the market, use digitally processed signals. This gives a much better range and sound quality, a high level of security, and many new features, that will be of special interest to SoHo workers. The relevant technology is called DECT or Digital European Cordless Telecommunications; it operates on  much higher frequency band than analogue systems (1.8 to 1.9 gigahertz), close to the frequencies used by some cellular phone networks.

 

The principle benefit is flexibility. Some DECT systems have the facility to be used with up to six handsets, which can communicate directly with the base-station, and the outside line, or between themselves, thus becoming a complete self-contained internal telephone system. The DECT system also has the potential to be used for data transmissions, cordless modems are already in the pipeline. There’s also the possibility for local ‘telepoints’ which would enable DECT handsets to be used to make outgoing calls at public base-stations, at airports, railway stations or local high-streets and so on. However, readers with long memories may remember what happened to the ill-fated Rabbit system, and others, from the late 1980s and early 1990s, so don’t hold your breath... 

 

BETACOM DISCOVERY 8, £69.99

This is a fairly basic, general-purpose design, suitable for light duties in a home office. The smooth, clean styling makes it easy to use and hold. Control layout is good and the buttons are well spaced. Speech quality is fair to middling, it can become quite hissy and sensitive to position at the limits of the range (around 30 metres), otherwise it works well and the price is fair. 

 

Make/model                  Betacom Discovery 8

Typical price                  £69.99

System             analogue cordless phone  

Channels                       8-channel, auto selection

Features                       10-number memory, out of range warning, page facility, redial, PABX facility 

Battery life                     14 hours (standby) 

 

RATINGS

Performance                  ****

Range                           ***

Ease of use                   ****

Value                            ****

VERDICT             79%

 

BT DIVERSE 1000, £229.99

The Diverse is the first of the DECT digital cordless phones to reach the UK market, several others are due to follow later this year. Speech quality is excellent, even at the limit of its range, which is several times the distance of most analogue phones (around 300 metres). Up to six extra handsets can be used, with the facility to call between handsets, whilst another is connected to an outside line. It is expensive but it is very well suited to SoHo applications. Recommended.

 

Make/model                  BT DIVERSE 1000

Typical price                  £229.99

System             digital cordless phone/exchange           

Channels                       120, auto selection

Features                       handset display, out of range warning, upgradable with extra handsets, pager, digital security code, call timer, call transfer, 10 memories, PABX compatible

Battery life                     30 hours (standby) 

 

RATINGS

Performance                  *****

Range                           *****

Ease of use                   ****

Value                            ****

VERDICT             85%

 

BT FREESTYLE 320, £99.99

This is one of the most advanced analogue phones on the market, geared towards small business use. It has the option to add extra handsets (£39.99 each), and a two-way intercom facility, which operates independently of the outside line. Speech quality is generally quite good, and it doesn’t deteriorate as quickly as some other models due to the extended range of around 100 metres.  Worth considering.

 

Make/model                  BT Freestyle 320

Typical price                  £99.99

System             analogue cordless phone  

Channels                       8-channels, auto selection

Features                       10 number memory, LCD display, pager, out of range warning, intercom, on-hook dialling, multi-handset capability, PABX compatibility, Mercury dialling 

Battery life                     100 hours (standby)

 

RATINGS

Performance                  ****

Range                           ***

Ease of use                   ****

Value                            ***

VERDICT             82%

 

PANASONIC KT-T4066E, £99.99

Efficient noise reduction circuitry makes this one of the quietest analogue phones on the market. It’s bristling with useful SoHo features, like the reversible handset and the speaker built into the base-unit, making it an easy to use speakerphone. There’s a 2-way paging and intercom facility and a 10 number memory. The styling and black/charcoal livery gives it a professional appearance and the long battery life means it’s unlikely to let you down at the crucial moment. Recommended.

 

Make/model                  Panasonic KT-4066

Typical price                  £99.99

System             analogue cordless speaker-phone  

Channels                       6 channels, auto selection

Features                       10-number memory, reversible handset, hands-free speaker phone, 2-way pager/intercom, Mercury compatible  

Battery life                     160 hours (standby) 

 

RATINGS

Performance                  *****

Range                           ****

Ease of use                   ****

Value                            ****

VERDICT             83%

 

SANYO CLT-583, £99.99

Sanyo have clearly put a lot of thought into this design and carefully targeted the features at small office applications. The 583 has a dual personality, operating like a well featured desk-phone, that effortlessly transforms in to a stylish cordless phone. It looks very businesslike, range and speech quality are both very good. Worth considering.

