Plantronics Introduces Calisto Pro: The Web Worker's Dream Phone

28 Comments

How many hours a day do you spend on the phone? If you’re anything like me, a typical day includes at least 2 hour-long conference calls and countless conversations in between. It’s not uncommon for me to clock 4-5 total hours a day engaged in some sort of voice communication, whether it be on my home landline, cell phone or Skype. Invariably, I’d have the headset on one ear plugged into my landline phone, while taking a cell phone call on the other ear, and answering Skype calls through the computer using another headset. I don’t have that many ears.

Today, Plantronics introduces the Calisto Pro, a new phone series aimed squarely at the person who logs serious time working from home. Phones for the home office tend to be heavy on sleek style, light on office-quality functionality. The Calisto Pro is a Bluetooth/DECT 6.0 system that lets you juggle incoming and outgoing calls from your landline, mobile phone and Skype using a single wireless handset/headset.

The “homeshoring” movement is taking off. The home office is no longer where Mom pays the bills and Dad does a little extra work for a couple of hours a day. We work longer hours using newer technology and we need to be comfortable doing it. Plantronics has done considerable research on exactly what we’ve been looking for in a phone as home-based web workers, and it shows.

Is the Calisto Pro exactly what we-who-work-in-our-pajamas have been waiting for? Read on for a complete review.

The Calisto Pro consists of 3 components. The charging base, which plugs into any standard phone jack and into a PC via USB for Skype/Yahoo Voice connections (Windows-only software drivers on included CD…sorry fellow Mac users). The handset, which is about as thick as a standard cordless phone but has the shape and feel of a cell phone. And the single button Bluetooth headset.

I was able to get a full 8-10 hours of talk/standby a day without needing to return the headset/handset to the base. The Calisto Pro’s menu on the handset is extremely simple with a big, clear display. You just get volume control, a choice of 10 ring tones, voicemail settings and a simple address book (3 phone numbers per name entry, 200 names). If you use Outlook, you can use a utility on the CD to select those 200 contacts for the address book to sync to the Calisto and save the manual entry. The handset includes a good quality speakerphone and a mute option that operates silently.

The headset clips over the ear and has an extended noise-canceling microphone. While the headset is generally well-balanced, it’s not quite as comfortable as it could be after many hours on the same ear. Maybe it’s just me, as I’ve always had difficulty with clip-over-the-ear headsets. Of the ones I’ve tried over the years, the Calisto is better than most.

Plugged into a standard landline jack, the DECT 6.0 phone had outstanding range (packaging claims 300 feet) and never suffered from interference from my wireless DSL router or microwave. The sound quality was excellent in every corner of my house. One afternoon, I went outside to get the mail while on a conference call and I never lost a sentence. While many home cordless phones have belt clips, the long and bulky style makes them awkward to “wear” all day. The cell phone-like form factor of the Calisto means that you can clip the handset to your waist and move around freely, almost forgetting it’s there. The clip hangs the phone upside down, so you only need to flip it up to read the Caller ID display. Deal with household chores, chase children, grab some coffee from the kitchen and still stay engaged in your call. Who says we can’t do it all? The handset is not without its quirks. If your carrier requires 1+ for a long distance call, you can’t dial directly from the call log, since it records the number only as (444)222-3333 with no option to add the prefix.

The headset paired easily with my Bluetooth-enabled Blackberry, which meant that I was able to answer mobile and landline calls simply by pushing the button on the headset without juggling ears. If you are on a landline (or VOIP) conversation and a mobile call comes in, you are alerted with a beep similar to call waiting. Unfortunately, you can’t put a landline (or VOIP) call on hold to take a mobile call. You have to discontinue your landline (or VOIP) call, then push the headset button again to take the mobile call. Same if you are on a mobile call and a landline (or VOIP) call comes in. However, if you are on a landline call, subscribe to call waiting and another call comes in, you can toggle back and forth as you would expect.

Total mobility comes at a price. The phone retails for $279.95 and will be available online at Office Depot, Office Max, Staples and The Sharper Image in September. It will also be available at The Sharper Image stores throughout the US in September and in select US Office Depot, Office Max and Staples stores starting in October.

Pros: Seamless transition between landline, mobile and VOIP calls in a single wireless system. Outstanding sound quality. Silent mute. Excellent battery life. Clutter-free design. Small, light handset.

Cons: Pricey. Over-the-ear headset could be more comfortable. Windows PC only for VOIP and contact book sync. Toggling incoming calls between mobile and landline require current call to be completed before accepting new call.

28 Comments

Richard

I have the Calisto myself, it is great value even though it is not cheap. Wireless headsets usually cost around this amount anyways and in the case of Calisto, you are getting a USB,l land line and mobile capable unit. Almost a 3 in 1 value for the product!

