AT&T TL96273 Review
Pros: Exceptional range, great sound quality, best for linking to cell phones
Cons: Mediocre battery life, a little pricey
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Our Analysis and Test Results
While we would still recommend the CL84202 over this product for most people, the TL96273 is a great option if you are particularly interested in pairing to a cell phone or if you find it available at a discounted rate. However, the CRL82212 usually retails for far less and almost matched the performance of the TL96273, leaving this headset in a bit of an awkward place, as it's very hard to distinguish this product from those other two models in terms of performance. All three are exceptional phones and won't disappoint, but you might as well get the best if they are the same price and you have no interest in Link-2-Cell.
To find out which model of the cordless phone came out on top, we bought the best and tested them head-to-head in an exhaustive barrage of tests. These tests were spread over five rating metrics — Range, Sound Quality, Ease of Use, Features, and Battery Life — each weighted based on its importance.
Earning the highest weight out of all our rating metrics, Sound Quality is of paramount importance for these products and this metric accounts for 30% of the overall score. To evaluate this, we moved each handset a measured distance away from the base — with a handful of obstacles in between — then left a voicemail on Google Voice while reading excerpts from Alice's Adventure in Wonderland and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A panel of judges then listened to each message and ranked the phones. The AT&T TL96273 did very well, comparing quite well with the rest of the group.
The voice messages were exceptionally clear and easy to hear, but just not quite the same caliber as the AT&T CL84202. However, we never had any issues understanding what the other person was saying when testing this phone and there were no distracting hums or buzzes.
Comprising the next largest portion of the overall score, our Range metric accounts for 25% of the final tally. Our testing process was split into two components for this metric: obstructed and unobstructed range. We tested each product by calling each phone with a cell phone, then starting a looped audio track. Our tester took each handset and started moving away from the base until the sound was no longer understandable. The unobstructed test had no obstacles between the handset and the base, while the obstructed test had a series of walls that the signal had to pass through. The TL96273 again scored very well, tying for the top score with its 8 out of 10, matching the CL84202.
This phone transmitted understandable audio for over 840' in our line-of-sight test, tying with a handful of the other top models. However, it was in the obstructed test where the TL96273 stood out, transmitting clear sound over 300' with a variety of walls in the way.
Ease of Use
Accounting for 20% of the overall score, our Ease of Use metric evaluated how easy it is to use both the basic and advanced functions of each model. For the basic functions, we evaluated how easy it is to read the display on each handset, operate it in a dark environment, find a lost handset, and place a call, as well as setting the date and time, using the speed dial, and calling back a missed call. For advanced functions, we assessed the difficulty in navigating the menus, blocking calls, and inputting names into the phonebook. The TL96273 did reasonably well, meriting a 6 out of 10 for its performance, comparing well with the competition, as shown in the following chart.
This model is about average in terms of being easy to read, becoming blurry about 5' away. It does have a nice and bright screen for use in the dark, but not all of the buttons are illuminated, making it difficult to adjust some settings in the dark if you are not accustomed to the phone.
This phone has one of the loudest lost handset tones and makes it very easy to place a call, even hyphenating the phone number as you enter it. It's relatively easy to call back the last missed call, with the missed caller's number showing up as NEW in your directory. However, this model does lack a programmable speed dial.
Moving on to the advanced functions, it is about the same as the rest of the pack to enter a contact into your phonebook. Blocking calls is the same as well and it is quite easy to navigate through the menus, with the layout being quite intuitive. You can also turn on a silent mode for a set number of hours by holding down the "#" key and pressing the keypad for the desired number of quiet hours, from 1-12.
Comprising 15% of the final score, our Features metric assessed the features and functions of each phone, awarding more points the more feature-rich each cordless phone is. The AT&T TL96273 scored relatively well.
This cordless phone system can be expanded with up to 12 handsets and has a decently large phonebook with a capacity of 200 contacts. It has an illuminated keypad, though the buttons aren't particularly large. It has answering machine and intercom capabilities, as well as a keypad and speaker on its main base. However, it does lack a belt clip and a headphone jack on its handsets, costing it a few points.
Ranking next in terms of importance, our Battery Life metric takes credit for the remaining 10% of the score. We compared how long each phone lasted on standby and while in use, as well as the time to charge to determine scores. The TL96273 scored about average, earning a 5 out of 10 for its performance. The following chart shows how this compared to the rest of the group.
Lasting for about 11 hours and 20 minutes in our talk time test, the TL96273 finished in the middle of the pack. It has a claimed standby time of 7 days and takes a decently long time to recharge, about 11 hours according to the manual.
Earning one of the highest scores, this model is a little too pricey to be a good value, with this premium phone being a prime example of you get what you pay for.
All in all, the AT&T TL96273 is a great phone that won't disappoint. There are better value options out there and we would recommend an alternative choice if you aren't interested in Link-to-Cell, but it's a solid phone that is worth considering, especially if found on a discount even if you don't plan on utilizing that feature.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer