Cordless Phone Reviews

Editor's Note:
Our research reveals that Panasonic cordless phones perform great and are feature packed, but if it's simplicity and value you crave, look to models carrying the Vtech and AT&T brands. For those that need an amplified model, the choice is Clarity.
 
AT&T EL51203
Specs that Matter
Talk time (hours) -- 6.5Standby time (days) -- 5Recording time (minutes) -- N/A
Best Reviewed
Best basic cordless phone
AT&T EL51203

Among basic cordless phones without an answering machine, the AT&T EL51203 shakes out as one of the best performers and best value. Features are few, but you will find will find a 50 name and number phonebook, nine number speed dial, last 10 number redial, and a voice mail waiting indicator (for those that have voice mail service via their telephone provider). Its range is good and its voice quality is excellent, reviews say. Those with visual challenges will appreciate the large buttons and display.
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AT&T EL51203 DECT 6.0 Phone with Caller ID/Call Waiting, 2 Cordless Handsets, Silver
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Panasonic KX-TGF382M
Specs that Matter
Talk time (hours) -- 13Standby time (days) -- 12Recording time (minutes) -- 18
Best Reviewed
Best cordless phone
Panasonic KX-TGF382M

Experts and users laud the Panasonic KX-TGF382M as a great all-around cordless phone system. It's a hybrid system with a corded base (and battery backup), so it will keep working even during a power outage. The system is feature packed, including a solid answering system and the ability to link up with your cell phone to make and receive calls. Sound quality is very good and, despite the healthy roster of extras, the system is surprisingly easy to use -- at least once it's initially set up.
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Panasonic KX-TGF382M DECT 2-Handset Landline Telephone
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VTech CS6649
Specs that Matter
Talk time (hours) -- 7Standby time (days) -- 5Recording time (minutes) -- 14
Runner Up
Cheap cordless phone with answering system
VTech CS6649

Though it lacks high-end features, the VTech CS6649 delivers what many users want most: good performance and great value. This is a hybrid corded/cordless system that can keep phone service going even in a power outage. Only one cordless handset is included, but extras (up to 5 altogether) are relatively cheap at $15 each. The VTech CS6649 is competitive with more-expensive options when it comes to call and message quality, and is relatively easy to use, though testing indicates that its cordless range is just a tad shorter than some pricier systems.

Clarity XLC3.4
Specs that Matter
Talk time (hours) -- 6.5Standby time (days) -- 5.2Recording time (minutes) -- N/A
Best Reviewed
Best amplified cordless phone
Clarity XLC3.4

The Clarity XLC3.4 Amplified Cordless Phone offers features specifically geared toward those with hearing or sight loss, including talking caller ID, large buttons, an extra-loud ringer, and one-button connection to the maker's customer service department. It also speaks the numbers as you dial. The Clarity XLC3.4 does not come with an answering machine or other features found on some cordless phones in its price range, and only includes one handset (it can support up to four), but it's a top choice for users who need its capabilities.
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Clarity XLC3.4 Amplified Cordless Phone (59234)
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Cordless phones work better and do more than ever

A cordless phone might seem like a simple purchase in comparison to a cellphone, but that's not what our research has found. Choices range from simple, value-oriented devices to sophisticated systems designed to better integrate with the way many people use their phones -- including their cell phones. But regardless of their cost or complexity, all now have technology that lets them perform more reliably than ever before.

Types of Cordless Phones
Basic Cordless Phones

Cordless phones in this category offer exceptional sound quality and range, but fewer features than their more robust -- and usually more expensive -- competitors. You won't find built-in answering machines on these basic cordless phones, let alone most of the advanced options in the types discussed below. However, you will find DECT 6.0 compliance, with generally good call quality and range. You'll also find basic features like phone number memories and speakerphone and intercom functions.

Cordless Phones with Answering Machines

These take the basic cordless phone and add in a full-featured answering machine, and often a whole lot more. Higher-end models will frequently include special features such as a Bluetooth connection to your cellphone (for making or receiving calls on cellphone lines), talking caller ID, caller block, a baby monitor function, and a battery back up to keep the base unit up and running during a power outage.

Amplified Cordless Phones

For seniors and others with hearing and vision limitations, some cordless phones go a step -- or many steps -- beyond by offering things like amplified sound, large buttons with spoken feedback and other features to enhance usability. While these amplified cordless phones can be pricey, and the best-rated models tend to offer relatively few advanced features, they are a top consideration for those who find that a standard cordless phone is inadequate for their needs.

Cordless telephone technology

A cordless phone uses radio frequencies (RF) to communicate between the handset(s) and the base (the part of the cordless phone system that connects to a standard landline). A drawback that once plagued cordless phones was that they used frequencies that are also used by, or are prone to interference from, lots of other devices, including microwave ovens, Wi-Fi networks, game controllers, and more.

That's no longer the case. In the U.S., modern cordless phones comply with the DECT 6.0 standard. DECT 6.0 (DECT stands for Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) uses the 1.9 GHz radio frequency band, which is reserved for voice communications only, and that eliminates most of the interference problems that were once so common. The 1.9 GHz band is also more secure; the neighbors won't overhear your conversation on their baby monitor. Once a special feature that commanded higher prices, DECT is now standard on cordless phones, including cheap cordless phones. All of the cordless phone recommendations in this report are DECT 6.0 compliant.

But the parade of technology doesn't stop there. Some cordless phones have the ability to link to your cellular phone via Bluetooth. That lets you leave your cell phone in a convenient spot in your home (presumably where cell reception is best) and place and answer cellular calls, along with landline calls, using any of your cordless phone handsets. Caller ID is, of course, standard, but some models will spare you the effort of getting up to look at a display by announcing the caller with talking caller ID.