 

Make/model                  Sanyo CLT-583

Typical price                  £99.99

System             analogue cordless speaker phone  

Channels                       8-channels, auto selection

Features                       10-number memory, dual keypads, illuminated keypad on handset, speaker phone, 2-way page and intercom, Mercury compatible, PABX compatible, noise reduction 

Range                           50 metres

 

RATINGS

Performance                  ****

Range                           ****

Ease of use                   ****

Value                            ****

VERDICT             82%

 

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BUYING A CORDLESS PHONE

* take manufacturer’s maximum ‘open air’ range figures with a pinch of salt, unless your desk happens to be in the middle of a field... 

 

* check the battery life figures, especially if you’re forgetful or liable to leave the handset lying around overnight

 

* re-chargeable batteries may only last for a year or two; check that they can be easily replaced, and spares are readily available

 

* multi-channel analogue cordless phones can still interfere with one another. If you live or work in a densely populated area, you should consider a digital phone

 

* cordless phones are not a long-term substitute for a wired extension, nor can analogue models be used with other types of telephone equipment, such as faxes, answering machines or computer modems

 

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PHONE FACTS -- POWER PROBLEMS

If there’s a power cut an ordinary phone will continue to operate, because it draws its power from the telephone line, but what happens to a cordless phone? Since all of the models on the market are mains powered they would stop working, but BT regulations say that’s not allowed as the phone couldn’t be used to make an emergency call. If your one and only phone is a cordless model then it must have some form of battery back-up. Most models now have a built-in battery compartment, or a separate battery box, that will keep the phone’s base unit ticking over for several hours, until power has been restored. The sensible option is to always have a conventional ‘wired’ phone connected to your line,  just in case...

 

ANSWERING MACHINES

It wasn’t so long ago that a telephone answering machine was one of the most advanced and expensive pieces of electronic equipment in an average office. Now they’re commodity items, domestic appliances that can be purchased cheaply in any high street. Nevertheless, that hasn’t altered their status as one of the most valuable business tools, essential for home office workers who cannot be next to the phone all the time.  

 

The cost of telephone answering machines (TAMs) has plummeted in the past ten years, initially due to the development of single-drive, microprocessor controlled  micro-cassette tape machines -- where both the outgoing message (OGM) and incoming messages (ICM) are recorded on the same tape cassette. More recently there’s been an influx of digital recording systems. More than half of all new TAMs now use tapeless technology. It has a number of advantages. The quality of the OGM doesn’t deteriorate, as there’s nothing to wear out; they have fewer moving parts -- hardly any in fact -- so they’re more reliable, and that also makes them cheaper to manufacture. There are some trade-offs, though. Sound quality can sometimes be a little strange, some systems give the caller’s voice a sort of vibrato quality, recordings times are normally a less than tape -- some models have just a few minutes capacity -- and it’s difficult to archive recordings, or record long conversations. On the plus side, digital machines can easily time and date stamp recordings, and you don’t have to wait to spool though messages, to hear widely-spaced parts of a recording.

 

There are several dozen TAMs on the market, including basic stand-alone devices, and combined answering machines with telephones (tel-tams), which are arguably the most appropriate for home office use. SoHo-oriented features to look out for include: remote interrogation, enabling you to retrieve messages, when you’re away from home; call-screening, so you can decide whether or not to answer the phone; multiple number memories, one-touch dialling and hands-free dialling.

 

BETACOM SOLO, £24.99

The Solo is one of the cheapest telephone answering machines on the market, but if all you need are basic functions, for callers to leave a message, or let them know where you can be reached, then it’s not to be sniffed at. It uses a single micro-cassette tape for both the ICM and OGM, and it whirrs and clunks rather a lot, as it winds back and forth through the tape. It is a little slow but for the price it has some handy facilities, audio quality is quite good, and it’s hard to fault, as far as simplicity of use is concerned.

