decent portable phones
October 26, 2005 6:33 PM   Subscribe

I need a decent portable, landline, telephone. I have two 900mhz phones. They're both terrible and full of static. We rarely go more than 100 feet or so from the base, don't need an answering machine or anything fancy. Needs to have caller ID. Do you love yours? Please tell me what it is.
posted by dpx.mfx to Shopping (20 answers total)
I've had two Panasonics, both were excellent phones. The one I'm using right now is the KX-TGA542CM: a 5.8 dual-handset, dual-basestation jobbie (they make them in singles too) with caller ID. I'm very happy with it.

Prior to the Panasonics, I had a couple of V-Tech phones. Neither lasted me more than 18 months.

One thing to be careful of: if you have a wireless network at home, don't buy a phone that runs on the 2.4 GHz band. That's the same band as the computer networks run on and they don't play nice together.
posted by bonehead at 6:39 PM on October 26, 2005

We've gone through a ton of phones, cheap, expensive, doesn't matter, they were all either junk from the start or worked great for a month and crapped out.

Our latest try (based on a Consumer Reports review) are these Uniden 900Mhz (to play nice with the wireless internet) phones. We've had them several months, and they've been great so far. We also had a Panasonic way back when that was pretty good - as bonehead notes, that might also be a brand to check out.
posted by jalexei at 6:47 PM on October 26, 2005

No specific recommendations, but i recall that when consumer Reports did a mega-review of cordless phones (maybe early 2005?) they found that digital is often worse voice quality than analog, and that 900Mhz generally did better (or no worse?) than the higher frequency ranges.

This is all from memory, and there was lots more good advice in there, so check it out at the library or online (subscription required).
posted by misterbrandt at 6:58 PM on October 26, 2005

GE Model No. 26938GE1-M 900MHz

We've gone back to this phone after "retiring" it twice because it just worked better. Clearer, more robust signal, more responsive keypad, Caller ID. Dropped it a whole bunch of times and it still works fine.
posted by sacre_bleu at 7:13 PM on October 26, 2005

I got a Panasonic KX-TG2313 (2.4GHz, no wireless network) last year and it has been very good. I normally disagree strongly with the notion that some brands are good and others bad (preferring a model by model comparison), but cordless phones seem to be an exception, and Panasonic seems to be the one.
posted by Chuckles at 7:16 PM on October 26, 2005

My rules for cordless phones are:
1. Digital. Analog can be snooped by neighbors with scanners. I know, I've done it :)
2. 900 MHz. Less interference with wireless networking, but more important for me, the lower frequency just goes better/farther. Note that "better/farther" can mean "makes it through to the basement".
3. Caller ID. Sure is nice.

And that resulted in the Sony SPP-ID975. After several years the LCD display has got lots of broken pixels, but otherwise it's a tank. I can't count how many times I've dropped the thing (I'm tall, no carpet) and it doesn't even blink. YMMV.

The only thing that ever annoys me about these digital phones is the "sidetone". Sidetone is the telephony term for how loud your own voice sounds in the earpiece when you are talking. You may not have realized it, but they do feed that back to you because, well, you're used it. For some reason (probably to do with A-D conversion and resulting delays) on digital phones the sidetone can be distracting. My first digital cordless about a decade ago was horrible in this regard and I could barely stand using it. The Sony is much better.
posted by intermod at 7:36 PM on October 26, 2005

Every 900MHz phone I've had sucked. I moved to a GE 2.4GHz some time ago (sorry, can't remember the model and it's not with me right now) and it's a lot better.
posted by Krrrlson at 7:37 PM on October 26, 2005

As mentioned, Panasonic. They are typically fairly expensive, certainly more so than the "store brand," but I've found that cordless phones are one product where you really do get what you pay for. If you want a nice, long-lasting one, spring for it. (Not to say that all expensive phones are necessarily high quality.)

OTH, I worked for a while at RadioShack (who carries the Panasonic phones) and the cordless phones we used there were indeed the store brand. I don't know who actually manufactured them, but they were tough. We wore them around on our waists, dropped them, banged them on stuff, talked on them quite a bit (like calling Sprint to try to set up cell phone plans, which always took forever), and they typically worked a full open-to-close shift, and got recharged overnight, every day (7/52). Held up great, for at least months on end, if not years (though I wasn't there that long).
posted by attercoppe at 7:38 PM on October 26, 2005

I second the Uniden phones. I bought the 5.8GHz model a couple of years ago, and the only downside with them is that the rechargeable battery started to flag a bit a couple of months back, so now I am replacing the batteries.

They have since upgraded the design and functionality, but they are basically the same. I bought the one with the answer machine in the base station and two phones (one in the base station, and one just with a charger).

They have been great as far as reception goes (no static etc) and they play nice with my wireless internet too. Possibly a bit pricey for your purposes, though
posted by DannyUKNYC at 7:41 PM on October 26, 2005

I love my VTECH 5.8ghz system. Absolutely never fails, anywhere in the house (and outside). I love the customizable ringtones, which among other things, lets you record the name of the caller ... in effect, spoken caller ID. Super useful. Also ... you can get a color display and customize the image that pops up on the phone when it rings (if you are geeky and need a life.)

