Best Cordless Phone of 2020
Easiest to Use Phone
Earning one of the best scores we have seen to date, the AT&T CL82207 is one of our all-time favorite cordless phones. This phone has an exceptionally intuitive interface and is a great option for anyone who doesn't want to deal with a hassle every time they use their phone. To go along with its few features, it has overall excellent sound quality and quite an impressive range, all while having a battery life that should last for 10+ hours of talk time.
Unfortunately, the AT&T CL82207 is a little light on features compared to some of the other phones that we have tested, but it at least has an integrated phone book and answering machine. Although it can't quite match some of the other top-tier products when it comes to capabilities, we absolutely love how intuitive and user-friendly this phone is. It's a great option for someone who wants a cordless phone without all the fuss, and the price makes it a reasonable option if you are shopping with cost in mind.
Read Review: AT&T CL82207
Best for Maximum Range
The VTech DS6621-2 was another strong competitor and just narrowly missed out on the top spot. This model provided static-free and crystal-clear conversations and has a phenomenal range. We could separate the handset from the base by hundreds of feet without any noticeable drop in call quality. This phone is one of the most user-friendly products in our review fleet.
Unfortunately, we did find that the VTech DS6621-2 had a little less talk time in our test than other models. It was unable to last more than 10 hours before running out of juice. It also doesn't have the most extensive feature set but, in our opinion, includes the most critical ones. This is an overall great phone and one of our top recommendations if you need a new phone that can go the distance.
Read Review: VTech DS6621-2
Best Bang for the Buck
Are you searching for a reliable phone to fit your budget? If so, then the AT&T EL51203 is an excellent choice for you. This phone is a fantastic value, offering solid, across-the-board performance at a reasonable price. The AT&T EL51203 has an above-average range and sound quality, all while remaining reasonably easy to use.
However, this model has a mediocre battery life and lacks and exhaustive feature set. Despite these drawbacks, they only had a minor impact on this product's overall performance. This is a great pick if you are shopping on a budget and don't want to make too many concessions when it comes to performance.
Read Review: AT&T EL51203
Best on a Tight Budget
Are you hoping to spend as little as possible on a cordless phone? The VTech CS6710 is not our favorite model by any means, but it does a decent job at a hard to beat price. This phone has an acceptable range and surprisingly great sound quality, given its bare-bones and bargain nature.
The VTech CS6710 has some distinct trade-offs as part of its low price. The most apparent drawbacks were its below-average battery life and less user-friendly interface. We also found this model to be light on the built-in features. We think it's by far the best you can get if you are on the tightest of budgets, and your expectations aren't too high.
Read Review: VTech CS6719
Best for Link-to-Cell
The AT&T TL96273 performed exceptionally well in our testing process, earning one of the top scores overall and was narrowly edged out for the top spot by the AT&T CL82207. While this phone didn't claim the top prize, this model distinguished itself by being the best at connecting to a mobile device. This feature allows you to leave your phone charging by the base, with any incoming calls passed to all of the handsets of the AT&T TL96273*. This is particularly handy if you don't like carrying your cell phone with you, or if you only get good cell service in a certain area of your home.
Regrettably, the AT&T TL96273 delivered a somewhat lackluster performance in our battery life tests, and we thought its sound quality is slightly inferior to the top-tier phones. We identified this cordless phone as a well rounded and capable option, especially if routing landline calls to a cell phone is a desired feature. Even if you don't plan on using that feature, it still is a great option based solely on its performance in other areas.
Read Review: AT&T TL96273
Why You Should Trust Us
Our cordless phone testing team of Austin Palmer and David Wise have tested hundreds of tech products and over a dozen different cordless phones. They have used their extensive background in reviewing consumer tech products to formulate a testing plan and process that truly highlights the differences in these products. A separate panel of judges was also convened to compare and score the audio recordings created with each phone.
We pushed each phone to their limits, even if that meant walking hundreds and hundreds of feet to determine their maximum range. We also ran dozens of hours of recordings to ascertain how long you can talk for on each model. A widespread group of users — including some who weren't the most tech-savvy — came together to evaluate and compare each phone's ease of use and interface.
