Searching for a new cordless phone that is truly the best of them all? After conducting tons and tons of research, we determined that these products are still relevant and picked out the most promising to purchase and test head-to-head and see which one really warranted the title of Best Cordless Phone. We compared and scored the audio quality of each handset and their range, as well as testing out all of the different features and functions to score how easy it is to use each product. Additionally, we also timed the battery life of each phone to see just how long you could actually talk for. Take a look at our comprehensive review below to see which cordless phone is truly king, which is the best bet when you are shopping on a tight budget, or which one is the best at connecting to your cell phone.
The Best Cordless Phones of 2018
Keeping an eye on the cordless phone market throughout the summer, we identified the KX-TGD532W by Panasonic as a product that showed some promise and looked like it had the potential to topple one of our previous award winners. While this model did have an outstanding range and is one of the easiest to use models that we have encountered, it had disappointingly lackluster audio quality throughout our tests and is a little light on features, precluding it from an award. However, it is still a solid phone and might be the right fit for you — especially if you can find it on sale. Keep reading to see exactly how the KX-TGD532W stacked up against the rest of the competition and see if it is right for you!
Best Easy to Use Phone
Matching the performance of the CL84202, the CL82207 is another one of our all-time favorite cordless phones. This phone is supremely easy to use, pairing this trait with superior audio quality and a great battery life.Speaking of features, this product is a little light on them. However, it does have the most critical features that the majority of people use, such as an answering machine or phone book. Despite that, we would wholeheartedly recommend this model without hesitation. We particularly liked how user-friendly this phone is, making it a great option for someone who isn't particularly tech-savvy, or for someone who wants a bare-bones model that simply works, without being burdened by tons of features. On top of all that, it sells at quite a reasonable price for these products, especially when considering its top-notch performance.
Read full review: AT&T CL82207
Exceptional Range and Sound Quality
Meriting one of the highest scores that we have seen for these products, the CL84202 by AT&T is one of our favorites when it comes to cordless phones. This product has exceptionally high sound quality and an extraordinarily long range, easily sending clear and understandable audio over 800' in our line-of-sight test and over 300' in our impeded one. It's also absolutely jam-packed with useful features and functions.
However, this phone doesn't have the longest battery life, earning a substandard score in our tests. Despite having a relatively poor performance compared to some of the other phones, it still lacked for at least 10 hours in our tests, which should be more than enough talk time for most people. All in all, if you want the top product when it comes to range and crystal-clear sound quality, the CL84202 is a great bet.Read full review: AT&T CL84202
Best Bang for the Buck
Searching for a solid phone but don't want to spend more than $50? 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 EL51203 has above-average range and sound quality, while being reasonably easy to use.However, the battery life on this product isn't terribly 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 full review: AT&T EL51203
Best on a Tight Budget
Shopping on a super skinny budget? While the VTech CS6710 is quite far from the top when it comes to performance, it does an acceptable job overall. It has surprisingly good sound quality and a decent range, all while usually retailing for less than $30.Unfortunately, some concessions are made to keep the price down. It isn't the easiest to use and has a reduced battery life. It doesn't have a ton of extra features but this bare-bones phone will get the job done for next to nothing. Despite its shortcomings, if you are shopping for a phone on a tight budget, this is the best you can get.
Read full 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 CL84202. 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 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.
However, this model only has a mediocre battery life and we found the sound quality to be just a tiny bit worse than our top contenders. All in all, we found these to be minor drawbacks and this is an overall excellent phone, especially for those that want to combine their mobile and landline telephone service. Even if this isn't the case, the TL96273 still scored very well on its own merits.Read full review: AT&T TL96273
Analysis and Test Results
Cordless phones can be the only option for residents in rural areas with poor cell phone coverage and may be preferred by some people uncomfortable with transitioning to cell phones. The newest models have additional features, allowing them to pair with a cell phone, or act as a home intercom system. It really comes down to what you want out of your cordless phone, whether you want to utilize the more advanced features, or if you simply just want a phone to make and receive calls.
We split our testing process up into five weighted metrics: Sound Quality, Range, Ease of Use, Battery Life, and Features. We assigned each phone a subscore in each metric, aggregating these into the overall scores, ranging from 0-100. We detail how each phone did in each of our tests, grouped by metric in the following sections.
If you are shopping for a new phone on a budget, it's hard to go wrong with either the VTech or the AT&T EL51203. This pair both did a decent job in our tests and retail at quite a low price. However, there were definitely 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 CL82207 or the CL84202. The 82207 usually costs about $25 less than the CL8402, but the CL84202 has slightly better sound quality and a corded phone on the base — a feature that might be important to you.
The quality of sound is an integral part of a phone and scored the highest weighting in our rating metric. Being able to clearly 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. You can see how we scored the phones on the chart below.
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 trio of phones from AT&T — the CL82207, the CL84202, and the CRL82212 to have the best sound quality of the group, all earning an 8 out of 10 for their superb performance. These phones all 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.
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 were the AT&T EL51203 and the Motorola L702BT, both scoring a 6 out of 10. This pair of phones were starting to display a noticeable level of static and a little bit of distortion, dropping their score a bit.
The KX-TGE272S, the KX-TGE232B and the KX-TGF382M — all by Panasonic — came next, each earning a 5 out of 10 for their mediocre sound quality. We found the volume on each of these phones 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.Finishing at the back of the group when it came to sound quality, the KX-TGD532W performed very similarly to the other three phones from Panasonic mentioned above, but the background buzz and static were even worse in our tests, dropping the score an additional point.
