VTech VS150 Twin DECT 6.0 Cordless Phone With VSmart Wire-Free Home Monitoring review

The VS150 combines a twin pair of landline phones with a rather unique home security system, although the results are a little uneven.
There’s no shortage of mobile phones you can buy, whether your tastes run to budget prepaid or the latest and greatest handsets. In my current daily gig as telco editor over at finder.com.au, I’m hip deep (possibly deeper) in mobile handsets no matter which way I turn.
But landlines? In 2016? Surely they’re a relic of the past?
Not quite. There’s still a significant part of the Australian population, most often tending older that have a strong preference towards using landlines for telecommunications purposes. Technology is good and fine — you may have noticed I’m something of a fan — but there’s something to be said for people using the types of technology that they’re comfortable with.
Which brings us around to the VTech VS150 Twin DECT 6.0 Cordless Phone With VSmart Wire-Free Home Monitoring system, which might just have the longest product name of anything I’ve ever reviewed. You’ll have to forgive me if I just call it the VS150 from now on.
In one sense, the VS105 is a relatively standard cordless landline phone system with an integrated answering machine. On the surface, that’s nothing particularly notable, although the handsets provided with the kit work acceptably well for basic calling purposes. I suspect for the target market that’s really all they’d be looking for in any case. The answering machine is good for up to 22 minutes of voice messages, can store up to 50 numbers and can conference between handsets for multi-user calls. They’re nice features to have if you need them, and I can’t fault their ability to work as advertised.

The base station is functional and fine, but it's the security features that are mean to sell the VS150
The base station is functional and fine, but it’s the security features that are mean to sell the VS150

What makes the VTech VS150 system different is that home monitoring angle. VTech refers to its system as VSmart, and it’s a proprietary set of sensors, including at the time of writing garage door sensors, contact window/door sensors and an all purpose motion sensor. If you’re wondering why they’re referred to as “wire-free” rather than, say, Wi-Fi, it’s because the actual security signals sent operate on DECT frequencies rather than Wi-Fi ones, which means that the VTech VS150 can operate in an environment where there’s no actual Internet connectivity, which is a clear point of difference to systems such as Swann’s One or Netgear’s Arlo system.
Once any sensor is paired with the VS150’s base, they’ll act as a simple security sensor appropriate to their function. Door sensors will trigger when a door is opened, while the optional garage door or motion sensors will alert you to your garage door opening, or motion in any room you place it in. The motion sensor has a pet-sensitive mode that does drop its sensitivity to minimise false alarms, although my own testing found this is a little twitchy in practice. That’s not unusual for motion sensors, however, where you usually have to accept a few false positives along the way. The VTech system can work with up to 30 sensors, which is a lot of doors or a lot of motion if you’re particularly worried about your home or small office security.
If you’re not at home, the VS150 can automatically call up to three stored mobile numbers to give you a warning that something is amiss. In tests with the motion sensor, which is sold separately to the main base which only comes with a pair of contact sensors, this worked well in an alerts sense, although it’s notable that the call comes in sans caller ID. If you’re used to getting numerous calls like this you might just mute a warning call by accident. In my own testing, there was a roughly ten second delay between triggering the sensor and a call being placed out to my selected mobile phone. Also, fairly obviously, if your landline plan doesn’t cover mobile costs, there could be a solid bill for the calls the VS150 makes on your behalf.
Once a call is placed due to the sensor being tripped, you can either choose to use the base to listen in to your property from the base station, or even talk through it to your (presumed) burglar. Oddly, it’s set to think in terms of being a UK-based system, which means when it calls you up, it asks you to press the Pound button to listen to messages (it’s the hash key on most Australian mobiles). When you do so, you can then choose to listen in to the environment around your phone base station, or listen in and activate the speaker to alert intruders that you know they’re present. Maybe it’s me, but chatting idly to your burglars isn’t something I’m all to keen to do. I guess the idea is that you’re meant to frighten them away because they figure they’re being monitored.
I can’t fault the VS150’s essential performance in terms of doing what it says it will do, but I’m a touch annoyed that the system has launched without the most obvious part of a security system, namely some kind of camera. Without visual confirmation it’s going to be all but impossible to tell if an alert is genuine or not, or have any lasting record of miscreants on your property, which could be very useful in both police and insurance terms. Having visual confirmation would also make more sense of the ability to hear what’s going on through your mobile. According to this Gadgetguy story, apparently cameras are on the way.
At around $259 for the base kit which comprises the base set, two handsets and two contact sensors, the Vtech VS150 is cheaper than most competing home security systems I’ve tested. The garage sensor will set you back $55, while the motion sensor costs $80. That’s still quite light and inexpensive compared to many competing security solutions.
It shows, though, because the range of security features it offers isn’t up to the same level as its competition. If your security needs were very light, or you already had some kind of video system you could remotely trigger when the VS150 warns you it could be a reasonable kind of purchase if you need new landline phones.
If what you’re after is a home security system and the landline phones are an afterthought, you’d do better to look elsewhere, at least until VTech incorporates visual sensors into the VSmart range.

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