Related: How We Tested Cordless Phones
Analysis and Test Results
We broke our testing process into five weighted rating metrics — sound quality, range, ease of use, features, and battery life. We aggregated the results from each category to determine the overall score for all cordless phones. We used a mixture of objective side-by-side assessments, like maximum range and battery life, as well as more subjective tests, like audio quality using a panel of judges, to try to make our ratings as practical and fair as possible.
Related: Buying Advice for Cordless Phones
If you are shopping for a new phone on a budget, it's hard to go wrong with either the VTech CS6719-2 or the AT&T EL51203. These two models offered acceptable performance and can be purchased for surprisingly low prices. However, each made certain compromises to maintain their approachable prices. Both models have slightly inferior sound quality, range, and are sans key features sets like built-in answering machines. If these are deal breakers for you, then you should consider the more expensive AT&T CL82207 or VTech DS6621-2.
Sound quality is an integral part of a phone and received the highest weighting in the overall score. Being able to hear and understand someone in a different area is the principal function of a telephone. Cordless phones offer clear conversations without the hassle of a cord. Our test for sound quality may be on the more subjective side, but it is a good analog of what most people will use these products for.
To test the sound quality of each model, we set up the base of each phone and moved the handset a consistent distance away. We then left a voicemail on Google Voice with each model and read a passage from a book (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne). Our panel of listeners then rated the quality and characteristics of each message without knowing the make or model of the handset.
Our testing revealed the AT&T Duo — the AT&T CL82207 and the AT&T CRL82212 — and the VTech DS6621-2 had the best sound quality. The AT&T phones sounded practically indistinguishable from one another, delivering crystal-clear audio. Our panel particularly liked that these phones were extremely clear, with a noticeable lack of static compared to many of the other models that we evaluated. Their sound levels were ideal to easily hear a conversation spoken at a normal level, though they weren't the loudest phones of the group. These phones earned an 8 out of 10.
The VTech DS6621-2 also lacked any static or buzzing, transmitting conversations as if you were almost within the same room. However, we did find it to be on the quiet side — just a touch quieter than the AT&T CL82207 or the AT&T CRL82212.
Following the performance of the top models, the AT&T TL86103, AT&T TL96273, and the VTech CS6719 all came next, earning 7 out of 10 scores. The audio emanating from these phones was clear but our panel noticed a little bit of static and distortion, accompanied by some reduced volume.
Next, the Panasonic KX-TGE432 and the AT&T EL51203 both earned a 6 out of 10 for their alright sound quality. For both of these phones, you can usually hear the person on the other end of the line without any difficulty.
The Panasonic KX-TGF382M came next, earning a 5 out of 10 for its mediocre sound quality. We found the volume on this phone to be quite loud, but all of our judges identified a persistent buzzing or static noise that seriously detracted from the overall sound quality.
The entire point of having one of these products is that you are no longer tethered to the base module. It would be somewhat silly to have a cordless product, but have to remain close to the base. We wanted to find out just how far you can get from the base, and continue to understand the audio coming out of the handset. Since range can vary wildly, depending on the number and type of obstructions, we split our range metric into 2 distinct tests: an unobstructed, line-of-sight test, and an obstructed test with multiple walls between base and handset.
We were thoroughly impressed with the range of all the phones we tested, and it seems clear that with the implementation of the Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications, or DECT 6.0 standard, that the range of all of these phones would be acceptable for almost any home.
However, it was our second test with multiple walls that truly separated the top-tier phones from the rest of the pack. We left the base of each phone inside the house, forcing the phone signal to pass through approximately 6 walls. Our tester walked each phone along the test course and played an audiobook into each handset. Our test course had markers every 40ft, up to the end of the street, and our tester called out the number of each marker over the audiobook as he walked by. We then listened to each voice message to determine the effective obstructed range of each product.
The VTech DS6621-2 received top marks, earning a 9 out of 10 for its unrivaled range. This cordless phone maxed out in the unobstructed test, delivering clear sound with well over 840' separating the base from the phone. It also was able to transmit understandable conversation from 390' with multiple walls between the phone and main station.
The AT&T TL9673 and the Panasonic KX-TGE432 both tied, earning their 8 out of 10 scores. Both the phones made easy work of the unobstructed range test and effortlessly made a clear and understandable call with 840' separating the base from the handset.
