After carefully considering over 60 models, we bought the 9 best cordless phones available in 2020 and comprehensively evaluated them side-by-side in our quest to find the best phone of them all. We compared the sound quality and range of each product, as well as measuring their actual maximum talk time. We also extensively compared all the different features and functions of each phone to see just how user-friendly and easy to use each product is. Read on to find out which phone is the very best, which has the most features, and which is the best bargain option.
The Best Cordless Phones 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 cordless phone has an exceptionally intuitive interface and is a great option for anyone who simply doesn't want a huge hassle every time they use their phone. It has overall great sound quality and quite an impressive range, all while having a battery life that should last for 10+ hours of talk time and at least a few features.
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. While 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 its 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 also did extremely well in our tests, just narrowly missing out on the top spot. This phone delivered crystal-clear conversations with no undesirable static and has an exceptionally long range. We were able to separate the handset from the base by hundreds of feet without any noticeable drop in call quality and this product is one of the more user-friendly and easy to operate models of the group.
Unfortunately, we did find that the VTech DS6621-2 to have a little less talk time in our test than other models, unable to last more than 10 hours before calling it quits. It also doesn't have the largest set of extra features but it has all the most important ones in our opinion. 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
Searching for a solid phone on a tight budget? If so, then the AT&T EL51203 is a great choice for you. This phone is a fantastic value, offering solid, across-the-board performance at a decent price. The AT&T EL51203 has an above-average range and sound quality, all while being reasonably easy to use.
However, the battery life on this product isn't amazing and it doesn't have the most exhaustive set of features. These drawbacks don't detract that much from this model's overall performance and 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
Hoping to spend as little as possible on a new phone? The VTech CS6710 is not our favorite model by any means but it does a decent enough job at a price that is hard to beat. This phone has an acceptable range and surprisingly great sound quality given its bare-bones and bargain nature.
The VTech CS6710's bargain price does mean there are some noticeable flaws, namely its reduced battery life and less intuitive interface. It also is fairly sparse when it comes to built-in features. We think it's by far the best you can get if you are on the tightest of budgets and don't expect too much.
Read Review: VTech CS6719
Top Pick for Link-to-Cell
The AT&T TL96273 performed exceptionally well in our testing process, earning one of the top scores overall and just narrowly being edged out of the top spot by the AT&T CL82207. While this phone couldn't claim the top prize, this model distinguished itself by being the best at connecting to your mobile device. This allows you to leave your phone charging by the base, with any calls received 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 just slightly inferior to the top-tier phones. Despite these flaws, we still think this is an all-around solid option, particularly those that want the ability to route their landline calls to their mobile device. Even if you don't plan on using that feature, it still is a great option solely on its other merits.
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 and had a panel of judges 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 and running dozens and dozens of hours of recordings to ascertain just how long you can talk for. We also had a widespread group of users — including some who weren't the most tech-savvy — evaluate and compare the ease of use and interface of each phone.
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 of the subtests of each rating category to determine the overall score for each cordless phone. We used a mixture of objective side-by-side assessments, like maximum range and battery life, as well as subjective tests, like audio quality, that we used a panel of judges to determine scores.
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. This pair both did a decent job in our tests and retail at quite a low price. However, there are some concessions made to keep the price low, with this phone having a slightly inferior range and sound quality, as well as lacking some key features, such as a built-in answering machine. If these are deal breakers for you, then you should consider the AT&T CL82207 or the VTech DS6621-2.
The quality of sound is an integral part of a phone and scored the highest weighting in our rating metric. Being able to hear and understand someone who is not in the same location as you is the entire point of a telephone, and being able to accomplish this without being tethered by a wire to the base of the machine is the sole purpose of getting a cordless phone. 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 constant 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 and model of the handset.
Based on the results of our test, we found a duo of phones from AT&T — the AT&T CL82207 and the AT&T CRL82212 — and the VTech DS6621-2 to have the best sound quality of the group, all earning an 8 out of 10 for their superb performance. 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 when compared to many of the other models that we looked at. They also had sound levels that were perfect for easily hearing conversation spoken at a normal level, though they weren't the loudest phones of the group.
The VTech DS6621-2 also lacked any static or buzzing, conveying conversations like you were actually with them. However, we did find it to be on the quiet side as well — maybe 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 a 7 out of 10. The audio emanating from these phones was clear but our panel noticed there was just a little bit of static and distortion, as well as 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 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 found there to be 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 stand 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 most homes
However, it was our second test 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, with an audiobook playing 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 with 390' and multiple walls between the phone and main station.
The AT&T TL9673 and the Panasonic KX-TGE432 both tied, earning an 8 out of 10. Neither of these phones had any issue in the unobstructed range test, all easily making a call that was clear and understandable with a distance of 840' between the handset and the main base.
These phones also did very well in the obstructed range test, both being able to convey a conversation with 300' and multiple walls separating the handset from the base. However, we did notice that the AT&T TL96273 would convey exceptionally garbled conversation with only one or two understandable words, whereas you could still catch the 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 obstructed test. While it did match the performance of the AT&T TL96273, the audio wasn't 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 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 did.
Finishing out the back of the pack, the AT&T TL86103 earned a 4 out of 10. This phone offered 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 a new device. While there have been major improvements in the past 140 years, the core existence of telephones has remained the same: To have a clear conversation with someone who is not physically close to you. These have existed long enough 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 easiness 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, but we found the speed dial functions to be a little harder to use and it to be a little less intuitive to immediately call back a missed number. We found the ringer to be a little quiet on the AT&T CL82207. However, this 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 with the lights out, but we did wish that it hyphenated the number when you are entering it. It's got 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 made it a little difficult 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 more difficult to read than we would have liked. However, it provides a decent amount of light 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. Neither of these headsets is the easiest to read at a distance and they don't have the brightest backlights. The menus on both of these products are fine to navigate, but we penalized the AT&T TL86103 for its lack of speed dial abilities.
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, making 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 when considering which model to buy. 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 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 keypad and 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 — 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 lacking 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 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 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 for just shy of 11 hours, while the AT&T EL51203 made it just over 10. The Panasonic KX-TGE432 did the worst of this group but still lasted for 9 hours, 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 one 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 to the point where we would refuse to use it and a constant source of irritation. Hopefully, this review will be able to help you make the perfect choice for your needs 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 and won't break the bank.
— Austin Palmer and David Wise