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Cordless Phones Review
Why Buy a Cordless Phone?
The top performers in our review are the Panasonic KX-TGE274S, the Gold Award winner; the AT&T CLP99483, the Silver Award winner; and the Motorola IT6, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a cordless phone to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of the top 10 products.
Ten years ago, cordless phones were common household items. Today, smartphones have largely taken over the telephone market, but there are still good reasons to have a top-notch cordless phone for your home. In many ways, the issue isn’t smartphones vs. cordless phones, it’s mobile phones vs. landlines. Despite amazing advancements in mobile technology, landline phones still have clear advantages in some areas.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of a landline phone is that you don’t have to worry about call quality degrading because cell towers are overloaded. In the case of emergencies, this is a very real possibility. When you most need to contact those you care about, a landline is much more likely to work than your smartphone. Landline phones are also tied to your physical address, so it’s easier for emergency responders to find you.
Another big advantage is quality. Call quality is usually better on landlines than what you can get with most mobile providers. There’s less static and fade out, and you don’t have to worry about dropped calls. Landline phones are simple and easy to use. Cell phones are complicated and communication can break down in many ways.
Cordless landline phones can be especially useful for families, people who work from home and seniors. If there are young children in the house, they probably don’t have cell phones yet. A home phone gives them a way to communicate with others. Freelancers and others who work from home may appreciate the unlimited use that comes with landlines, and seniors benefit from the larger size of cordless phones – larger buttons and print make dialing much easier.
In our research and testing, we noticed a few things worth mentioning upfront. All of the cordless phones we reviewed have built-in answering machines. This is a standard feature and can be quite useful. All of them also have caller ID, handset speakerphones and conferencing capabilities.
Cordless Phones: What to Look For
If you’ve looked at the cordless phone market recently, there are so many models that it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish one from another. It doesn’t help that manufacturers put out new, slightly different models quite frequently. So, how do you sort the wheat from the chaff? Keep an eye out for the following features:
One of the major reasons to keep your landline phone or add one is the fact that you get better call quality than with a cell phone. However, not all cordless phones maintain that quality, as they need to transmit a signal from the base unit to the handsets. The transmitters and receivers in different models perform better or worse. Check out our testing section to see how we determined which cordless phones offer the best call quality.
Cordless phones aren’t designed to travel very far from their bases. Still, you don’t want to deal with a poor signal or no connection at all in your home. Most cordless phones have a range of 200 to 300 feet, which is enough for most homes. Keep in mind that walls and the material those walls are made of can negatively affect your cordless phone’s range.
Because wireless home phones don’t have the powerful hardware you find in smartphones, handset batteries can last for a long time. The longer the battery lasts, the more time you can talk without needing a recharge. Manufacturers often claim battery life of 10 days or more, but our testing didn’t agree with those claims. Check out our testing section to see more.
The entire point of having a cordless phone is that you can take it with you throughout the house. Every minute it needs to charge is a minute that you can’t use the handset. Quick recharge times are ideal here. The fastest chargers need seven hours to max out, while the worst need 12 or more hours.
Answering Machine Recording Time
While all of the phones in our review have built-in answering machines, they vary in how much space they dedicate to recording messages. The best cordless phones can hold up to 30 minutes of audio messages, but it’s more common to see about half of that. Most cordless phones hold at least 10 minutes of recorded messages, and you shouldn’t settle for anything less than that.
Newer cordless phones allow you to connect to Bluetooth devices such as your smartphone or wireless headphones. This paves the way for useful features like notifications when you receive a text message on your smartphone. With Bluetooth compatibility, cordless phones become much more versatile tools.
Warranty & Support
Make sure to check how long your wireless home phone’s warranty lasts. Most models come with a one-year warranty, which gives you plenty of time to notice any factory defects. Also, see what avenues of support are available from the manufacturer. Is there a decent owner’s manual? Does the product’s webpage have a FAQs section? Things like live chat support can be a quick way to find answers and troubleshoot any problems you may have.
Considerations for Your Cordless Phone
Now that you’ve looked at which features are important, there are a few practical considerations to account for. Most of the time, cordless phones are easy to set up – just plug in the power and phone line, and you’re good to go. However, some require extra planning.
How many people live in your home? How many rooms does your house have? These questions can help you figure out how many handsets you need. Many wireless home phones come with at least two handsets and can handle up to four handsets total. If you need more handsets for your home, keep in mind that there is a hard limit to the maximum number a model supports. The best can handle up to 12 handsets, but only five is more common.
The limitation on handsets is due to the base unit, where you plug in your phone line. Its hardware can only handle so much simultaneously. This base is also responsible for sending and receiving the signal that makes the handsets work. That’s why it’s important to place the base is a location where it covers a large portion of your home. Ideally, as close to the middle of your home as is sensible.
Smartphones aren’t the only phones with brains. In recent years, cordless phones have evolved to include a host of useful smart features. One such feature is the ability to use Wi-Fi calling or even use your mobile provider’s network to place calls.
Cordless Phones: What We Evaluated, What We Found
To determine the best cordless phones, we put each product we reviewed to the test. We measured four major categories: Call Clarity, Maximum Range, Battery Life and Battery Charging Time. All of these tests figured strongly into our product rankings.
This test shows the relative call quality you can expect from each phone. Each phone saw call quality degradation over distance, but the extent of that degradation varied. We tested each phone at 25-foot intervals up to 250 feet away from the base unit. We measured signal clarity at every 25-foot increment.
We found that call clarity was strong for all models on our lineup, though a couple of models did particularly well.
While walking around your home, you don’t want to drop a call because you walked out of the handset’s range. We used the same distance setup as the call clarity test, testing for dropped calls every 25 feet. We found that most of the cordless phones on our lineup maintained a strong connection up to 250 feet. We gave those phones full marks for this test. Phones that only reached 200 feet received passing marks.
This test was simple. We made sure the handset was fully charged, then left it disconnected until it didn’t have any juice left. Manufacturers often claim battery life of 10 days or more, but we found it to be much, much less than that. The best phones on our lineup only lasted for two days before needing to be charged. The worst only made it a day.
Battery Charging Time
Again, this was a relatively simple test. After completely draining the handsets, we plugged them into their bases. Then, we recorded how long it took each to reach full charge. The results of this test were more in line with manufacturer claims. The fastest-charging phones seven hours, while the slowest required closer to 12 hours for a full charge.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in a way that best serves the consumer. The manufacturers had no input or influence over our evaluation, nor was the evaluation method provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
Cordless Phones: Our Verdict and Recommendations
The Panasonic KX-TGE274S came out on top in three of our four tests. In addition, it has a larger feature list than just about any other cordless phone on the market. This is the best cordless phone because it has excellent call clarity, a long-range signal and a fantastic handset battery. It maxes out with only six handsets, which is below the 12 that some other products support, but that should be enough for most people.
The second-best cordless phone on our lineup is the AT&T CLP99483. It was a strong performer in our testing for call clarity and range but fell a bit short in the battery testing. It only had enough juice for one day before it needed to recharge, and the time it needed to recharge was higher than other models. Still, there’s much to like about the AT&T CLP99483. Just one base can support up to 12 handsets, should you need a large number of them.
Motorola’s IT6 is a good cordless phone, but it has some shortcomings. The handset ran out of energy after just one day of sitting idle, but at only three minutes, its recharge time is very impressive. The Motorola IT6 comes with two handsets but maxes out at four – which is considerably fewer than the competition. This is a good home phone, despite some flaws.