During the obstructed range test, these phones continued to perform, both were able to maintain a conversation with 300' and numerous walls between the handset and base. However, we did notice that the audio quality diminished AT&T TL96273, eventually degrading to only one or two understandable words per sentence. In contrast, you could still transmit an occasional phrase with the Panasonic KX-TGE432.
The AT&T CL82207 earned a 7 out of 10 for its performance, matching the top scorers in the line-of-sight test, but falling a little short in the multiple-obstructions test. While it did match the performance of the AT&T TL96273, the audio wasn't as at clear at 300', being almost unintelligible.
The AT&T CRL82212, Panasonic KX-TGF382M, and the AT&T EL51203 all merited a 6 out of 10 for their solid range. These three also all reached the maximum distance in the unobstructed test, but their effective range dropped quite a bit in the obstructed test, with the audio cutting out 50-80 feet closer to the base than the top products.
The next model, the VTech CS6719, earned a 5 out of 10 for its relatively mediocre performance. This handset couldn't match the top models in the line-of-sight test, cutting out almost 100' before the other ones did. It didn't fare any better in the obstructed test, cutting out significantly closer than most of the other models.
Finishing out the back of the pack, the AT&T TL86103 earned a 4 out of 10. This phone supplied quite a lackluster performance, on the whole, having a substantially reduced range compared to almost every other phone in the review.
Ease of Use
Phones are not exactly a modern device. Although there have been major improvements in the past 140 years, the core purpose of telephones has remained the same: to transmit a clear conversation with someone who is not physically close to you. They have been around long enough now that they should be extremely intuitive and easy to use. This metric, along with range and sound quality, makes up the majority of our scores. While the addition of all the newer features is great, it is important to still be able to easily make and receive calls and use the core functions of the telephone. We feel that a good cordless phone should be easy to use, no matter who is using it, whether they are tech-savvy or not. We looked at what people typically use their telephone for — things like making and receiving a phone call, paging a lost handset, and entering numbers into a phone book — and compared the relative ease of performing these actions across all the models we tested.
The AT&T CRL82212, the AT&T CL82207, and the Panasonic KX-TGE432 all earned a 7 out of 10 for being some of the easier to use phones that we have tested. Both of the AT&T phones have handsets that are very easy to read. However, the speed dial functions are a little harder to use, and calling back a missed number is less intuitive than it is on some to its rivals. We found the ringer to be a little quiet on the AT&T CL82207, but the pair of handsets have very bright displays, making them incredibly easy to use in a dark room — much easier than the relatively dim display and keypad of the AT&T CRL82212.
The Panasonic KX-TGE432 is very easy to read and has a fantastic backlight for operating it with the lights out, but we do wish that it would hyphenate a number when you are entering it. It has decent volume and it is fairly easy to answer calls or call back a missed one — about the same as the AT&T CL82207 and the AT&T CRL82212. Unfortunately, it can be a little more difficult to navigate the menus on the Panasonic KX-TGE432 since it has so many features to sort through and it lacks a quiet or Do Not Disturb mode like the AT&T phones.
The Panasonic KX-TGF382M, the VTech DS6621-2, and the AT&T TL96273 followed, each earning a 6 out of 10 for their slightly above average ease of use. The Panasonic KX-TGF382M makes it a little trickier to enter and save numbers in your phone book, but it is much easier to use the speed dial function on this pair of phones than the AT&T TL96273, which only has a speed dial for voicemail. They also are very easy to read and provide more than enough light for use in a dark environment.
The VTech DS6621-2 completely lacks a speed dial and the numbers on the screen are a little harder to read than we would have liked. However, it provides a decent amount of light to dial a number and isn't too bad to use in the dark if you are familiar with the phone. It's easy enough to make and receive calls and the menus are very intuitively laid out.
Next, the AT&T EL51203 and the AT&T TL86103 both earned a 5 out of 10 for being about average in terms of ease of use. Both these handsets are hard to read from a distance or at night due to their dimmer backlights. The menus on both of these products are fine to navigate, but we penalized the AT&T TL86103 for the absence of any speed dial capabilities.
Finally, the VTech CS6719-2 earned a 4 out of 10 for its below-average showing in this metric. This phone lacks an immediately understandable menu layout and is much harder to see and use — especially in a darker room, due to its dim or total lack of a backlight for the keypad. Additionally, it's much harder to do things like program a speed dial slot or save a number to your phonebook. That makes this phone quite a bit less fun to use unless you only ever answer or make a call with them.
