We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Cordless home phones offer numerous advantages: they're secure, they're keyed to your address should you need to call 911, and they help enable home security systems. Cordless phones are also invaluable in home office situations where more than one unit is required on the same line.
Each of our five finalists offers excellent benefits to users.
We do not accept products directly from manufacturers; we use our own funds to purchase the same “off-the-shelf” products that you do. And when we've finished our testing and consumer reviews, we donate all these products to charities and other non-profit organizations.
Our pick of the top five cordless phones includes the below models:
Matthew has led IT departments and tech teams in a variety of industries. Currently, he works in the sports gaming industry. He has written reviews and been involved with electronics procurement decisions for a number of players at the business and individual level for over a decade. In his spare time, you may find Matthew playing frisbee, golf, or reading a good novel.
In this part of our ratings, we examine phone design and reveal any quality or functionality issues reported by owners.
Functions & Call Quality
Today's cordless phones offer all kinds of useful functions: caller ID, number memory, rapid dialing, and more. We also scrutinize the actual quality of the call -- an issue that's particularly important for those with reduced hearing.
Range & Additional Features
In this part of our ratings, we examine each phone's operational range and any other benefits the manufacturer offers.
Although none of our finalist are particularly expensive, there's still a notable difference between the cheapest and most expensive cordless phones on the market today. We examine the overall value of each product.
The Motorola L601M cordless phone appeals to consumers who want simplicity. Aside from the necessary power supply and telephone cord, you get a single handset, a base station, and batteries. (There is no answering system.) In pictures, the base can seem a little large, but in reality, it's quite small. In fact, several owners thought the handset was too diminutive, comparing it to a flip-type cell phone. Our research also uncovered some issues with perceived quality.
There are single and two-handset options, but the AT&T EL52300 DECT 6.0 cordless phone actually offers three handsets and an answering machine. Only the base-station needs a phone jack, so provided they're within range, additional handsets can be put anywhere you like. There's a useful wall bracket for the base unit, and many owners like the brightly lit keypad and screen — though one or two thought it made the characters difficult to read. A notable percentage of owners have had an issue with batteries failing to hold charge. However, batteries are not supplied, so we have to wonder if those who had problems chose to purchase cheaper batteries. The problem does not affect everyone, and this product does receive plenty of positive comments.
For a relatively small additional investment over some of the other products on our shortlist, the VTech CS6429-4 DECT 6.0 provides a system with three handsets and an answering machine. As with the AT&T model, the additional VTech handsets do not require phone jacks. As such, they provide tremendous positional flexibility. Customers also receive a wall mounting option for the base and back-lit keypads throughout. Given the mid-range price, we wish that the manufacturer had included batteries with this package. Our research uncovered sporadic quality issues and occasional owner complaints about screen legibility. However, we did not find any glaring problems that point to long-term or ongoing fault.
Almost all cordless phones advertise the term "DECT 6.0." (This stands for Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications; the 6.0 defines models that work in the 1.9 GHz frequency range.)
The smart Plantronics Cordless Headset Phone consists of a base station, dial pad, headset, and battery. Some owners have been slightly confused by the term "cordless" on this model. For clarification: the base unit plugs into the mains and the phone line. There's a separate, cordless headset and dial pad. These two elements connect to each other via a thin cable and jack plug. For convenience, the dial pad has a belt clip that could as easily attach to a waistband or pocket, granting you the freedom to roam anywhere within range! When not in use, the base doubles as a stand and recharging station for the pad and headset, keeping everything in one sleek, tidy package. A few owners have complained that the phone is not truly cordless, and a number of users told us they received faulty units. Plantronics has identified the problem with these faulty units; hopefully by now now it has been resolved.
Some owners have been slightly confused by the term "cordless" on this model. For clarification: the base unit plugs into the mains and the phone line. There's a separate, cordless headset and dial pad.
