The Best Cordless Phone
The Panasonic KX-TGE272S has clear call quality, great battery life and offers more options for the price than any other cordless phone.
You'd think now that cell phones are so widespread — there are more mobile phones in the United States than people — home landline phones would have become as archaic as 8-track tape players and record album turntables.
Au contraire: While only a few suppliers of premium landline cordless phones remain (AT&T, Motorola, Panasonic, Uniden and VTech, primarily), they’re making increasingly sophisticated expandable extension systems that let you place a handset with a charger plugged into an AC outlet in various rooms in your home. Each remote handset is wirelessly synced with the others and the base station, which plugs in to your main phone line.
In our estimation, the best premium cordless phone extension system, based on performance, features and price, is the Panasonic KX-TGE272S two-handset bundle.
What to expect from a premium cordless phone
Whether you live in one of the 39 percent of wireless-only homes in the United States or not, there are plenty of reasons for owning a plain old telephone system (POTS), aka traditional landline service. The Panasonic KX-TGE272S meets all these demands and more with the specifications and basic features we consider essential for a premium cordless phone system.
- DECT 6.0, the latest cordless technology that lets you chat up to 100 feet from the base station (depending on obstructions)
- A cordless handset on the base station; some systems include only a corded handset on the base station, limiting mobility and flexibility
- Expandable to at least six extension handsets
- Telephone answering system
- Numeric keypad on the base station, which essentially gives you another extension and continues operating if the handset battery runs down or is misplaced
- Speakerphone on base stations and handsets
- Bluetooth headset support to let you chat hands-free
- Bluetooth cell phone link, which lets you answer or make calls from a connected cell phone, which might be charging or in another room, allowing you to use your cell phone to make long-distance calls and save money on your landline service
Only seven models from Panasonic, AT&T and VTech meet these basic premium cordless phone system criteria.
- Compatible with POTS and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), including phone service from your local cable company or independent VoIP companies such as Vonage and MagicJack
- Talking Caller ID, which announces who's calling
- Conference calling, mixing cell and landline calls
- Transfer of phone book contacts from your smartphone
- Notification of incoming cellular text messages
- Quiet or Silent modes, which allow you to mute ringtones during certain hours
- Intercom, so one extension handset can directly call another extension handset
- Wall-mountable base station
The Panasonic KX-TGE272S's advantages
Of course we considered voice quality in our ratings; however, aural clarity is not only subjective but heavily based on what landline or VoIP service you use. In our experience, Panasonic offered more volume and clearer connections than other brands, but the differences are minor and your experience may vary wildly. Our advice: Buy from a retailer with a generous return policy.
What sets the Panasonic KX-TGE272S apart from its competition are its plethora of physical and functional advantages unavailable on other systems.
For instance, the buttons on both the handsets and the base are larger on the Panasonic KX-TGE272S than any other premium expandable system, with better-defined numbers and brighter backlighting than other models — a key advantage that’s especially important for seniors.
Panasonic's cordless handsets are powered by traditional, easily replaced and relatively inexpensive NiCAD rechargeable batteries rather than the hard-to-find, expensive proprietary battery packs found in systems from other brands.
And speaking of battery power, Panasonic's handsets provide 10 hours of talk time. That’s two to three hours more on a single charge than competitors.
Panasonic's handset volume buttons are located on the side, like a smartphone, instead of on a front rocker as on other models. This means you can adjust call volume without moving the handset away from your ear.
Each extension handset can be renamed, such as "Bedroom" or "Mary" rather than the plain, undescriptive "handset1" and "handset2," making identifying which handset you're trying to reach via the intercom stupidly simple.
During a power outage, a fully charged handset temporarily supplies power to the base unit (how much depends on how much juice the handset you place in the base station has left) to let you continue to make and receive landline (POTS) calls on extension handsets. Extensions on other systems would simply be unavailable if the power were out.
If you receive a message on the Panasonic's answering machine, you'll get an alert on a registered cell or office phone, along with message playback options.
While most systems we looked at have a "Quiet" or "Silent" mode, the Panasonic lets you assign numbers from your system's phone book to override the setting that lets calls from specific family members or friends ring through.
Panasonic sells a Key Detector ($19.95) key fob that works with this phone system. If you misplace your keys, you can use a handset to activate the detector, which will start beeping if it's within 200 yards.
Perhaps the Panasonic system's coolest feature is its Blocked Call capability. Instead of relying on the often unreliable and slow-to-respond National Do Not Call Registry, the Panasonic lets you block up to 250 numbers from increasingly aggressive telemarketers, as long as the offending number is displayed in the Caller ID.
But for call blocking, Panasonic giveth and taketh away. Instead of just blocking the calls completely, the phone rings once, stops and then displays a "Call Blocked" message on the display as if the phone needs to show off: "Hey, look what I did!" Why do we need to know the call is blocked? Annoying — but it's better than letting the call through.
Our only other disappointment is the lack of separate extension handsets, although we have to assume is a temporary situation, given the system's newness.
Thumbs up from consumers
Cordless phones aren't exactly the sexiest of gadgets, so no other professional critics have reviewed the Panasonic KX-TGE272S. But plenty of laudatory users have chimed in on Amazon about it.
J. Linder of San Jose, California, chose the Panasonic after conducting "about 50 hours of research over … 3-4 weeks" and "looked at Consumer Reports, and online reviews both here and other retailers …"
The KX-TGE272S was the first Panasonic phone purchased by Dixon R. Perry, which he reported has met or exceeded his expectations. "As a senior citizen I find the size and weight of the phones pleasing. The lighted buttons are also very helpful. Battery life was a major consideration in selecting this model. The 'call block' feature was a pleasant surprise."
Many buyers were appreciative of the phone's call blocking capability. "Even if this phone didn't have great audio, even if I couldn't sync them with my cell phone, even if it didn't have all the options and settings it does," wrote Harley Rider of Ellijay, Georgia, "it would still be the best phone I have ever had due to the ability to block all those damn unwanted solicitation calls."
Doc's N "Dr. Fico" in Los Angeles, California,summed up most online reviewer opinions, enthusing that "these phones have more bells and whistles than any other product we've used."
The Panasonic KX-TGE272S: Best premium cordless phone
The Panasonic KX-TGE272S offers more options for the price than any other premium expandable system. It gets great battery life — two to three hours more on a single charge than its competitors. Most importantly, in our experience it offered more volume and clearer connections than other brands.