Many basic cordless phones offer exceptional sound quality and range, but fewer features than their more robust -- and more expensive -- competitors. Basic models are an excellent choice for anyone looking for budget options without many bells and whistles, like answering machines, talking caller ID or the ability to link to cellphones. DECT technology has vastly improved call quality and range for most new cordless phones, regardless of their price.
Although lacking the most premium of features, basic cordless phones do have notable basic features like 50-number phone books, speakerphone, intercom and good battery life. Most cordless phones are lightweight, with no-slip designs and large keypads. (The only major complaint is that some are too small to cradle between your neck and ear.)
The Panasonic KX-TG4011N (Est. $25 with one handset) is one basic cordless phone worth considering. Owners praise the phone on retailer sites Walmart.com, Bestbuy.com and Staples.com, where it receives overall scores of 4 stars out of 5, or better. Although basic phones generally don't score as highly on performance as more expensive models -- such as our best-reviewed Panasonic KX-TG7743S (Est. $90 with three handsets) -- reports say that the KX-TG4011N is more than adequate on this mark. Sound quality is very good overall, so is battery life and range.
There aren't any fancy extras such as an answering machine or talking caller ID, but it sports the aforementioned basic features, and it's fairly easy to set up and use. There are a few complaints on Amazon.com -- there's no headset jack, the labeling on buttons tends to fade after a few months use, some reports of dropped calls -- and one review reports that while day-to-day operation is easy, the KX-TG4011N is a little hard to set up. Still, this is a solid cordless phone for not much cash.
Another contender in this category is the inexpensive Uniden D1760 (Est. $20 with one handset) . Like all basic phones, there is only a handful of features, though it offers some not available with the KX-TG4011N, including a phone book that can store twice as many contacts -- up to 100. It can also be expanded to support up to 12 handsets total (the KX-TG4011N maxes out at six), and it's one of the few basic phones to sport a backlit keypad, easier for dialing in the dark. Extra handsets, sold as the Uniden DCX170, can be had for $20 a pop. Experts say performance is solid and ease of use is very good. In addition to the aforementioned features, both the Uniden D1760 and the Panasonic KX-TG4011N boast an auto-talk feature (lets you answer a call by lifting the phone out of its base), any-key answer, a voice-mail indicator and an energy-saving mode.
The Uniden D1760 actually scores a little better than the Panasonic KX-TG4011N at Amazon.com and also does well in an expert review we spotted, but it has little feedback elsewhere. Most users seem happy, but some grouse about quality control. We also saw a report that background noise is an issue during calls.