 

Make/model                  Betacom Solo

Typical price                  £24.99

System             micro-cassette TAM

Features                       day/time stamp, call screen, remote interrogation, flashing LED call counter 

 

RATINGS

ICM Quality                   ****

OGM Quality            ***

Ease of use                   ****

Value                            *****

VERDICT             83%

 

BT RESPONSE 310, £49.99

BT’s Response range of tel-tams continues to evolve, with improved facilities, performance and lower prices. The Response 310 is their current mid-ranger, it has a digital recording system with fast message access, skip and repeat. Other features include a 13-number memory, call screening, time/date stamp and message counter display. Like all BT products the pedigree is impeccable, audio quality is average to good -- for a digital tel-tam -- and it’s reasonably priced.

 

Make/model                  BT Response 310

Typical price                  £99.99

System                         digital tel-tam

Features                       time/date stamp, 13 number memory, remote interrogation, call screening, message count

 

RATINGS

ICM Quality                   ***

OGM Quality            ****

Ease of use                   ***

Value                            ****

VERDICT             78%

 

PANASONIC KX-T2886, £199.95

Panasonic’s impeccable SoHo credentials are clear to see on this highly sophisticated tel-tam. The digital recording system has a 30 minute recording capacity, and several useful extras, including two voice mailboxes. Selected callers can access a mailbox, using a simple code, and leave a personal message, that can only be retrieved with a personal PIN code. Digital audio has a slightly ‘gritty’ quality, but it’s perfectly intelligible. A tad pricey maybe but this is no tarted up domestic product, it’s built to last, do the job, and do it well! Recommended.

 

Make/model                  Panasonic KX-T2886

Typical price                  £199.95

System             digital tel-tam

Features                       8 number memory, hands-free speaker phone,  twin voice mailbox Mercury compatible, alarm clock, 2-way record, time/date stamp, remote operation, call screening, memo record, call transfer, message counter

 

RATINGS

ICM Quality                   ****

OGM Quality            ***

Ease of use                   ***

Value                            ****

VERDICT             83%

 

OLYCOM A500, £39.99

This rather ordinary-looking micro-cassette TAM from Olympus has one very special talent. That’s the facility to dial 1471 and record the info from BT’s number check facility, if a caller doesn’t leave a message. That could be very helpful as a lot of people are still intimidated by answering machines. That’s in addition to a voice time/date stamp, call counter display, remote interrogation and memo recording. Audio quality is good and the machine is exceptionally easy to use. Worth considering.

 

Make/model                  Olycom A500

Typical price                  £39.99

System             micro-cassette TAM

Features                       1471 ring-back and record, message counter, remote interrogation, memo record, time and date stamp  

 

RATINGS

ICM Quality                   ***

OGM Quality            ****

Ease of use                   ****

Value                            ****

VERDICT             80%

 

SHARP CL-A500, £200

We were unsure whether to include this as a cordless phone, or as an answering machine; in the end we suspect it will be brought primarily for its telephone answering facilities; cordless phone operation is a bonus. It’s an excellent example of a product that’s designed for a specific application, namely small or home offices. It uses a single micro-cassette, so ICM and OGM quality is good, and recording times are only restricted by tape length. The speaker phone is a major convenience feature and there’s several neat touches, like the illuminated keypad and the handset, which will stand upright on its base. A very attractive combination of technologies, worth considering.

 

Make/model                  Sharp CL-A500

Typical price                  £200

System             analogue cordless tel-tam

Features                       12-number memory, one-touch auto-dial, redial, dual speakerphone, on-hook dialling, intercom/pager, 2-way conference mode, Mercury compatible, auto security coding, illuminated keypad,  micro-cassette telephone answering machine, remote access (outside line or cordless handset), memo recording, call screening, 8-channel, auto selection, 14-days standby, 45-metre range

 

RATINGS

ICM Quality                   *****

OGM Quality            ***

Ease of use                   ****

Value                            ****

VERDICT             88%

 

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BUYING AND USING ANSWERING MACHINES

* A time and date stamp is not a luxury, it’s essential especially if you’re likely to be away from your desk for more than a few hours

 

* keep your outgoing message short and to the point. Long-winded and un-funny OGMs are very annoying, and sound unprofessional 

 

* A call counter is very handy if you expect your machine to take a lot of messages

 

*  the tape heads on well-used micro-cassette TAMs need cleaning every few weeks with a cotton swab, soaked in cleaning fluid

