Cordless phones work better and do more than ever
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.
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
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
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
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
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
"The Best Cordless Phone"
"Cordless Phones Reviews"
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
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 (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 (Est. $15 each). If you only need a single handset,
the (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 (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 (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 (Est. $65), or with
just a single handset as the (Est. $30).