Make your Office Phone Wireless and Hands-Free!
Jan 14, 2008 (Updated Jan 21, 2008)
Review by Guy Techie
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Easy to use, long range, long battery life
Cons:Expensive, hard to install and configure
The Bottom Line: If you answer calls all day, this is the best contraption you'll want on your side!
Recommend this product?
In the tech support world, we need to be able to converse over the phone in comfort, since most of the support we provide is over the phone. Because of this, a standard handset may not be a good idea, least you like having a sore neck. Thus, our help desk department provide us with Plantronics CS55 hands free wireless headsets.
In the Box
Inside the box, we have the base, the headset, the standard headset lifter, various ear clips (different sizes), a microphone (for listening to the ringer), and a headphone-style mount. There are also various wires and cables, along with 2 different install manuals (one for the wireless headset and one for the headset lifter).
If it all sounds very complicated, well... it actually is!
When I opened up the box, which doesn't seem much bigger than the base itself, I was shocked and amazed at all the pieces there were to this contraption. All laid out, it covered my entire desk!
We have a Mitel 5224 IP phone, which looks like most office phones with the speaker phone where the handset goes. The Plantronics CS55 is designed mostly for phones like these, although they come with accessories that accommodates phones that aren't very much like ours at all.
To install, you must disconnect the handset from the phone base itself. You then connect the handset to the base of the wireless handset (the actual transceiver). There is a small wire that goes from the wireless base to where the handset use to connect to (where you originally disconnected it from).
You can then run a small power supply (included) to the wireless base and plug it in. This gives it the power to sen and receive signals, as well as the ability to charge the wireless headset when not in use.
Once that is done, you can put the headset into the base to charge. BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE! Plantronics know that fit and comfort is a very personal thing, so they included several ear clips of different sizes (like the ones used in Bluetooth headsets), and a headphone-like contraption (like a standard headphone). The hands free headset itself is an elongated teardrop shape and is actually bigger than your standard wireless Bluetooth headset only because of the extended microphone. So even if you use those ear clips, it doesn't look all that bad. It actually looks very profession, so if you're afraid you'll look silly, don't!
If you rather have a headphones-like way of putting it on, you can use the included headphone contraption instead. Either way you choose, the wireless headset snaps on to any of the ear clips or the headphone easily. It allows a bit of adjustment to move the mic.
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! If the phone is on the hook, there is no way of getting any kind of connection, so you have to take it off the hook for it to work. But that's kind of...inefficient. So Plantronics included a headset lifter just for this purpose! It connects to the wireless base itself, and it sticks onto your phone. Every time you hit the button on your wireless headset to answer a call, the headset lifter physically lifts the handset off the hook for you to get a dial tone or to answer a call. It reminds me of the contraptions that Doc Brown or Rick Moranis's character in "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" would create.
Since the handset lifter covers the speaker phone, it actually have grills to allow for sound to come through. It also have a built-in microphone that listens in on the speaker so if the phone rings (normally it rings through the same speaker), it will signal the hands free headset, creating a few beeps in your ears. I guess this is useful if you are too far from your phone to hear it ring.
I've used the ear clips just so that the profile of the wireless headset is smaller and sleeker. Of course, it kinda looks cool! If you accidentally leave the office with it, it looks like the cell phone accessory that almost everyone else wears (which I have done a few times - on accident, not on purpose!). I tried various sizes, and while I found one that works for me, it still pinches. I never like this way of wearing these hands free sets, which is one of the reasons I disliked the Jabra BT8010 stereo bluetooth hands-free set as well. Thankfully, Plantronics also included a headphones-like rig that allows you to pop in the hands free headset into it, which allows you to use it more like a traditional headset with boom mic. Think Skype!
This thing is complicated to configure even though you are finished with the complicated set up. There is a knob on the side of the base that the manual only describe as something you turn until it sounds good. Huh?
Then there is the major and minor adjustments to the mic and speaker. The major adjustments come in a form of a switch that says ABCD or 1234 (one for mic, one for speaker). The minor adjustment comes in a form of a digital volume control. The mic's minor adjustment is on the base, while the minor adjustments for the speaker is on the hands free headset itself.
Then there is the handset lifter. You must adjust it so that it doesn't lift to high and fling the handset off the phone's base. Also, it should be high enough that it clears the hook switch, otherwise, you won't be able to make or answer calls with the hands free set.
Once you have it set up right (people stop complaining that you are either too loud or too faint), you will rarely ever have to adjust anything else again. Which is a GOOD thing!
It is easy to operate once everything is set up and configured. A button on the side of the hands free set allows you to hook or unhook the phone. You can't really dial out when you are away from your phone, so it's mostly for answering calls.
The "minor" volume adjustment on your hands free set pretty much acts like a volume adjustment when you are actually on the phone with someone, so no big surprise there. If you push the volume "knob" in, it mutes the mic. When the mic is muted, you will hear a beep every so often to remind you that your caller is on hold (though you can hear them though). This lets me talk to some of my colleagues when troubleshooting a difficult problem without the person calling to hear every gruesome detail. Or, of course, if we decide to talk about them. ;)
The actual range is very good! I can go to the bathroom (about 100 feet away) and still be able to hear and speak to the person, as well as control the phone's hook with the button. It tends to cut in and out when you get to the fringe area.
The environment I am at is mostly cubicals. However, the bathroom I spoke of eariler is obscured by several walls, which is why I am pleasantly surprised at how the Plantronics CS55 performed.
The battery life is also very good! With calls that last around 10-30 minutes, and a few 30-minute stand-by here and there, it lasts through an entire 8-hour day without even hinting of low batteries. I've tried to leave it overnight off the charger and used it just as hard the 2nd day again without any warning that the batter is low. I have not pushed it beyond this since it is a necessity to keep this bugger alive for daily tech support work!
This is an excellent way to retrofit wireless hands-free operation on your typical office phone. I can't help but think it's a bit... "ghetto" (the handset lifter), but it works very well.
The installation and configuration was intimidating, but once everything is set up, it's literally a one-button operation. Sound comes through clear, and everyone was able to hear me just as crystal.
It is pricey, however. I found out that it retails for $325 at CDW. So perhaps it may not be priced for most home enviroments unless you get many calls. But if this is something your company offers you (and you are responsible for the install), make sure you have some help from who had experience setting it up in your department!
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