Pace – 56 Solo review

multi-function modem, voicemail, fax...
Photo of Pace – 56 Solo
£165 + VAT

Apparently, while Pace was showing this new modem/answerphone/fax receiver to journalists, it received several ideas for possible names for the product, including ‘the cod-piece’. It’s not too hard to see why, since this is an unusually-shaped gadget, partly because it has a speaker built in. Appearances, however, can be deceptive, and the odd casing of the Pace 56 Solo conceals a wealth of features that puts other modems to shame.

Based on a 56Kbps mechanism, this external PC modem can operate using the newly-ratified V.90 standard for high-speed modems, allowing greater potential for fast Web browsing (assuming, and here’s the crunch, that your ISP has upgraded its modems and that your local phone loop is of sufficiently high quality). It also handles fax transmission and reception using the usual Group 3 protocols, up to 14.4Kbps. So, it’s an external fax modem, then. Nothing particularly clever about that. Nor will many readers be surprised to learn that the 56 Solo also handles voice calls, able to act as a speakerphone or, using the supplied software, a voice mailbox system.

The clever stuff starts with the modem’s ability to behave as a stand-alone answerphone, recording your messages and adding a date and time stamp to them. It will also announce the caller’s phone number ID before answering, allowing the terminally busy/lazy to screen their calls before answering. The Caller ID is also added to incoming messages, where available. If that weren’t enough, this clever little box of tricks can also be programmed to call you on a mobile phone or other phone number when messages are received, allowing you to retrieve them remotely.

That specification is enough to guarantee interest, but the 56 Solo has one more trick up its sleeve. It can also receive fax calls, automatically differentiating between them and voice messages. Up to 30 minutes of speech, or 30 pages of fax, can be stored in the basic 2MB model, and upgrades are available for 4MB and 6MB. To print out your received faxes, just switch on your PC and printer, load the software and the machine does the rest. As a one-stop communications solution, there’s not a great deal around to compare with this.

Company: Pace

Contact: 0990 561001

Just about the only thing that this compact little gadget doesn't do is make the tea, and there'll probably be a flash upgrade for that in the near future. On a more serious note, this really is an impressive combination of functions in a tiny package. It may not look exceptionally elegant, but since it can replace your existing modem, answerphone and fax machine at a fraction of their combined prices, users will probably overlook such shortcomings.