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 range into 2 distinct tests: an unobstructed, line-of-sight test, and an obstructed test with multiple walls between base and handset. The following chart shows how these products stacked up overall in this metric.
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
The AT&T CL84202, the AT&T TL96273, and the Panasonic KX-TGD532W all tied for the top spot when it came to range, each of these phones meriting an 8 out of 10 for their stellar performances. Starting off with our unobstructed range test, these phones — along with a few others — all hit the top score, delivering clear audio with 840' separating the handset from its base. This was the cut-off point for our test, though we did find that the KX-TGD532W delivered slightly clearer audio than the AT&T models at this distance, though there was still the static in the background that was prevalent with any distance between the base and the handset on this phone.
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.
As expected, the performance of each phone was significantly reduced, with the KX-TGD532W claiming the top spot in this test, transmitting voice that could be easily be understood at a distance of 390' away from the base and separated by about 7 walls. This phone was followed by the CL84202, topping out at around 315', followed by the TL96273 at 300'.
Next, the 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 TL96273, the audio wasn't at clear at 300', being much more difficult to understand.
The 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 three models, the VTech CS6719, the Panasonic KX-TGE232B, and the Panasonic KX-TGE272S all earned a 5 out of 10 for their relatively mediocre performance. None of this trio matched the top models in the line-of-sight test, cutting out almost 100' before the other ones did in the case of the KX-TGE232B. They 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 and the Motorola L702BT earned a 4 and a 2 out of 10 respectively. This pair 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 make 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. You can see which models were the easiest to use and which ones weren't in the following graphic.
The KX-TGD532W earned the top score out of the entire group with an 8 out of 10. This phone is one of the easiest to use that we have seen to date and is an excellent choice if you want the most hassle-free cordless phone around.
This phone got off to a great start by having a screen that is both easy to read, even from 6' away, and very well lit, making operating this phone in a dark room a total breeze. We wished that it hyphenated the number when you entered it to make it easier to see, but we really like how relatively intuitive it is to use and program the speed dial function and call back a missed call. Additionally, the ringer on this phone is plenty loud, making it easy to find a lost handset using the page function and can block up to 150 numbers and has the capacity for 100 numbers in the phone book.
Next, the AT&T CRL82212, the AT&T CL82207, and the Panasonic KX-TGE272S all earned a 7 out of 10 for being some of the easier to use phones that we have tested. This trio is all just as easy to read as the KX-TGD532W, 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 also found the ringer to be a little quiet on the CL82207 and the KX-TGE272S to be a little on the quiet side when using the "Locate Handset" feature. However, this pair of handsets have displays that are just as bright as the KX-TGD532W, making them incredibly easy to use in a dark room — much easier than the relatively dim display and keypad of the CRL82212.
The AT&T CL84202, the Panasonic KX-TGE232B, the KX-TGF382M, and the AT&T TL96273 all followed, each earning a 6 out of 10 for their slightly above average ease of use.
The CL84202 doesn't have the best backlight for using in a dim room and we wished it was a little louder when using the page function, but it is decently easy to read the screen — even from 6' or so away. We also liked that it hyphenates the numbers on the screen, but it isn't the most intuitive to assign speed dial slots or it call back a missed call.
The KX-TGE232B and the KX-TGF382M both make 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 CL84202. They also are very easy to read and provide more than enough light for use in a dark environment.
Next, the AT&T EL51203 and the 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 TL86103 for its lack of speed dial abilities.
Finally, the Motorola L702BT and the VTech both earned a 4 out of 10 for their below average showing in this metric. This pair of phones both lack an immediately understandable menu layout and are much harder to see and use — especially in a darker room, due to their 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 these phones 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. You can see the most feature-rich models in the chart below.
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.
This test highlighted a standout performer among all models: the Panasonic KX-TGE272S. This model received the top score in our test, earning a perfect 10 and outpacing the runner-up by a full 2 points. To us, the TGE272S had the most useful spread of features and excelled at the ones we thought were critical. We especially appreciated how the buttons lit up and how easy they were to read in a dark environment, as well as being able to add up to 6 handsets. This model also can link to a cell phone, has a built-in answering machine, and a keypad and speaker on the main base.
The remaining handsets all had somewhat reduced sets of features, with the KX-TG382M and the TL86103 coming the closest to the TGE272S, both earning an 8 out of 10. This pair both were hurt by their relatively small buttons and less than stellar keypad lighting. The TGE232B followed, lacking link-to-cell features, as well as a keypad on the main base, which dropped its score to a 7 out of 10.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 KX-TGD532W, the CRL82212, the EL51203, the L702BT, the VTech CS6719, and the 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, with the exception of the L702BT. The VTech and the 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. You can see which models had the longest battery life, and which ones would cut your call short in the chart below.
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. Some models that we tested — the AT&T CL84202 and the AT&T TL86103 — have a corded handset on their base, allowing them 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 these phones 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 top scorer in this category was the Motorola L702BT, earning a 9 out of 10 and lasting 15 hours and 36 minutes, surprising us by exceeding the manufacturer's claimed run time of 12 hours. This model gave an audible beep at 11 hours in that it had a low battery, but held on for the additional 4.5 hours before completely dying. This was followed by the AT&T TL86103 and the Panasonic KX-TGF382M, both earning an 8 out of 10 and lasting a little over 13.5 hours. This metric received the lowest weighting on our scoring system, as all of these phones have a talk time of over 10 hours, more than sufficient for most people. The AT&T TL96273 scored about average, lasting for about 11 hours and 20 minutes before failing, with the KX-TGD532W scoring slightly below with its talk time of 10 hours and 45 minutes.
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.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for tips.