Corded/cordless phone combinations offer versatility and security, especially for people in areas prone to blackouts. Corded phones can be a communication lifeline during power outages because they don't require electricity to operate. A corded handset also makes over-the-air eavesdropping nearly impossible. While cordless phones have improved on these two fronts -- some can operate on battery power, and DECT technology makes cordless phone conversations more secure -- corded phones continue to have an edge. On corded/cordless phone models, you can also expect large keypads on both the handset and the base, which can be a major benefit to seniors and other users.
The Panasonic KX-TG4771B (Est. $60 with one handset) performs well in expert tests, with very good marks in voice quality and ease of use (for both the phone and answerer) as well as excellent range. The phone generates a couple hundred reviews at Amazon.com, where it receives an overall score of 4.4 stars out of 5. Owners posting here rave over its feature set, which includes an answering machine, talking caller ID, a 100-number phone book, conferencing and any-key answering. Another highlight: The KX-TG4771B lets you add numbers to a blocked call list. Users say this feature is a boon, working well to limit unwanted calls from persistent solicitors. The handset runs on regular AAA rechargeable batteries, so swapping them out is easy.
The biggest complaints revolve around message quality; many report that recorded messages can sound muddled and are often hard to understand. Among buyers, ease of use is a mixed bag, and opinions vary on how difficult the phone is to set up. Another caveat is that the cord on the base's corded phone is a little on the short side.
If you know you want extra handsets, it's generally less expensive to buy them as part of the base unit package. Panasonic sells the same base phone with additional handsets: The KX-TG4772B (Est. $70) comes with two handsets, and the KX-TG4773B (Est. $90) comes with three. You can have as many as six handsets total (plus the corded base phone), though you'll need to buy at least three separately (Est. $35 each).