The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of tech gear

AT&T EL51203 Review

Above average range and sound quality for a great price
The AT&T EL52103 cordless phone.
Best Buy Award
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Price:   $40 List | $31 at Amazon
Pros:  Inexpensive, great value, alright range
Cons:  Below average battery life
Manufacturer:   AT&T
By David Wise and Austin Palmer  ⋅  Oct 25, 2016
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53
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 8
  • Sound Quality - 30% 6
  • Range - 25% 6
  • Ease of Use - 20% 5
  • Features - 15% 4
  • Battery Life - 10% 4

Our Verdict

The AT&T EL51203 scored just above average throughout our testing in overall scores, earning a 53 out of 100. It also scored above average in both of our highest weighted ranking metrics, range and sound quality. While this model underperformed slightly when it came to battery life, and came off as a little light on features, the EL51203's solid performance in the areas that count, combined with its great price earned it our Best Buy Award.


Compare to Similar Products

 
The AT&T EL52103 cordless phone.
This Product
AT&T EL51203
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award    
Price $40 List
$30.56 at Amazon
$60 List
$59.99 at Amazon
$90 List$70 List
$58.46 at Amazon
$60 List
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Pros Inexpensive, great value, alright rangeVery easy to use, great sound quality, solid battery lifeExceptional range, great sound quality, best for linking to cell phonesExcellent range, tons of featuresGreat sound quality, easy to use
Cons Below average battery lifeLittle light on featuresMediocre battery life, a little priceyUnimpressive battery life, sound quality could be betterFew features
Bottom Line Above average range and sound quality for a great priceIf you want a great cordless phone that is simple and easy to use without a lot of fluff, then this is the model for youIf you are searching for a cordless phone to integrate with your cell phone, then the TL96273 is the clear choiceWhile the KX-TGE432 came close to scoring an award, it was held back by its less than stellar sound quality and battery lifeIt has fantastic sound quality and is extremely easy to use, but it is a little on the weak side when it comes to features
Overall Score Sort Icon
100
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53
100
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69
100
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67
100
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67
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65
Rating Categories AT&T EL51203 AT&T CL82207 AT&T TL96273 Panasonic KX-TGE432 AT&T CRL82212
Sound Quality (30%)
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
8
Range (25%)
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
6
Ease Of Use (20%)
10
0
5
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
7
Features (15%)
10
0
4
10
0
4
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
4
Battery Life (10%)
10
0
4
10
0
7
10
0
5
10
0
4
10
0
6
Specs AT&T EL51203 AT&T CL82207 AT&T TL96273 Panasonic KX-TGE432 AT&T CRL82212
Link - to - Cell No No Yes No No
Caller ID Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Caller ID announce No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Unobstructed Range Test 840 ft. 840 ft. 840 ft. 840 ft. 840 ft.
Obstructed Range Test 220 ft. 300 ft. 300 ft. 350 ft. 220 ft.
Call Waiting Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Call block Dial *60 Smart Call Blocker* Dial *60 Up to 250 Dial *60
Expandable Handsets Up to 5 Up to 12 Up to 12 Up to 6 Up to 12
Corded (phone) Base No No No No No
Speaker Phone on Base No No Yes No No
Speaker Phone on Handset Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Phone Book Capacity 50 50 200 (6000 cell entries) 100 50
Speed Dial Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Redial Last 10 Numbers Last 10 Numbers Last 10 Numbers Yes Last 10 Numbers
Wall mountable Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mute Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hold No No Yes Yes No
Any Key answer Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Push to talk (PTT) No Yes Yes No No
Backlit display Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Eco Mode Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Silent/Quiet Mode Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Voice Command No No No No No
HD Audio w/ equalizer No Yes Yes No Yes
Lighted Keypad Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Optional Belt Clip No No No Yes No
Headset Jack No No No Yes No
Additional Lines No No No No No
RoHS Compliant Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Answering Machine No Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


One of our Best Buy award winners  the EL51203 rests on its charging only base.
One of our Best Buy award winners, the EL51203 rests on its charging only base.

Sound Quality


Sound quality is one of the most important rating metrics when it come to cordless phones, as it inherently covers the main functions of these devices. This rating category makes up 30% of the total score for cordless phones. Our test consisted of a panel of listeners evaluating a message left with each type of phone, and then scoring them. While scoring, our panel was not aware of which model phone left which message.