 

 * tapes should be changed every few months, to avoid a reduction in audio quality following repeated use

 

BOX COPY 4

PHONE FACTS -- TAPE Vs DIGITAL

For once digital doesn’t necessarily mean better. Tape-based TAMs have a number of advantages, some of which are directly relevant to SoHo applications. To begin with the sound quality of incoming and outgoing messages is often better -- especially on budget and mid-range equipment. As the information is stored on tape, it cannot be easily lost or corrupted, if there’s a power cut, or the backup battery fails. Tape-based machines often have a longer, unrestricted recording  capacity. Micro-cassettes, which last for up to 30 minutes per side, can be easily changed, (or turned over), so messages do not have to be periodically erased to free up space.  Digital recording systems have a finite capacity, sometimes limited to just a few minutes, which generally makes them unsuitable for recording long two-way conversations. Tapes are cheap and easy to archive, should you want to keep a permanent record of your calls, or conversations. In general digital TAMs do not have any facilities for archiving recordings, other than by holding a microphone, connected to a tape recorder, next to the answering machine’s loudspeaker.

 

FAX/PHONE & TAM COMBIS

Fax machines were once an expensive luxury, as recently as ten years ago they were mainly found in large, well-equipped offices, with the space to accommodate bulky devices the size of a small filing cabinet. A succession of postal strikes in the 1980’s changed all that and within a few years the fax machine population in the UK soared. This created the necessary critical mass, that both helped bring prices down even further, and make them a near universal means of communication.

 

The core technologies, used to send text and graphical images down ordinary telephone lines, have changed little in fifty years, though transmission speeds, image quality and ease of use have been transformed, and continue to improve all the time. Needless to say fax machines have also been getting smaller, cheaper and easier to use. They’ve also become a lot more flexible; most models now have an integrated telephone -- often with plenty of extra convenience features. A growing number of SoHo oriented products have integrated answering machines, or the facility to connect to an external TAM. Most of these machines can discriminate between different types of incoming calls, either automatically, or by giving the caller the option to choose between a normal telephone call, or send a fax, thus making the most efficient use of a single line.

 

One of the most commonly cited bugbears of faxes is the thin, curly thermal paper, and the fact that images can fade quite quickly, especially if they’re stored incorrectly. Some machines can help to iron out the curl, though the increasingly affordable alternative are plain-paper fax machines. These use a variety of printing technologies, including laser, inkjet and thermal ink-roll. Virtually all fax machines have a copy facility, though reproduction is usually not a patch on a proper photocopier. Some plain-paper fax machines can be connected to a PC, enabling them to be used as a printer and in some cases, a scanner as well, though this one-box solution is still at an early stage of development. Most of the products launched so far, do not perform as well as the separate items they’re meant to replace.

 

Fax machines are possibly one of the most difficult pieces of office equipment to buy, considering the wide variations in price and feature combinations. However, it is generally fair to say that the quality of received images is relatively consistent, so if you expect to receive a lot more faxes than you send, you can settle for a cheaper or simpler machine. On the other hand if you’re going to be sending a lot of faxes then it’s worth paying for the additional features. Advanced error correction systems are useful if you suffer from a noisy phone line. Combination fax answering machines are a great idea, but do take into account how easy they are to for callers to use. If they have to listen to lengthy instruction messages they may be put off.  

 

BETACOM PPF-800, £449.99

A remarkably low price for a plain-paper combination fax, answering machine, printer and scanner. Part of the reason they’ve been able to keep the cost down is the unusual thermal-ink printing system. It’s based around a single-use cartridge containing a roll of inked film. Print, copy and fax image quality is okay for text -- the texture is very similar to thermal printing -- but halftone and detailed graphic images are not especially sharp. Ink cartridges cost around £14 each, they are long enough for around 400 A4-sized faxes or printouts.  It’s reasonably compact, just a little larger than the other personal desktop fax/phones we’ve looked at, plus it is easy to set-up and use. It has some useful answer phone facilities, such as call forwarding. This is very handy if you’ve got a mobile phone, or know a number where you can be reached. When a message has been received the PPF-800 will dial a nominated number, and relay the message; all you have to do is key in a PIN number on the phone, to hear the recording. Resolution on the scanner is quite coarse, it’s adequate for simple documents, but images can look quite dark. It suffers from the usual problems of a Jack-of-all-trades; faxing and answering machine facilities are fine, scanning and printing options are best suited to light, undemanding applications. Good value, though.

