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

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.


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