Time to Consider Cordless, Multi-handset, DECT 6.0 Phones for Home, Office – Panasonic KX-TG9391T Is My Choice

Holdouts to the end, we finally cut the cord, from the phone company AND from traditional wired phones, about two years ago. Now, two years after deploying the selected Panasonic cordless set, we are still all smiles, still exceedingly pleased and pleased to recommend Panasonic cordless DECT 6.0 and DECT 6.0 Plus phones to you.

For more than 20 years, we had an analog 16-station, six-line PBX-type phone system at Gadget Central.  We chose a Vodavi Star Plus system, still a great brand for those who want what we had, only today’s technology makes their new systems all digital, with many advanced capabilities.  Under the hood, the product is made by Goldstar, a brand which today is known as LG.

When I tested cordless phones throughout the time we had our old hard-wired system, it was via breakout RJ11 jacks, system bypass jacks planned for in the original design of our system.  Those jacks allowed us to plug in directly to the desired line without going through the phone system.

Everyone, every room, had at least one jack and one system phone with all six of our land lines available for mix or match.  We could hold (with music on hold), transfer, conference and all manner of other features one would expect with a business system.  What we lacked was portability and mobility.

We deployed various cordless models going back to the days of the original 46/49MHz systems of the 1970s.  Each system presented a set of compromises that plain old corded phones did not.  Corded phones, plain or in systems like ours, simply worked. They never cut out, ran low on batteries, suffered from poor sound quality or range-related issues, nor did they ever suffer from interference.  Only cordless phones included these sets of compromises.  And we had sufficient battery backup for uninterrupted phone use without outside electricity for many days, if needed.

Today’s cordless technology allows for a variety of benefits and features, with few performance issues.  And so we decided to go modern, searching for a new “system” that would provide corded sound, useful features, two-line capability with multiple handsets and the mobility we lacked.

The basic system technology had to be the most modern, most accepted, which is called DECT 6.0 – a silly term, really.  DECT is an acronym for Digitally Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications and the 6.0 designation was probably decided after market research with focus groups.  All of it, the entire name, really means nothing, especially because we consumers are already accustomed to phones with megahertz and gigahertz technology that describes what this or that cordless phone product was using.  Remember 900MHz, 5.8GHz and 2.4GHz cordless phones?

Consumers, like lemmings, follow the herd, I’m afraid.  The “herd” thinks that gigahertz is better than megahertz, and it is, to some extent, when it comes to cordless phones.  So, 5.8GHz is surely better than 900MHz, right?  For the purpose of this article, let’s just agree that this is so.  So, what about 2.4GHz?  That presented a marketing problem if following my prior logic.  The truth is that 2.4GHz has problems, some of which includes the fact that this is the same frequency range used by our wireless Internet routers AND microwave ovens and many 2.4GHz phones have clarity, reception and range issues because of our other modern household gadgets sharing similar frequencies.

And that’s where DECT 6.0 comes in to save the day.  In reality, DECT 6.0 is 1.6GHz, but who would believe that 1.6 of anything is better than 2.4?  Less is more? Go ahead and convince the average consumer who knows nothing else but numbers.  So, DECT 6.0 became the way around this potentially deadly problem and that is why we call the technology in these phones DECT 6.0 technology.  It has been in the US for about four years, with about six or seven years of prior success in Europe.  This is the same frequency range used years ago here in the US some called “business band” for some walkie-talkie style radios.  Several years ago, the FCC reclaimed this bandwidth, leaving it unused for a long while so that, ta dah, it could re-enter the US market in this new form and with these new products.

The technology affords many advantages over the others, including range with clarity and a distinct lack of interference from other things, multiple handset capabilities along with multi-line capabilities, plus good battery life and some security features.  So, for me, and my recommendation for all of you is to go with some form of DECT 6.0 technology in a cordless phone system, though most consumers will not need multi-line capability along with its associated much higher cost than single line systems.

In addition, I insisted upon handsets that use standard, readily available AA or AAA rechargeable NiMH batteries, knowing that these little things don’t last forever and would likely require replacement at intervals even every couple of years.  I knew that all phone batteries that are really bundled-together cells and attach inside with a special connector would be considerably more costly to replace than standard “round cells” as they are known.