 

Make/model                  Betacom PPF-800

Typical price                  £449.99

Features                       Digital answering machine, memo record ‘secure’ voice mail facility, call forwarding, plain paper operation, 10 sheet capacity, 50-number autodialler, Mercury compatible, remote access, PC interface (printing & scanning)

 

RATINGS

Send quality                  ****

Receive quality            ***

Ease of use                   ***

Value                            ***

VERDICT             82%

 

PANASONIC KX-F2700, £338.00

Panasonic are one of the pioneers of combination fax-answering machines and the F2700 is one of their current top sellers. It’s ideal for small business users, designed to handle a reasonably busy workload. Key features include a paper cutter and stacker, anti-curl facility, 64 level greyscale resolution and a 15 sheet auto feeder. The digital answering machine has automatic switching for incoming faxes and it has a 30-number auto-dialler. There are three password protected voice mail boxes, for nominated callers to leave messages, in addition to the general answering facility. The speaker phone has hands-free operation and it’s Mercury compatible. Two finishes are available, white or grey, to suit most types of decor.  Fax send and receive quality is very good, with better than average resolution on graphics and halftones. Worth considering.

 

Make/model                  Panasonic KX-F2700

Typical price                  £338.00

Features                       combined fax digital TAM, 15-sheet document feeder, 30-number memory, hands-free speakerphone, paper cutter, curl reduction, 3 password protected mailboxes

 

RATINGS

Send quality                  ****

Receive quality            ****

Ease of use                   ****

Value                            ****

VERDICT             83%

 

SAMSUNG SF-2900, £329.99

The digital answering machine on this model has a large 60 minute capacity and a 2 megabyte memory, that can store up to 50 fax pages, for transmission or reception. The latter feature means that incoming faxes won’t be lost, if the machine runs out of paper. Finished in ivory, it has a relatively small footprint, the control layout is logical and simple to use. Transmission quality in the Super-fine mode is good, it has a 32-level greyscale, but it’s not especially fast. Received documents are crisp, halftones are light and detailed. Audio quality on the digital answering machine is amongst the best in this roundup with very little distortion. The large memory capacity -- it’s probably no coincidence that Samsung are one of the world’s leading manufacturers of memory chips -- gives this machine a clear advantage over most other models in this category. That, together with  impressive fax and TAM performance means it is definitely worth shortlisting.    

 

Make/model                  Samsung SF-2900

Typical price                  £329.99

Features                       digital answering machine, two megabyte memory, paper cutter, fax/TAM switch, 10 one-touch and 80 number memories, 10-sheet sheet feeder, remote interrogation, hands-free 2-way speaker phone, Mercury compatible, call transfer, call screening

 

RATINGS

Send quality                  *****

Receive quality            *****

Ease of use                   *****

Value                            *****

 

VERDICT             85%

 

SANYO SFX-210, £299.99

This versatile and attractively-priced combination fax with telephone answering machine uses thermal paper and a digital recording system. The fax feature list is quite extensive considering the price, and includes a paper cutter, 10-page document feeder, 3 resolution modes and timer transmission. There’s a 20-number speed-dial memory and 8 one-touch numbers. A built-in speakerphone enables hands-free operation. Layout and design are both fairly conventional, frequently used controls are grouped together, and colour coded for easy identification. The LCD display is not very easy to read from a lowish seating position, when the machine is on a desktop for example, and loading a roll of fax paper can be quite tricky, until you get used to it. Performance is very good, audio on the digital answering machine is unusually crisp. Fax images are very clean and the fine transmission mode is a little better than average.

