While we spotted some good choices from other makers as well, Panasonic cordless phones with answering machines generally gather the most feedback and highest recommendations. A case in point is the Panasonic KX-TGF382M (Est. $85). It's a Recommended pick by one independent reviewer and, while there are fewer user reviews than we saw for some other cordless phones with answering machines, what's there is generally positive -- 4.2 out of 5 stars at Amazon.com based on over 300 reviews, and 4.5 stars at BestBuy.com based on roughly 330 reviews.
The Panasonic KX-TGF382M is a hybrid corded/cordless model. The base features a corded headset and battery back-up so basic telephone service can remain uninterrupted in the case of a power failure. It is available in configurations with one to three cordless handsets (the KX-TGF382M includes two). Additional handsets, the Panasonic KX-TGFA30M (Est. $40), are available as well, and up to six can be used at a time with the system.
Testing shows that the KX-TGF382M is an able performer in all regards. Like all the devices profiled in this report, it uses DECT 6.0 technology for relative freedom from interference, and range is judged to be excellent. Voice and message quality is very good as well. The phone and answering machine ease of use are very good or better -- at least once the system is set up. ConsumerReports.org complains a little that setting up the KX-TGF382M is "overly complicated," and we saw some user comments that echo that, but most owners still tend to be complimentary of the unit overall once that hurdle is cleared.
Just about every feature you can imagine on a cordless phone is packed into the KX-TGF382M. It is Bluetooth enabled and supports Panasonic's Link2Cell technology, which lets you place and receive cellular calls via your paired mobile phone (up to two devices can be simultaneously supported) using any of the system's handsets. Integration with your on-line life is made tighter via a free Android app (and it's Android only, sorry iPhone fans) that will display and announce alerts for things such as received emails, SMS messages, Google Calendar notices or social media updates (Facebook, Twitter or Instagram) on the base unit and cordless handsets. There's talking caller ID and text ID alerts, which are displayed on the base and all cordless handsets, and a one-button, 250-number call-block feature makes it easier to keep away pesky telemarketers. The all-digital answering machine can store up to 18 minutes of messages. A baby monitor feature will send an alert to all units in the system -- or to any phone or cellphone -- if noise is detected in a sleeping infant's room. Add an optional key fob to your house or car keys, and any of the cordless handsets turns into a misplaced key finder.
If you want to go completely cordless, reviews indicate that the Panasonic KX-TGE274S (Est. $100) is also worth considering. It scores a little lower than the Panasonic KX-TGF382M at ConsumerReports.org, though still does well enough to earn Recommended status. On the other hand, it's named as the best cordless phone by Brandon Carte at TopTenReviews.com, who notes that in his site's testing, this Panasonic cordless phone "had better call quality and range than any other." User feedback is plentiful and strong, including a 4.2-star rating following more than 1,700 reviews at Amazon.com. That feedback does include configurations with different numbers of wireless handsets; the KX-TGE274S has four, and versions with three to five handsets are available (Panasonic no longer offers this model in a two handset version). The system will support up to six handsets at a time, and spare/replacement handsets are available as the Panasonic KX-TGEA20S (Est. $35 each).
Though the feature set is almost as robust as that of the KX-TGF382M, a few extras are missing. For example, while the KX-TGE274S also uses Panasonic's Link2Cell technology to integrate up to two smartphones, it's not compatible with the Android app that announces on-line activity on your cordless phones. The baby monitor feature is also missing. Some users might appreciate that both the handset and base unit feature oversized buttons, and in professional testing, usage is reported as being pretty easy.
While Panasonic cordless phones rise to the top of the charts in expert and user reviews, some cordless phones with answering machines from other makers rate notice, too, especially for those on a budget. The VTech CS6649 (Est. $40) includes a corded base and single cordless handset. It can support up to five cordless handsets at a time, and VTech CS6609 (Est. $15) accessory handsets are relatively inexpensive. User reviews are again plentiful and plenty positive, though perhaps a decimal point or two behind the Panasonic cordless phones with answering machines profiled above. The CS6649 is also recommended by ConsumerReports.org, which rates it a Best Buy.
The feature list on the VTech is pretty bare bones, not a surprise at this price point. There's no talking caller ID or built-in call blocking feature. The answering machine's capacity is a little more limited than on the Panasonic models above, though still adequate at 16 minutes. If you are still on a traditional copper phone line (rather than on digital or VoIP service), the corded base can still function as a phone if the power goes out. Testing reveals that the VTech CS6649 is a good performer across the board when it comes to ease of use, voice quality (call and messages) and range.