Built in telephone answering devices (TAD) are now commonplace in cordless phones, though if that's not a must, you can save a few dollars by opting for a cordless phone without one. TAD's vary from basic digital answering machines to more sophisticated models with multiple greetings and the ability to alert you to a message while you are away from home, along with options to play it back remotely. Be aware that if you are considering a cordless phone without a TAD, you will also be doing without some of the more sophisticated features available as most manufacturers reserve those for their higher end devices, and essentially all of those will include an answering system.

Some cordless phones/answerers include a corded phone on the base unit. This is especially handy for prolonged power outages, since corded phones don't need a power source other than the phone line. Other phones have a back-up battery that can keep you talking for at least a little while when the lights go out.

The price of cordless phones has dropped even as the technology improves; they now run from as low as $15 to about $100 for single-handset models. Cordless phone/answering machine combos often come with two or more cordless handsets, plus the ability to buy additional handsets that can be linked to the system (extra handsets can cost $10 to $40 each). Depending on the phone, you can expand the number of handsets, but expect to pay more. (It's generally cheaper to purchase the handsets as a package when you buy the original phone.) Most let you use the handsets as walkie-talkies as well as transfer calls from one handset to another and hold handset conferences.

Only a few companies are currently making cordless phones for sale in the U.S. Panasonic and VTech (which also makes AT&T models) offer the most models, though we also spotted a handful made by Motorola Mobility. In addition, Plantronics, under the Clarity brand, makes amplified cordless phones that are marketed toward seniors, but that could be a good choice for anyone with some hearing loss.

Finding The Best Cordless Phones
Our Sources1. ConsumerReports.org
Cordless Phones2. TheWirecutter.com
The Best Cordless Phone3. TopTenReviews.com
Cordless Phones ReviewsSee All

For this report, we found a few good, current expert reviews. ConsumerReports.org has the most comprehensive coverage. TheWirecutter.com also tests, though the site looks at fewer models. TopTenReviews.com also provides a helpful review that looks to be based on hands-on testing. User reviews, especially at sites like Amazon.com and BestBuy.com are plentiful, however. Many models earn hundreds of comments, and sometimes well over a thousand. Our editors analyze these reviews to find the best cordless phones. We judge available models based on their performance, durability and features. While top choices earn Best Reviewed status, we also name some cordless phones that fall just short and could be worth considering by many users, and for many situations.

The best basic and easy-to-use cordless phones

If all you want is a simple cordless phones with no answering machine and few bells and whistles, the AT&T EL51203 (Est. $35) looks like a top choice, and a top value. It does well in testing at ConsumerReports.org, earning Best Buy status there, and has amassed a good track record with users, accumulating hundreds of reviews across sites like Amazon.com and BestBuy.com, and solid feedback scores. This is an expandable system. The AT&T EL51103 is packaged with two handsets, including one at the base, and you can expand the system to up to five handsets via the AT&T EL50003 (Est. $15 each). If you only need a single handset, the AT&T EL51103 (Est. $25) base unit has you covered, and it rates similarly high.

The silver-toned AT&T EL51203 DECT 6.0 cordless phone is fairly basic, but it's not completely bereft of features, either. You will find a 50 name and number phonebook, nine number speed dial, last 10 number redial, and a voice mail waiting indicator (for those that have voice mail service via their telephone provider). Seniors, and others with visual impairments,  appreciate the large button keypad and backlit extra-large display. The range isn't the longest of any cordless telephone, but testing reveals that voice quality is top notch, and that finding is echoed in lots of the user feedback we spotted.

If you like a few more bells and whistles for your "basic" cordless phone, the Panasonic KX-TGD212N (Est. $45) bears consideration. In testing, voice quality is judged to be a notch below that of the AT&T EL51203. However, it's not all bad news, as the range of the phone is judged to be a notch better. User satisfaction is about on a par with the AT&T model, at 4.1 stars at Amazon.com, for example, based on nearly 900 reviews there.

Though the Panasonic KX-TGD212N phone is a little bit pricier than the EL51203, it's also a bit more feature rich. The key added feature is a 60-number call block to keep nuisance calls at bay. There's also a ringer ID feature that let you assign unique ringer tones to up to nine individuals or "groups" in your stored phone book (which has a 100 number capacity) so you know who is calling without needing to look at the caller ID on the 1.6-inch backlit display. The silver toned Panasonic KX-TGD212N has two handsets, but can be expanded to up to six via the Panasonic KX-TGEA20S (Est. $35 each) add-on handset, though that's a relatively pricey proposition. The phone is also packaged in a three handset version as the Panasonic KX-TGD213N (Est. $65), or with just a single handset as the Panasonic KX-TGD210N (Est. $30).

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AT&T EL51203 DECT 6.0 Phone with Caller ID/Call Waiting, 2 Cordless Handsets, Silver
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AT&T EL50003 Accessory Handset for EL52103, EL52203, EL52253,EL52303, EL52353, EL52403,EL52503, Silver
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AT&T EL51103 DECT 6.0 Phone with Caller ID/Call Waiting, 1 Cordless Handset, Silver
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Panasonic KX-TGD212N Dect_6.0, 2-Handset Landline Telephone
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Panasonic KX-TGEA20S Additional Digital Cordless Handset for TGD210/TGC210/TGE270 Series Phones
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Panasonic KX-TGD213N dect_6.0 3-Handset Landline Telephone
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Panasonic KX-TGD210N DECT 6.0 1.9 GHz Expandable Digital Cordless Phone with 1 Handset, Champagne Gold
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