Spot Phone
The Spot Phone, from the telecoms manufacturer SDX, is a clever concept. Modems need a phone line to work, so why not build a modem into a phone? No more fiddling with sockets or extension leads. Instead, plug the Spot into the line, the PC into the Spot, install some software, and you have a fully integrated communications solution in one simple package.

Spot is more than just a way of banishing spaghetti cabling. It offers CTI, or computer-telephone integration. CTI harnesses the power of a PC to add functions to a phone at a cost far below dedicated hardware. Spot provides full incoming and outgoing fax facilities, and advanced voice- mail that records messages on to the PC's hard disk. There's also Caller Line Identification support: a database can be looking up a caller's contact records while the phone is still ringing.

This sort of sophistication is normally associated with businesses such as telesales. But SDX claims its phone suits all markets: a homeworker can use it to run fax, data and phone calls on a single line; a large firm can use Spot as the heart of a voice-mail system with a switchboard, or for fax-on-demand.

But Spot doesn't quite meet its promise. It lacks the added functions a busy home office needs, such as an LCD display or buttons for services such as Call Diversion or access to, say, the Mercury phone network. And the software is slow. Even on a top-of-the-range IBM PC, there were delays between answering a call and listening to the message. Spot also failed to recognise calls from some older fax machines.

Spot's biggest drawback, though, is its modem speed. At 14,400bps, Spot uses last year's technology. Teleworkers would be better off waiting for SDX to update Spot, or buying a good-quality phone, a voice-fax-data modem and a BT socket doubler n

The Spot PC Phone, pounds 239 (excl VAT), from SDX, 01707 364199