 

Make/model                  Sanyo SFX-210

Typical price                  £299.99

Features                       Digital answering machine, on-hook dialling, auto paper cutter, 10-page document feeder, 20-speed-dial/8 one-touch number memories, Mercury compatible, remote interrogation

 

RATINGS

Send quality                  ****

Receive quality            ****

Ease of use                   ****

Value                            ****

VERDICT             82%

 

SHARP UX-85, £379.99

Sharp are another company with a great deal of expertise in the SoHo market, and it shows, the UX85 us a well-featured and simple to use desktop fax machine, with a built-in digital answering machine. Plus points include a ‘flash’ memory, that retains messages and settings, even if the power is interrupted, and message forwarding, that dials up a nominated phone, to let the user know that a message has been left.  The digital TAM has an 11-minute recording capacity, which isn’t very long, but it does have an unusual fast playback facility, for quickly searching through recordings, and a slow playback mode, for increased clarity. The fax system has 16-levels of greyscale, so finely detailed images can look a little muddy but transmission speeds are a little faster than average. The control layout is uncluttered;  it’s quite a chunky design,  a bit of a dust-trap we suspect but it looks quite purposeful. Worth considering if you’re looking for a simple, no-fuss fax-tam with a useful, rather than exotic range of facilities.

 

Make/model                  Sharp UX-85   

Typical price                  £379.99

Features                       digital answering machine with dual-speed playback, time and date stamp, auto page cutter, non-volatile ‘flash’ memory, remote interrogation, message forwarding, 15-sheet document feeder, Mercury compatible, speakerphone 5-number speed dial, 10-number memory

 

RATINGS

Send quality                  ****

Receive quality            ***

Ease of use                   ****

Value                            ***

VERDICT             80%

 

BOX COPY 5

BUYING A FAX MACHINE

 

* don’t skimp on facilities like a sheet feeder and paper cutter, if you expect to send and receive a lot of long documents

 

* check the cost and availability of fax rolls before you buy; compact machines tend to cost more to run, and need replenishing more often

 

* if you expect to send a lot of graphic images or halftones make sure the machine has a good range of resolution modes

 

* if you need a photocopier get one. Fax machine copying facilities are generally quite poor

 

* check how easy it will be for callers to leave a message, or send a fax on combi models -- complicated procedures or long delays are bound to put people off...

 

BOX COPY 6

PHONE FAX -- THERMAL Vs PLAIN PAPER

Thermal paper fax machines are cheap, generally reliable, and image quality is not too bad. Unfortunately most types of thermal paper are thin, curly, and has a ‘gritty’ feel, though some high-grade (read expensive) papers are not too bad these days. However, thermal faxes fade over time, and can disappear in a matter of weeks, if they’re stored in direct sunlight, or close to a source of heat. There’s now a good selection of plain paper fax machines on the market, that print on ordinary copier paper. Several different printing technologies are used, and they all have their own plus and minus points. Some plain paper machines can also be connected to a PC, enabling them to be used as printers; on some models the fax scanner can be used to import documents and images -- in black and white -- into a PC. This may require the use of additional software, and resolution is normally not as good as a dedicated scanner.

 

Laser or LED printing is currently the most expensive system, and the cost of consumables -- replaceable toner cartridges -- varies considerably, but it’s capable of the best results. Inkjet printers are usually more compact and image quality can be quite good but ink cartridges may need replacing fairly often and can also be quite costly. The latest idea is thermal ink film ribbons. A roll of thin plastic film, held inside a cartridge, is coated with a thermally reactive ink. Inside the machine it comes into contact with a sheet of paper, a thermal printing head -- similar to the one used in a conventional fax machine -- transfers the ink to the paper. The ink film can only be used once, so it can be quite wasteful on documents that have only a few lines of text, moreover it cannot produce the same fine graduations of grey, that are possible using other printing techniques. Replacement ink rolls are relatively inexpensive, though they are not, at present, as widely available as thermal paper, inkjet or toner cartridges.    

 

BOX COPY 7

PHONE FACTS -- REN NUMBERS

All BT compliant telephone devices must have a REN or ringer equivalence number printed somewhere on the case, or in the instruction book. This is important as it tells you how many pieces of equipment can be connected to a single line, to ensure reliable operation. The REN numbers of all the appliances using the line are added together and should not exceed 4. Ordinary phones and those supplied by BT typically have a REN of 1 or less. Cordless phones and answering machines usually have a REN or 1 or 2; fax machines and combination fax-TAMs can have a REN of 2 or sometimes 3.

