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What's behind our cordless phone Ratings?

Experts at our National Testing and Research Center tested 102 models in cordless phones to see which ones perform best.
We look for:
  • Overall score
    This score is based primarily on voice quality, ease of use, talk time, and range. For phones with an answering machine, overall score also includes mainly the message voice quality, answerer ease of use, and recording time. The displayed score is out of a total of 100 points. Phones are listed in performance order, within categories. Due to test upgrades, results may vary from past Ratings.
  • Voice quality
    Voice quality considers listening quality which reflects what you hear and talking, what's heard by other phones. Tests were conducted in a quiet environment.
  • Phone ease of use
    This score mainly covers handset weight and comfort, talk time, ease of phone setup and use, readability of labels; accessibility, location, and size of controls and buttons; and other convenience factors, such as auto talk, any key answer, lighted keypad, one-touch dial, and others.
  • Range
    This score reflects the tested distance a phone can maintain an intelligible conversation, make a call and receive a call. We report a score instead of a distance because range can differ greatly due to variables such as phone base location, home size, room configuration, construction materials, multiple stories, wiring and other electrical and physical interferences. A low scoring phone is more likely to have some connection problems at short distances such as between different floors in a house or when going outside the house while a high scoring phone is less likely to have connection problems and can typically keep a clean signal in all but the largest of homes or when you go outside your home.
  • Message quality
    This score reflects the judgment of an expert jury listening to playback of a message recorded from a corded phone of high-quality voice recordings in a quiet, acoustic environment.
  • Answerer ease of use
    This covers ease of setup and use; adequate labeling, size and location of buttons and controls; and other convenience factors, such as the ability to play new messages first, to not erase unplayed messages, and the presence of advanced playback features such as slow, fast, and rewind.
  • Recording time
    Our measurements, to the nearest minute, of total recording time using continuous speech. Cordless phones of all types are available with a built-in answering machine that has digital message storage, typically 15 to 20 minutes. In many cases, recording time may include not only incoming messages, but greetings, memos, and saved messages, so the total may be misleading. Most answerers maximize capacity by detecting pauses in a message and not storing them in memory to increase recording time. Recording time with an asterisk (*) is manufacturer specification. "NS" indicates not stated.
  • Number of cordless handsets included
    The number of cordless handset(s) with a charging cradle included with the product.
  • Maximum no. of cordless handsets
    The manufacturer stated maximum number of cordless handsets that can be registered to a multiple handset capable phone. A phone that can support up to eight handsets, for example, can have eight handsets registered to the base, but you may only be able to use four at once, say two using handset to handset intercom, while two others conference with an outside party. Others may just allow one handset to be used at a time, so can't be used like an additional (extension) phone you have connected to the same phone line. NA represents not applicable. See Buying Guide for more information.


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Recommended cordless phones

Recommended cordless phones are standout choices with high scores. They include CR Best Buys, which offer exceptional value. When narrowing your choices, weigh features, price, and attributes that matter to you.
  • Buying Guide
  • Price & Shop
Although they are often overshadowed by their celebrity cousin, the cell phone, cordless phones are keeping pace in a market crowded with wireless and Internet-based devices. Some newer cordless phones can stand in for your cell phone while others let you switch between landline and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). If you're looking for information about cordless phones, Consumer Reports is your best resource. Consumer Reports’ cordless phone reviews will give you honest buying advice that you can trust. Use our cordless phone buying guide to discover which features are most important to consider. We also provide unbiased ratings and cordless phone reviews to help you choose the best cordless phone for your needs.

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A 1.9 GHz DECT 6.0 multiple-handset-capable cordless phone with a built-in answering machine.

Cordless phone buying guide

Although a growing number of users are dropping their landline and using their cell phones for all their calling, there is still a case to be made for having a home phone. In our tests, voice quality for talking and listening on a cordless home phone was generally better than that of the best cell phones--important if you suffer from hearing loss, your household is noisy, or you spend a lot of time on the phone, especially in a home office. Home phones provide enhanced security, as well. Cell phones use a GPS-based method to report your location in a 911 emergency. That's fine when you're on the road, but if you live in a high-rise building, it won't indicate which floor you're on. A home phone is connected to your address, including the apartment number, so the 911 operator knows exactly where to send help even if you can't talk. Another advantage: Home-­security systems generally require a home phone connection to monitor fire- and burglar-alarm sensors. If you don't have one, certain alarm companies will install a special device that communicates with their office via a cellular connection, but that will cost extra.

When shopping for a phone, you'll need to decide whether you want one with an integrated answerer. Many people still do, despite the ubiquity of voice-mail capability on both cell and hoome phones. Single- and multiple-handset phones come in versions with a built-in answerer. Such phones often cost little more than comparable phone-only models and take up about the same space.

Features such as a speakerphone for hands-free communication, a keypad for dialing from the base, and a large LCD screen can help you get the most from your phone. Choosing a model with a corded base means that the phone can work during a power outage, as long as it's connected to a conventional landline or VoIP service with battery backup.

Some cordless models can stand in for your cell phone. By placing your cell phone near the cordless phone's base, you can access your wireless service using Bluetooth technology and use your cordless handset to make or take cell calls. Besides the convenience of using a cordless handset for all your calls, you might get better cell-phone reception within your home. (For example, if you don't get cell service in your basement, you might be able to make or take calls from there using the cordless handset.) It also makes it easier to use whichever account offers unused talk time. But before you buy such a phone, make sure your cell phone is compatible by checking the vendor's Web site. If you're considering an answerer, you need to think about voice quality.

In our tests, we found some differences in the quality of the greeting and the recorded messages left by callers. Phones that let you record your greeting through the handset (using the remote handset access) usually sounded better. Some let you listen to your greeting through the handset, as opposed to listening through the base speaker; that gives you a better indication of how the greeting will sound to the calling party.

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