I also know from experience that when cordless phones start running out of juice, consumers become annoyed, and usually do not think it could possibly be nothing more than the need to recharge.  Then, at some point during the time in use, months or a year or more later, those batteries hold less and less of what they originally held per charge. So often, consumers simply chuck the system and buy a new one.  This is a fine idea, according to the manufacturers of said cordless phone systems, but really a waste of money in my view if the phones are otherwise operating well.

But if consumers have to pay $15 – $30 for a replacement battery pack every year or two, this just does not make sense, hence, the preference for chucking it all and starting over.  My thought was to find a quality system with batteries that cost next to nothing to replace, so I could keep my cordless system for many years, so long as nothing else were to fail inside.

So, I read and researched two-line cordless DECT 6.0 makers with handsets that use standard rechargeable AA or AAA batteries and decided upon the Panasonic brand, based primarily on their overall reputation and the fact that the brand enjoys tremendous worldwide popularity in this product category.  Then I looked at the availability of their two-line models offering additional handsets. I set my sights on the Panasonic KX-TG9391T, retailing for $180, but commonly substantially discounted. This model includes one corded base and one cordless handset.  Multi-handset bundled sets are also available which combine up to four cordless handsets with matching corded bases.  (Those requiring only single-line capability will find multi-handset Panasonic cordless models at very reasonable, affordable prices ONLINE and at Costco and other big box stores!)

What’s hot?

• Excellent voice quality – not ONE complaint or comment about inferior voice quality from anyone on the other end of a call

• Excellent speakerphone in base and handset

• Headset jacks on handsets

• Interference free in my tests

• Line one availability in a power outage – I’ve made our setup impervious to power outages in most cases, explained later

• Night ring feature allows individual handsets to flash display, but NOT ring during pre-set hours

• Long range in my tests, operating from all corners of the property and from all rooms with no hint of quality issues due to distance from base – your results may vary

• Uses pair of standard AAA rechargeable NiMH batteries, easily replaceable

• Long battery life between charges – I’ve juiced this up a bit, which is covered later

• Two-line capability, with conference calling, hold, call transfer by holding and calling another handset via intercom to tell that party to take the call

• Corded base allowing six additional handsets, all cordless

• Address book from base can be sent to all handsets

 

What’s not so hot?

• Handsets are ID-labeled on the display by number only – I wish there could be a way to indicate more user-friendly info, such as BR1 (for bedroom 1), or three initials for someone’s name, or other user-determined info.  With support for as many as six cordless handsets available, users must employ some other way to remember what number handset is normally at which location.

• I would prefer headset jack on corded base, too. Yes, I know there are extra-cost adapters, but if built-in, it’s NO added cost to the end-user AND a nice extra touch on a premium-priced product.

• Key depression tones cannot be muted on base – all button pushes may be silenced on the cordless handsets, but not on the corded base, which I find annoying.  As the “main” phone in the office of Gadget Central, using it throughout the day, I would love to see this option to silence those annoying tones.

• I would prefer the ability to globally populate address books on all handsets and base from any handset.  Would it have been such a problem to include this inexpensive

• Counterintuitive operation of the speakerphone button on handsets – pressing the button with the speaker icon engages the speakerphone, but a second press does not disengage speakerphone.  To go back to the “normal” speaker, user must push the button marked “TALK,” the same button that starts a call. Doesn’t it make more sense to just press the speaker button to toggle this feature on and off?

 

Let’s have a look at the basic and most important among the manufacturer’s stated feature set on this model:

· DECT 6.0

· Two line capability

· Corded base will operate on Line 1 during power outage (sort of, kind of, to be explained later)

· Supports up to six cordless handsets

· Each handset uses a pair of standard AAA NiMH batteries

· Talk time of up to 12 hours per charge

· Standby time off charger of up to six days (with original batteries)

· Three-line LCD on handsets and base display that I find easy to read (there will ALWAYS be grouches who give demerits to displays – too small, too dim, letters/numbers difficult to read)

· Hold button on base and handsets

· Headset jack on cordless handsets

· Night mode to limit hours the handset will ring

· Selectable auto-answer on removal from charger base, or not; also auto hang-up on placement back in charger base

· Selectable ringtones

· Locator/Intercom capability

· Conference calling – Up to 3-way (L1-L2-Handset or Base, LINE-Handset-Base, Handset-Handset-Line)

· Caller ID tied to phonebook

· Phonebook memory – 100 entries 16 characters/24 digits

· Phonebook copy – from base to handset only

· Voice mail support

· Digital answering machine – about 40 minutes total

· Tollsaver feature

· Call screening from base and handsets

 

Those who may wish an advance look at instructions, FAQ, and more, click HERE to go to Panasonic’s support page with all the info.

