Average Customer Review:
When it comes to full-featured cordless phones with answering machines, Panasonic is the clear leader. Its phones get more feedback and better recommendations from both experts and owners than any other brand's. A case in point is the Panasonic KX-TGE274S (Est. $105). In tests at TopTenReviews.com, this phone leads the field in call quality and range, delivering "near-perfect call quality up to 250 feet away from its base." ConsumerReports.org also gives this phone top marks for range and Very Good marks for sound quality and ease of use – both for voice calls and for messaging. However, testers at Wirecutter.com are slightly less impressed; while they consider the phone a good value with a nice design, they say the sound is a bit on the rough side, with "robotic-sounding voices and audio cutouts as we moved throughout the backyard."
This Panasonic cordless phone is packed with features. It's Bluetooth enabled and supports Panasonic's Link2Cell technology, which lets you link up to two smartphones to your home phone at once. Not only can you place and receive cellular calls using any of the system's handsets, you can receive an audio alert whenever you get a text message. The built-in digital answering machine has 19 minutes of recording time and an indicator to show when you have new messages. Other features include a lighted keypad with large buttons, a headset jack, conferencing between handsets, a 3,000-number phonebook, and a 250-number call-block feature to keep away pesky telemarketers.
The Panasonic KX-TGE274S comes with a base unit and a total of four handsets. However, you can also buy the same phone in other configurations with three to five handsets. In fact, at the time this report was prepared, the five-handset version, the Panasonic KX-TGE275S (Est. $100), was actually slightly cheaper on Amazon.com than the TGE274S, although it's pricier on other sites. Since there's no downside to having an extra handset, even if you don't use it, it's worth checking prices to see which configurations carry the better deal where you shop. You also have the option of expanding the system up to six handsets by adding on the Panasonic KX-TGEA20S (Est. $35).
We found thousands of reviews for the Panasonic KX-TGE274S and related models on BestBuy.com and Amazon.com, with user ratings running between 4.1 and 4.5 stars, depending on the site. Owners love this phone's large, bright display and clear keypad, as well as its ability to pair with two smartphones at once. They generally say its sound quality is good and setup is easy, and they appreciate the fact that it takes easy-to-replace AAA batteries instead of a proprietary battery pack. Their main complaint is that smartphone syncing isn't always smooth; sometimes it creates static on the line, and the phone doesn't always re-pair automatically with your device when you leave the house and come back.
Although the Panasonic KX-TGE274S has a battery backup to keep it running for a while during a power outage, some users prefer a model with a corded base, which can keep working indefinitely without power. The best cordless phone with this feature, according to reviewers, is the Panasonic KX-TGF382M (Est. $85). This phone has a corded headset plus two handsets, each of which also includes a battery back-up to keep them running for up to 7 hours of talk time without power. It is also available in configurations with one or three cordless handsets, and you can expand the system up to six handsets with the Panasonic KX-TGFA30M (Est. $40).
This phone has all the features found on the KX-TGE274S, plus a few extras. For instance, in addition to Bluetooth and Link2Cell technology, the KX-TGF382M offers a free Android app that alerts you via the base and handsets whenever your cellphone receives e-mails, SMS messages, and updates from Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. (Sorry, iPhone fans, but there's no iOS version.) It can also double as a baby monitor; just place a handset in a sleeping infant's room, and it will send an alert to all units in the system – or to any phone or cellphone number stored in the handset – as soon as it detects any noise.
In tests at ConsumerReports.org, the KX-TGF382M is an able performer. Like the other cordless phones 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 are Very Good as well, and the phone and answering machine ease of use are Very Good or better -- at least once the system is set up. ConsumerReports.org notes that setting up the KX-TGF382M is "overly complicated." That's a complaint that editors also make about the Best-Reviewed KX-TGE274S – but in this case, we saw some user feedback that echoes it. Users at both Amazon.com and BestBuy.com are more likely to say that this phone is tricky to set up and to complain about background noise or echo over the handsets. That's the main reason this phone, which was our Best Reviewed pick last year, has dropped to the Runner-Up position this time around. Still, most of the 600-plus reviews we found on retail sites are positive, with praise for the phone's clear sound and useful features.
If you don't care about being able to sync your cell phone with your landline, you can save a little money by choosing the Panasonic KX-TGF350N (Est. $65). Like the KX-TGF382M, this is a corded/cordless combo, with a corded base and one cordless handset. (You can also buy versions with two or three handsets, or expand the system up to 6 handsets with the KX-TGFA30M.) Aside from the Bluetooth pairing, this phone has most of the features found on the KX-TGF382M, including the large buttons, lighted keypad, call blocking, and baby monitor. In tests at ConsumerReports.org, it doesn't score quite as high as its pricier cousin, but it still gets Very Good ratings across the board. It also earns a 4.3-star overall rating from nearly 1,000 owners at Amazon.com, who praise its clear sound, easy setup, and useful features. We saw only a few complaints about reliability, usually involving phones that didn't work properly out of the box.
A still less expensive alternative is the VTech CS6649 (Est. $50). This phone includes a corded base and single cordless handset. It can support up to five cordless handsets at a time, and VTech CS6609 accessory handsets (Est. $18) are relatively inexpensive. Its feature set is pretty bare-bones, with no talking caller ID or built-in call blocking feature and only 14 minutes of recording time. However, it supports caller ID and call waiting, has a 50-number phone book, and can function in a storm thanks to its corded base unit (provided you're on a traditional copper phone line rather than on digital or VoIP service.)
Especially considering its relative price point, feedback looks strong. This phone is a Best Buy pick at ConsumerReports.org, with very good scores across the board. Most owners at Amazon.com like it as well, though some say the sound quality is uneven. Still, it earns a 4 star rating based on more than 900 reviews (thought that also includes some reviews of the unit's add-on handset).