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Cheap Cordless Phones Buying Guide

The main players in this end of the market are Panasonic, Uniden, and Vtech. There are plenty of other brands, of course, such as GE and Motorola, but the Big Three dominate and are well represented on our list of top picks.

Our research determined that the two best cheap cordless phones are the Vtech CS6719 (starting at $20/one handset; $30/two handsets), which comes with an appealing set of features, and the Panasonic KX-TG6512B (starting at $43/two handsets), which sports more features than typically found on bargain phones and runs on two AAA rechargeable batteries; both models hit a high note with users for sound quality.

In the second-best basket sits Vtech's CS6114 (starting at $15/one handset), a good, basic phone with a bargain basement price and decent performance. The Uniden UN-D1760 (starting at $25/one handset; $45/two handsets), another runner-up model, supports up to 12 handsets and 100 directory entries and puts in a respectable performance. We aren't terribly impressed with the GE 28522AE1 (starting at $30/one handset) given that users share more than a smattering of complaints about poor audio quality.

Recent technological advances have significantly improved the overall performance of cordless phones, regardless of price point. Any model worth buying should support the DECT 6.0 standard, as do all the cheap cordless phones we researched. The digital technology underlying DECT 6.0 has definite advantages over the analog (radio wave) technology used by earlier generations of cordless phones. For starters, DECT 6.0 phones operate at 1.9GHz, so there shouldn't be any interference from the wireless networks running at 2.4GHz that are everywhere these days. Additionally, DECT 6.0 phones provide better sound quality and range (i.e., the distance you can roam from the phone's base before losing the signal), about 30 percent longer battery life, and more privacy (calls made on phones using the older protocols could be intercepted).

Technological underpinnings aside, budget cordless phones are fairly Spartan. Standard features include call waiting and caller ID, and a directory that stores phone numbers for important contacts. All have an LCD display, which may or may not be backlit; ditto for the keypad. Other features vary by model. The number of possible handsets supported by the base, for example, ranges up to 12 but may be limited to just one. An integrated answering machine is unusual in this price range, although one of our best cheap cordless phone picks includes it; the more common feature is voicemail support, a service that must be arranged with your telecommunications provider. Most cheap cordless phones include a speakerphone option and a few boast a headset jack -- two features that are very popular with buyers. Other nifty functions that sometimes show up on cheaper models are mute, silent ring, handset locator and/or intercom, and last-number(s) redial.

In terms of performance, our reading of consumer reviews found that call quality trumps all else, and the best cheap cordless phones score admirably. Range is also important, but the DECT 6.0 technology seems to have made this issue moot. We also found that ease-of-use and battery life matter to consumers, the latter generating comments about units that failed to hold a charge.

Prices for cordless phones can reach hundreds of dollars, but there's no need to go there. Reviews indicate the best cheap models are more than adequate. Although expert reviews of budget cordless phones are scarce, we found enough useful posts written by consumers to help inform your buying decision.

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