Current cordless phones have a myriad of features — enough that it can be overwhelming to consider them all when shopping for a new one. We compiled a comprehensive list of features across all models that we tested and then weighted scores based on the features that we felt were the most useful and important to us.
After extensive use and testing of these phones, we felt that the keypad lighting, whether or not the base had a keypad/speaker, and the ability to add additional handsets were the most important.
Our top phones in this metric, the Panasonic KX-TGF382M and the AT&T TL86103, both earned an 8 out of 10 for having most of the features we think consumers are looking for. This pair was hurt by their relatively small buttons and less than stellar keypad lighting. However, they both have an integrated keypad and speaker on the main base and link-to-cell capabilities, as well as an integrated answering machine, belt clip, and audio jack to connect a headset for hands-free operation.
The Panasonic KX-TGE432 followed, earning a 7 out of 10. This phone shares many of the features with the top two phones but it was hindered by its lack of a keypad or speaker on its main base and its inability to link to a smartphone. However, it did earn a few points by having particularly large buttons that are much easier to see and use than the Panasonic KX-TGF382M and the AT&T TL86103.
The remainder of the products all delivered a below-average performance, earning a 4 or a 3 out of 10. Many lacked features that we found to be quite critical. The AT&T CRL82212, the AT&T EL51203, the VTech CS6719, the VTech DS6621-2, and the AT&T CL82207 all lack a keypad on the main base, don't have huge capacity when it comes to the phone book, and all lack the ability to link to a cell phone. The VTech DS6621-2 is the exception, having the capacity for 100 entries in its phone book. The VTech CS6719-2 and the AT&T EL51203 also lack a built-in answering machine.
One downside to having a cordless model when compared to a corded phone is the potential for the handset to have a completely depleted battery, making it unusable.
A corded phone can draw power over the incoming phone line, while a cordless handset has an internal, rechargeable battery that will recharge through the base of the phone. One of the models tested — the AT&T TL86103 — has a corded handset on its base, allowing it to operate in a telephone line power mode. This would be something to consider if you lived in a place that commonly had power outages, as this phone will continue to work in the situation where the power is out but the phone line is still intact. However, it is only possible to use the corded handset at the base when it is in this line power mode, not any of the cordless handsets.
To test the manufacturer's claimed talk time, we set up a handset from each model around a speaker playing music and called our Google Voice number. We timed how long each phone lasted, as well as when the low battery indicator came on.
The Panasonic KX-TGF382M was the top scorer in this category, earning an 8 out of 10 and lasting a little over 13.5 hours. This was followed by the AT&T CL82207 and the AT&T TL86103, which both earned a 7 out of 10 for lasting for over 13.5 hours in the talk time test as well, but each had a shorter claimed standby life and took longer to charge than the Panasonic KX-TGF382M.
The AT&T CRL82212 came next, earning a 6 out of 10. This product lasted for a little more than 12 hours in our test and takes a claimed 10 hours to fully recharge. The AT&T TL96273 scored about average, earning a 5 out of 10 for lasting approximately 11 hours and 20 minutes before failing.
The AT&T EL51203, the VTech CS6719-2, and the Panasonic KX-TGE432 scored just below average, each earning a 4 out of 10. The VTech CS6719-2 lasted just shy of 11 hours, while the AT&T EL51203 made it a little over 10. The Panasonic KX-TGE432 did the worst of this group but still lasted for 9 hours and 40 minutes before completely depleting its battery.
The VTech DS6621-2 brought up the rear, receiving a 3 out of 10. It made it about as long as the Panasonic KX-TGE432 but took longer to recharge, dropping it down a point.
While many may view this category as a bit of an antiquated one, there are still a huge number of individuals and businesses that rely on a cordless phone and use them daily. There is an enormous variety of phones on the market today, and while you might not put a lot of initial thought into your purchase decision for this category, we found a poor performing phone to be incredibly frustrating. With so many impressive options out available, there's really no reason for that.Hopefully, this review has given you the info you need to make the perfect choice for your purposes and budget, whether you are looking for the latest and greatest tech to integrate into your home or a simple phone that delivers great sound while not breaking the bank.
— Austin Palmer and David Wise