I have a bunch of VTech i5867's.
posted by sntamonica at 8:09 PM on October 26, 2005

I've found that cordless phones are one product where you really do get what you pay for.
... (Not to say that all expensive phones are necessarily high quality.)

My gf lucked into a wicked staples pricematch for a Motorola MD 491 2.4 GHz base station plus cordless handset last summer. It was $200 before pricematch and very poor at being a cordless phone (otherwise not too bad, but what's the point) - she gave it away. We also got the Cybergenie on ebay a few years ago, it cost a fortune new (possibly $400) but also stunk (stunk at everything, neat idea though) - we resold it.

I should have included those earlier, but it was the 'you get what you pay for' truism that sparked my memory.
posted by Chuckles at 8:36 PM on October 26, 2005

I love my old radioshack 900 mhz phone. I've had it for 7 or 8 years and it's FAR better than any of the others we puchased and put up with as 'second phones' since. Rock solid. Clear as a bell. Feels good in my hand. I'd buy another in a second if I could.
posted by carterk at 9:05 PM on October 26, 2005

To augment Chuckles, while you may not get what you pay for when you buy expensive, you certainly do when you buy cheap -- I thought I'd be frugal and get the least expensive when I went cordless shopping recently, walked away with a Bell South for less than a twelve pack of beer, and could barely use it. Just sayin'.
posted by incessant at 10:57 PM on October 26, 2005

The Panasonic 2.4 GHz phones won't screw up your wireless network because they are frequency-hopping spread spectrum. You'll notice some static on the phone if your wireless network is really going, but it's hardly objectionable. You can get NiMH batteries for 'em pretty cheap too and it really improves the battery life (the phones come with NiCDs) -- I can easily talk for 5 hours on a full charge.

Panasonic's 5.8 GHz phones also get good reviews. I'm tempted to upgrade just because the antennas are shorter, but the talk time is apparently less. (The 5.8 GHz phones come with NiMH batteries and only get a couple hours of talk time.)
posted by kindall at 11:09 PM on October 26, 2005

I tried three different wireless headsets for our landline system and finally settled on the Plantronics CT 12.

Great range, best audio quality (for speaker and mic sensitivity) and yes, caller ID. Perfect for my home-office setup, especially when I want to roam around the house and in the yard.
posted by diastematic at 11:52 PM on October 26, 2005

kindall, I don't think you should be replacing batteries of one type (NiCd) with batteries of another type (NiMH). The charger electronics is designed for the chemistry of the battery. Could be autosensing, of course, but I wouldn't expect that in this kind of product.
posted by intermod at 5:17 AM on October 27, 2005

I think no matter what you get you should get it somewhere you can keep exchanging till you're happy. I worked in partnership with a company that did home electronics for a little over a year and I repeatedly saw them have to swap out gear from house to house - stuff that had been flawless in the previous installation. One very expensive set of cordless handsets that has been fine in other locations was almost unusable in another location... which was in the middle of a 10 acre plot far from any other emitters.
posted by phearlez at 8:15 AM on October 27, 2005

We recently purchased the 5.8 Panasonics (for two phone numbers). I was amazed at how clear the sound was AND how far away I could get from the basestation: at least 70 yards.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 10:08 AM on October 27, 2005

Why not? I too have changed the batteries in my three Panasonic handsets and am now a much happier camper. I also have had no interference with my WiFi and, when compared to my older Sony 900Mhz phone (craptastic), the range on the Panasonic (KX-TG2740) is incredible (200' inside to outside to inside again -- the last "inside" being 13" of solid masonry with a metal roof). (Sorry, intermod, it's just that two of the items you've noted are contrary to my experience.)

If price is no object, I would recommend the Beocom 1. I have experience with an older version and there are two features which are that I wish were part of the Panasonic set: 1. When adding a number to memory, that number automatically syncs with all other handsets. (If the Panasonic does this, it is a feature to a model newer than mine.) 2. The handset can be "locked" much like a cell phone can.

The range is not as good as the Panasonic. The Panasonic also has the nice feature of a (surprisingly decent!) speakerphone in each handset.

I've also never experienced WiFi interference with the Beocom system. The Beocom system also allows handsets to be named (instead of just an assigned number). It also has (I don't know how this works) its own internal caller ID sustem which does not rely on a subscription for caller ID. (At least I think it does not; the system I have experience with is in France and the telephone network might support caller ID in another fashion than the US.)
posted by Dick Paris at 11:49 AM on October 27, 2005

kindall, I don't think you should be replacing batteries of one type (NiCd) with batteries of another type (NiMH). The charger electronics is designed for the chemistry of the battery.

Unless it's trickle charging. Which it is.

Three years of having the NiMHs in the phones, no trouble yet.
posted by kindall at 8:20 PM on November 11, 2005

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