Basic cordless phones 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 cordless phones in this category, let alone advanced options like the ability to link to a cell phone. 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.
For seniors and others with hearing and vision limitations, some basic 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, like other basic cordless phones, offer relatively few advanced features, they are a top considerations for those who find that a standard cordless phone is inadequate for their needs.
The Panasonic KX-TGE212B (Est. $45) is the top-rated basic cordless phone without an answering machine in one independent test, with performance and value that's judged to be good enough to earn Best Buy status. User feedback is solid, a 4.2-star rating at Amazon.com following around 130 reviews, though a handful report disappointment with the speakerphone feature. Experts, on the other hand, report no such issues, and rate voice quality as excellent overall.
This DECT 6.0 cordless phone is expandable; the KX-TGE212B includes two handsets, but supports up to six. While this is a basic model, it's not completely devoid of features. You can swat away nuisance calls with a 250 number call block feature. There's a battery back-up to keep the phone working in the event of a power outage. The large buttons and amplified handset volume can be a help, but feedback indicates that for those that need an amplified cordless phone, there are better choices (see below for some suggestions).
For those on an even tighter budget, the AT&T EL51203 (Est. $35) is just a touch cheaper. This VTech-made cordless phone also receives good grades and a Best Buy recommendation in expert reviews, though it suffers a little compared to the Panasonic KX-TGE212B in terms of ease of use and range. Still, voice quality is excellent, and users at BestBuy.com like it well enough to grant it a 4.3 star rating following more than 130 reviews, with 95 percent of owners saying that they would recommend the cordless phone to a friend.
Features are sparse, however. For example there's no call block feature, nor will the phone operate during a power outage. There is a 50-number phonebook memory, and the caller ID feature can display the names and numbers of the last 50 callers. The EL51203 comes with two handsets, and extras (up to 5 are supported) are available at a cost of around $20 each.