 

BOX COPY

JARGON BUSTER

 

ACTIVITY LOG/JOURNAL

Printout or display on a fax machine that shows the time, date and status of fax messages transmitted and received by that machine

 

CALL SCREENING

Facility on some answering machines, (set to record incoming messages), that allows the user to hear who’s calling, so they can decide whether or not to answer in person

 

ICM

In-coming message -- recording left by a caller on an answering machine

 

DECT

Digital European Cordless Telecommunications -- new cordless phone technology, providing much higher quality, better range and security, compared with older analogue systems. Future developments may include cordless PC modems, and remote telepoint services, so DECT handsets can be used to make outgoing calls, within a few metres of public base stations

 

GREY SCALE

A measure of the contrast range of a fax document. A good greyscale is important when sending photographs or halftones, it is not so critical for simple black and white text or graphics

 

MEMO

Voice recording facility on some telephone answering machines etc., for leaving short messages, intended for the user. These are normally kept separate on a separate part of the tape, or memory location, from incoming messages

 

MERCURY

Equipment having Mercury compatibility normally has a single button, that dials a pre-allocated PIN number to access Mercury services,. Various residential and business options are available, that can reduce the cost of long-distance calls. For more information call their customer service helpline on 0500 500 194

 

NUMBER MEMORY

Most telephone devices these days have electronic memories, that can store frequently-used telephone numbers. One-touch or ‘speed’ dialling is a number memory that is accessed by pressing just one button, most other types require a two-digit code, or utilise a dedicated bank of buttons

 

OGM

Out-going message --  what a caller hears when they dial up a telephone answering machine. On some devices this may contain additional instructions, for accessing a mailbox or sending a fax 

 

PBX/PABX

Private Automatic Branch Exchange -- automated multi-extension exchanges used in most offices etc. PABX compatible equipment has the provision to first dial a single number (typically ‘0’ or ‘9’) to access an outside line, before continuing with the rest of the number

 

PSTN

Public switched telephone network

 

REMOTE INTERROGATION

Answering machine facility than allows messages to be retrieved from another phone, usually by dialling up the machine, and entering a simple PIN code. Basic models will simply replay any recorder messages, other, more advanced designs allow full remote control, including re-programming OGMs and erasing old messages

 

REN

Ringer Equivalence Number -- number printed on all BT approved phones and peripherals, that indicates how many devices can be connected to a single telephone line. The REN of all devices connected to a normal line must not add up to more than 4

 

RESOLUTION

The amount of detail in a fax image. Some machines have two or more resolution settings that improve the transmission quality of finely detailed graphics or halftones. The use of higher resolution modes normally results in a much slower transmission speed

 

RING SELECTOR

Most telephone answering machines and faxes can be programmed to answer after a pre-set number of rings

 

SoHo

Small office, home office -- category of products and services aimed at those who work from home

 

TEL-TAM

Combined telephone and telephone answering machine

 

TAM

Telephone answering machine

 

TIME/DATE STAMP

Facility, common to most telephone answering machines, that logs and displays (in some cases ‘speaks’) the time and date that each message was recorded

 

VOICEMAIL BOX

Message recording facility on some telephone answering machines, that operates independently of the main message recording system. Normally a voicemail box can only be accessed by using a PIN code, issued to selected users, so their messages will be kept separately and given priority

 

VOICE PROMPT

Telephone answering machines, with built-in voice synthesisers or digital recording facilities, containing pre-recorded ‘help’ messages

 

CONTACTS

 

BETACOM PLC, Unit 1 Ponders End Ind Est, Duck Lees Lane, Enfield

Middx EN3 7TQ. Telephone 0181-344 6200

 

BRITISH TELECOM plc., 81 Newgate Street, London EC1A 7AJ or any BT Phoneshop

 

OLYMPUS OPTICAL, 2-8 Honduras Street, London EC1Y OTX

Telephone 0171-253 2772

 

PANASONIC UK LTD., Panasonic House, Willoughby Road, Bracknell,

Berkshire RG12 4PF.  Telephone (01344) 862444

 

SAMSUNG UK LTD, Unit 1, Hook Rise Business Centre, 6225 Hook Rise South, Surbiton, Surrey, KT6 7LD. Telephone 0181-391 0168

 

SANYO UK LTD., Sanyo House, Otterspool Way,  Watford, Herts WD2 8JX.

Telephone (01923) 246363

 

SHARP UK LTD., Thorp Road, Newton Heath, Manchester M10 9BE.

Telephone 0161-205 2333

---end---

Ó R. Maybury 1997 1902

 


 

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