Consumers who require a lot of handsets would struggle to find a better solution than the Panasonic Link2Cell phone and answering machine. In addition to the base station with its accompanying handset, customers receive four additional units. Ten batteries are also included. (Considering the fact that many manufacturers don't include any batteries with their product, this is a nice perk!) We like the efficient look of the design; owners are particularly complimentary about screen legibility. Indeed, the Panasonic is a very popular choice among consumers. It's not without critics, but our research uncovered few quality issues or defects.
All of the devices on our shortlist offer certain functions (a choice of ring tones, caller ID, and so on). The Motorola cordless allows you to check the details of the last 30 calls. You can also save up to 30 names and numbers in its built-in phone book; nine of those numbers can be accessed on speed dial. The phone can be operated hands-free, and both earpiece volume and ring volume can be set to suit your personal comfort level. Motorola says you should get 12 hours of talk time with 180 hours of standby, but potential buyers should keep in mind that the batteries on all cordless phones decline over time. To assess call quality, we've looked at numerous owner comments. It does OK, but some would have liked the phone to be louder, and a handful of owners experienced unpleasant background noise during calls.
The AT&T cordless phone's features are quite similar to those of the Motorola, but they are somewhat enhanced. You get the usual ring tone options, speakerphone, and caller ID, plus the ability to transfer calls between handsets, conduct conference calls, and exercise a call-waiting option (dependent on provider). The phone will hold 50 numbers and nine speed dial settings in its memory, and the answering machine will digitally record up to 14 minutes of calls. (Note: it's important for potential buyers to know that all three handsets share the same memory.) The manufacturer claims that there are seven hours of talk time and five days of standby, but some owners tell us that these figures are, in reality, a bit lower. Most owners are very complimentary about sound quality, even from the speakerphone.
Apart from the additional handset, the VTech cordless phone feature set reads almost the same as that of the AT&T phone on our shortlist. With this product, you get 50 built-in phone book numbers, 14 minutes of digital message recording, caller ID, call waiting, intercom, call transfer, and conferencing between handsets. VTEch is one of the largest cordless phone makers in the world, and it has an excellent reputation.
Almost all cordless phones come equipped with some standard features, such as a speaker (so you can talk hands-free), call waiting (so you can be alerted if someone else is trying to reach you while you are on a call), and caller ID display (so you can see whom you are getting a call from).
Although the Plantronics Cordless Headset Phone looks quite different from a standard handset, the functions are controlled from the dial pad just as they would be on an ordinary handset. Most of these functions are similar in nature, too. You have caller ID and call waiting, the ability to assign rapid dial buttons to your favorite numbers, and a huge, 70-number phone book. (For some reason, however, only 30 of these numbers are recognized by caller ID.) Maximum claimed talk time is ten hours; standby is purported to be eight days. That should be more than enough for most phone users, especially if the headset is placed back on the cradle at night. The combination of DECT 6.0 and a fitted earpiece allows most users to experience adequate sound quality.
None of our finalists are short on functionality, but the Panasonic Cordless Phone takes its functions to a higher level. Owners enjoy standard features like call waiting, transfer, conferencing, and caller ID. (The Panasonic's caller ID can store only 50 numbers, but its phone book memory can store up to 3,000 numbers!) Talk time, at 13 hours, is the longest on our shortlist. Standby is 11 days. Owners enjoy up to 18 minutes of digitally recorded answering service messages. Usefully, owners also enjoy the potential for call blocking. The Panasonic offers plenty of secondary functions, as well — too many to list here. Most owners are happy with the sound quality of this phone.
Having a number of handsets can be advantageous if you have a larger home. You can sync up the handsets in your bedroom, living room, and even bathroom, so that you can receive a call from anywhere in the house.
Many factors can impact the effective range of cordless phones. In our ratings, we integrate manufacture figures with relevant owner comments to assess range. The reach of the Motorola cordless phone is claimed by the manufacturer to be 160 feet inside and 980 feet outside. Owners don't usually measure actual distances, but several were unhappy with the distance they got before the signal started to break up. One owner actually reported an "out of range" warning when the handset was on the base! Of course, this incident must be balanced against the many owners who were perfectly satisfied. The Motorola is quite a basic model. Aside from the ability to add further handsets to the system, it offers no additional features.