This model earned a 6 out of 10 in this rating metric, lagging behind our top scorers and winners of the Editor's Choice awards by 2 points. However, this phone still scored above average and was received favorably by our panel of listeners. The evaluation panel felt that this phone was very clear, but that is was slightly quieter than the top scorers. This sentiment was expressed across the board by our judges, who all felt that this phone was quiet, but very clear. Below you can hear an audio sample comparing one of our Editor's Choice award winners, the AT&T CL84202 and this model.

Range


After researching as much existing information as we could find, and talking with a wide variety of people, we felt that the range of a cordless phone as a rating metric earned the second highest weighting, comprising 25% of the total score. This model performed alright, earning a slightly above average score of 6 out of 10. We split this test into two distinct tests: an unobstructed, line of sight test, and an obstructed test with multiple walls between base and handset. This model performed great on the clear, line of sight test, tying with our top scorers and remaining audible at 840' away from the base.


This phone's range began to suffer when it came to dealing with interference, scoring much lower in the pack as more walls were between the handset and the base. We tested with the base inside a house, and brought each handset outside, forcing the signal to travel through 5-6 walls, and then measured the maximum range each model would work at. While our top scorer (AT&T CL84202), and eventual Editor's Choice award winner, made it about 315' from the base, the EL51203 became hard to understand and eventually cut out at 220' from the base. This range would be more than sufficient for most households, and not a reason to discount purchasing this model, unless you have a really big house/mansion.

Ease of Use



This model came in the middle of the pack when it came to ease of use, earning a 5 out of 10. It wasn't the easiest to use of all the models that we tested, but it worked well enough, especially when you consider its price. We looked at both simple and advanced functions, and evaluated how easy each were to use, and then aggregated the results to determine overall scores.

First off, we assessed how easy it was to actually see the information displayed on the handset. Similar to a standard eye test, each handset was set up at fixed distances from an observer with random information on the display, and the observer was asked to correctly identify the information present on the screen. This model remained visible at a little over 5' away, finally becoming illegible around 6'.

Next up, was judging how difficult it would be to use this phone in a dark environment. This model scored the highest out of all the AT&T phones, with a display and backlit buttons that made it very easy to dial out. The buttons were very easy to read, and the display was easy on the eyes.However, all of the Panasonic phones were substantially easier to use in a dark environment; something to consider if that will be one of the primary use cases for your cordless phone.

The EL51203 has an easy to read display that is easy on the eyes in a dark environment.
The EL51203 has an easy to read display that is easy on the eyes in a dark environment.

This model of phone hyphenated the number when placing a call, making it much easier to catch mistakes, as well as offers any key answer when receiving a call.

Moving on to some of the more advanced functions, it was easy enough to input names into the phonebook, navigating through this model's second set of menus and then typing in the name of the contact using multi-tap methods, just like texting on an older flip phone. Blocking an unwanted number was a little more difficult, requiring you to dial *60 and then working through a long and somewhat complicated series of voice prompts. This model only displays one menu option at a time, something we found to be slightly frustrating when compared to some of the other models that displayed a full list of options on one screen when scrolling through to change settings.

Features


The EL51203 is a more bare bones model of cordless phone, running a little lighter on the feature side. It earned an overall score of 4 out of 10 in this metric. This phone can only host up to 5 handsets, compared to 12 on some of the other models that we tested. This model specifically advertises that it has large buttons, as well as a back lit keypad. It is not possible to link to cell with this device, and the lack of a keypad or speaker on the main base makes line power mode impossible.

The EL5103 on its main base  with handset locator and in-use indicator visible on the right side.
The EL5103 on its main base, with handset locator and in-use indicator visible on the right side.

This phone also does not have an integrated answering machine, or a headset jack/ belt clip combo to make hands free talking possible. however , this model does have the capability to act as an intercom system between handsets, and has the capacity to store up to 50 numbers.

Battery Life


This model had a slightly below average performance in battery life, earning a 4 out of 10. This phone lasted for 10 hours and 7 minutes in our talk time test . This phone had a low battery indicator of a flashing light as well as a an audible beep to notify you that the battery was depleted. This alert went off around 10 hours in our talk time test, giving you just enough time to politely end the call before the battery died. This phone also has a manufacturer claimed standby time of 5 days, and a charge time of 16 hours.

Value


This model of cordless phone had great value, earning it our Best Buy award. It did lag behind the top scoring models, but it's hard to beat its price, especially with a stronger than average performance in our two highest weighted metrics.

Conclusion


This phone was not the best in any category, but did well enough to more than justify its price. This is the perfect phone if you want a cordless phone mainly as a backup, or for semi-regular use. It gets the job done, and won't cost you an arm and a leg.


David Wise and Austin Palmer