I found the buttons a bit small but manageable. The ear piece could also have a better design in that it is not adjustable (most people are not one size fits all).

Buyers beare,, this only works on a ONE line phone.

Richard

Tom Lassiter

1. Mac software now available.

2. Display is small, so is the type. Most cell phones have a larger display.

3. TINY keys on the phone; difficult to dial quickly with adult fingers.

4. Good sound quality.

5. Earpiece seems fairly comfortable.

Jim Wager

I used to brag that I had the smallest Bluetooth headset available. I now wear my giant Plantronics Calista headset as a badge of honor – holding my head up high and proclaiming, “Yeah, but can you do this?” When it come to my techno-gadget purchases I spend countless hours searching/web surfing/reading/testing – and always with the same futile results which inevitably leads me to ask, “Why can’t ANYONE make a product that fits ALL my needs”. Guess what? Plantronics (not necessarily at the top of my gadget-manufacturers list) HAS HIT THE MARK! True, this phone is not without its flaws but I dare you to find another wireless handset/headset that can boast: for home, for Skype, for cell.

Boni

It’s kind of a nightmare in disguise. I do not sync to my PC either. I just wanted a small phone with a bluetooth headset that has all the features that this phone does.

I’m now waiting for another phone from Staples as the first one was defective. The headset did not charge on the base unless you fiddled around with it to get the red light to come on. You had to press it it onto the connector firmly but the first one layed tilted and did not connect well. It would, it then turned blue to indicate it was fully charged, and then it went back to red for no reason, and then nothing. The handset volume could be louder for me…maybe I’m just too old!

It definitely has some quirky things about it. I was impatient waiting for a replacement and bought another unit in Office Depot. This unit works better but it’s not perfect. The sound is much improved though. This one charges fine but the handset is ALWAYS CHARGING! And, I’ve noticed the headset light is blue but will suddenly change on its own to red to charge, even though I did not use it. Is this unit always supposed to be in a “charging” status? I called Plantronics and they said they’ve had few units returned for the failure of the headset to clip to the connector properly. Add mine now to that list.

I also find if I’m not wearing the headset when there’s an incoming call, I clumsily put on the headset and try to quickly push the button inward to hopefully connect in time before my caller leaves a message or hangs up. I’m not liking that little button thingy at all.

The concept is neat but I think that so many of the new regular cordless phones are bluetooth capable too for alot less money and probably more features. They are just alot bigger but since I don’t plan to carry my phone around, it doesn’t matter what’s laying next to my monitor on my desk.

For $279.99 it should have been perfect the first time and it’s still not the 2nd time. We’ll see what happens with the 3rd unit. 3 strikes it’s out and back to the store!

Gayle

Hold the phone! I purchased the Calisto Pro first day out from Sharper Image and have discovered a real problem if you are a telecommuter and use a calling card for long distance. The “chain calling” function limits you to only 24 characters, so if you have a number you call into, then the number you are calling and finally an authorization code you will not be able to get all the numbers in. Adding pauses in between uses up some of the character spaces too. So, I called for tech support and was told…”The engineers are trying to decide if it’s worth the cost of fixing it”. Wrong answer for me…

Helen Reed

Regarding the lack of OS X (Macintosh) support for the Calisto Pro, the most effective thing to do is to let Plantronics know what you want. They want to sell products, so let them know you’ll buy Calisto Pro only if it has Mac support.

Plantronics has already released a Mac product (“Audio 85”), so they are able to develop for the Mac. Making this work with OS X and Address Book should not be very hard. Plantronics could even post the drivers to the web without changing any packaging. That’s why Apple switched to USB in the first place. Mac users, let your voices be heard:

http://plantronics.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/plantronics.cfg/php/enduser/ask.php?

Learn from history: [Wired News] Wells Fargo has reversed a decision to end support for Quicken on the Macintosh platform. It was the vocal opposition of Mac users that made the bank change its mind, a spokesperson said.

John Starta

> Plantronics has done considerable research on exactly what we’ve been looking
> for in a phone as home-based web workers, and it shows.

This product would be more compelling if Plantronics’ considerable research actually reflected the SOHO marketplace. A large number of us web workers actually use OS X, not Windows. It is therefore disappointing that Plantronics doesn’t acknowledge this fact and instead chose require a specific operating system (namely Windows) to use all the phone’s features.

DJ

I hate being on the phone. Nevertheless I spend at least 5 hours per day on it. That seems like a cool phone but I don’t know if I’d shell out that much for it. Perhaps I would eventually. But for now I’m happy with my cheap Durabrand and upgraded headset.

IMJUK

Looks good. Does anyone know if we can get these in the UK yet. Would solve a lot of problems for me – aside from the losing phone when out at the pub at the weekend as I recently managed

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