AT&T claims that this phone has an "unsurpassed" range that, in independent tests (by Wyle Labs), performed 45 percent better than its competitors. However, they do not quote actual distances. Owners give some impressive feedback about the phone's range; one woman told us she can walk across her 1.5-acre plot and still get reception at her neighbor's house. However, another owner told us he could only travel 20 feet from the base before losing reception. The majority of owners suggest that the phone's range is satisfactory. This system is also hearing aid compatible.
Although visually different, there are many technological similarities between the AT&T and VTech cordless phones. VTech suggests that their product has a great range, but they provide no actual figures to support this claim. However, many satisfied owners vouch for the fact that the phone has a great range. One owner said she has no trouble staying connected inside the walls of her 4,000-foot home! During our research, we encountered only a few owners who weren't happy with their VTech phone. Most were highly satisfied.
Adding a "booster" or "repeater" to your cordless phones has been known to almost double the range of the handsets.
Plantronics happily provides figures for the range of its Cordless Headset Phone. Considering the fact that roaming is purported to reach up to 300 feet, we're not surprised that the manufacturer wants to draw attention to it. While none of the owners surveyed confirmed that kind of distance, one man did tell us that he uses the Plantronics in a 75-foot building without problems. As is common with all cordless phones, a few owners voiced complaints, but it's impossible to tell whether their issues were due to equipment faults or the local environment. As for "additional features," it's worth mentioning that the Plantronics can also be worn as an ear-wrap (much like some hands-free bluetooth devices for cell phones). Some consumers find this to be more comfortable.
As suggested by its name, the Panasonic Link2Cell can be linked to your cell phone. This feature offers several unique functions: you can make cell calls from home, you can link your cell number memory to your Panasonic, you can charge your cell from the USB port provided, and you can alert your cordless handset when a cellular text is received. Most of these functions rely on Bluetooth technology, which has a much lower operational distance than the usual cordless signal. Having said that, owners report effective use between 40 and 80 feet — a distance that is adequate for many. Although specific range figures aren't provided by the manufacturer, one owner did tell us he is able to successfully use his Panasonic Link2Cell in an 11,000-foot warehouse.
You're unlikely to find a good multi-function cordless phone for less than $29, which is what you'll pay for the Motorola. It may not have the expansive memory of some, but a 30-number phone book and nine speed dials is enough for many people. Some owners were surprised by how small the Motorola actually is, and our research did uncover a few complaints about reception and general product quality. However, the Motorola it has plenty of satisfied owners, too. One owner summed up the Motorola's no-frills approach quite succinctly when he said, "I don't use a phone often. It's fine."
If you're looking for a budget cordless phone and answering machine, you'll find the $59 AT&T a tough act to beat. Three handsets working off the same incoming line give you plenty of in-home options, including speakerphone, call transfer, and conferencing functions. The directory will hold 50 numbers, and the answering machine will hold 14 minutes of messages. (The answering machine function will also time and date-stamp each message for later reference.) AT&T does not provide batteries for this phone, and some find the range to be poor. However, most owners are delighted with it. One man told us the AT&T cordless is "all you could ask for." You can't get a much better endorsement than that!
The VTech cordless phone package offers three handsets and an answering machine for just $57. That's enough coverage for a home or a small business! The AT&T and VTech models on our shortlist are very similar, so the question becomes why you should choose one product over the other. However, a fair number of owners who had occasion to contact VTech directly were dissatisfied with the customer service they received. For some consumers, that will be an important factor in their final purchasing decision.
Remember that while the handset of your cordless phone does not need access to electricity to work, the base unit does need to be plugged in to an outlet at all times.
If you compare the single-headset Plantronics to the single-handset Motorola, the Plantronics looks expensive. However, if you compare the Plantronics to other cordless headsets, it comes out favorably. Right now, the Plantronics Cordless Headset Phone costs $89. It's got all the functionality you'd expect; in fact, the 70-number phone book has more capacity than many competitors. Ten hours of talk time is also very competitive and appealing. The big question, of course, is whether you want the hands-free facility that a cordless headset phone like this offers. For some, it's indispensable. While the device has garnered the usual smattering of complaints about battery life and call quality, the majority of owners find the Plantronics Cordless Headset Phone to be an excellent product.
At $139, the Panasonic Cordless Phone system we've selected is the most expensive of our final five. However, you get five handsets and a high-quality answering machine for this price. The Panasonic's feature set is excellent. It includes a phone book that could potentially hold 3,000 numbers, caller ID, call transfer, and conferencing options. You can use Bluetooth to pair up to two cell phones with your Panasonic cordless phones, giving you a completely integrated home or office set-up. The Panasonic's price might seem a bit high at first glance, but it's a great value as a whole, and it's extremely popular with customers.
If you buy a single cordless phone set and later need more handsets, you can purchase additional handsets of your model and pair them with the existing ones.
All of the finalists on our shortlist are excellent products, but the best cordless phone of all is the Panasonic with its Link2Cell Bluetooth-Enabled Phone.
The five-handset/answering machine combination might come with the highest price tag here, but unit for unit, it's not much more expensive than any of our other finalists. Considering all that you get with this package, in fact, the Panasonic represents a fantastic economic value. It also leads its class in terms of functionality. The huge feature set includes caller ID, speakerphones, transfers, intercom and conferencing, call blocking, a phone book of up to 3,000 numbers, an amazing talk time ceiling of 13 hours, and standby for up to 11 days. The Panasonic even comes with batteries -- a feature you'd have to pay extra for with some other models.
The quality that truly separates the this phone from the rest of the crowd, however, is the Panasonic's Link2Cell function. This technology allows you to integrate two cell phones into the system. When you integrate a cell phone with your cordless, you get the convenience of a cell with the security of a land line. There's even a jack for a headset. As a home or office installation, it's difficult to imagine how this cordless package could be improved.
A few owners found the Panasonic system to be a bit difficult to set up. An even smaller handful of customers complained about battery life, call quality, and operational range. However, the small number of negative comments about the Panasonic must be weighed against the overwhelming number of positive comments. Truly, the Panasonic Link2Cell is an exceptional product. It's simply the Best of the Best.
The Panasonic Link2Cell leads its class in terms of functionality. Owners enjoy caller ID, speakerphone capability, call blocking, an amazing talk time ceiling of 13 hours, and much more.
Each of the cordless phones on our shortlist has satisfied countless customers, and none of them are overly expensive. In the end, however, the Best Bang for Your Buck cordless phone is the AT&T Expandable Cordless Phone w/Answering System.
Three phones are enough for the majority of households, and we really like the fact that this product provides three handsets. The AT&T offers all the features you would expect: caller ID, call waiting (depending on your line provider), conferencing, a 50-number directory, hearing aid compatibility, and the ability to digitally record up to 14 minutes of calls. In short, it offers as much as the vast majority of consumers could want in a cordless phone system. If you're on a budget and you can get a quality system like this -- along with an answering machine -- for $59, why pay more?
Regardless of price or manufacturer, every cordless phone will attract some complaints. For example, batteries aren't provided with the AT&T phone, and consumers who install cheaper batteries sometimes report more problems with recharging. However, this popular cordless phone has many more fans than detractors. Most think it's a top-value choice. We endorse the AT&T Expandable Cordless Phone system as the Best Bang for Your Buck.
All cordless phones are reliant on wireless frequencies, so check your router to make sure you aren't crowding out the 2.4 GHz spectrum. You may also have issues with older models interfering with baby monitors on the 900 Mhz spectrum.