The most important feature of this Panasonic KX-TG9391T system is that it is absolutely as forgettable in use as any corded phone!  Really, what more could any user want than to have the same experience with these phones as with conventional, good old reliable corded phones?  This is what we have experienced with our Panasonics.

Who could need or want so many handsets?  In a small office deployment, the answers may be obvious.  In a home or home office, it’s want- as well as need-based.  You will recall that we have been accustomed to having phones conveniently placed everywhere around Gadget Central when all we had were wired phones.  We STILL want phones conveniently located, and maybe this applies to you.  Let’s have a look at the possibilities and how it adds up, whether for single or two-line systems.  In the bedroom, it sure is convenient to have a handset available on either side of the bed for use by either partner independent of the other as well as at the same time for both to be on a call simultaneously.

That’s two.

One for each additional bedroom, if you have them, so do your own math – could be one, two or three more right there.

If there’s a home office, there’s another.

Living room?  Family room? For homes with basements, there’s another.  Kitchen?  Dining area? Bathrooms?  I know I’m getting a bit carried away, but it sure is handy to have phones based where they’re used so the user need not carry around a handset while moving about the home.  And then there is the inevitable question, “Now, where did I leave that phone?”

If you’ve the space and rooms, and people around, that could add up to the need for all six cordless handsets, which became just what we wanted here, and that does not cover every possible location!  This is in addition to the corded base, which is at my desk. Still, I’m sure you get the idea.  Additional handsets, designated KX-TGA939T may be found through, what else, the Internet!  I found them for about $70 each for NEW singles and triple multi-packs for as little as about $210, but your prices will likely be different because of normal fluctuations and as this model ages, becoming supplanted by what’s newer, what’s next from Panasonic.

So, you can see that this would be an investment in quality, service, hoped-for long service life every bit as much as features and general performance.  No these are not cheap cordless phones.  They are, in my view, of the quality I expect and demand so that I will not need to look for something else for many years to come!  I’ve had it with cheap-to-buy, cheaply made, poorly performing cordless phones!  This Panasonic multi-handset, two-line system provides all one could want, with the exception of music on hold.  I’m happy to cut the cord in exchange for losing music on hold and the mobility this system provides in addition to the quality we have experienced.

Because I know you are wondering about what would have been the cost to simply have two sets of single line phones.  Would it be less expensive?  NO, I did not consider such a plan.  We do not need the added clutter of dual handsets all over the place.  This would be absurd in real life situations, in my view, but, to save a buck, I know there are some who would consider such a plan.  I’m just not one of those!

As for the two-line capability, here is something, admittedly, not everyone needs and yes, this adds substantially to the initial cost.  However, once one cuts the cord from THE PHONE COMPANY, whichever yours may be, and even from so many of the other third party phone service suppliers, such as your cable company, consumers will find a range of lower cost, higher feature and performance alternatives that make having a second line quite inexpensive on a monthly basis.  The second line affords the family or small office another line to use for calling out, perhaps more than for incoming calls.  Remember, most systems allow blocking of outgoing caller ID, so unless calling from the main number, those you call will not see the “other number” which you may not want given out for others to begin calling into.

For those who may have home-based businesses or simply a small office in need of two lines, a two-line cordless setup becomes essential.  Suffice it to say that, with this Panasonic system, as well as virtually any two-line system, it’s a simple plug-and-play proposition to plumb in both lines for immediate use.  At Gadget Central, we do need and use two phone numbers, and more.  This Panasonic system allows the user to default whichever line as “line 1” to be the default line.

By this I mean the user may press the “TALK” button and get dial tone automatically selected as line 1, then dial.  However, when an incoming call arrives, regardless of which line is being called into, pressing the “TALK” button answers that line, whether the call is coming in on line 1 or line 2. If a call comes in simultaneously on both lines, then line 1 is answered by default if the “TALK” button is pressed OR the user may select buttons below the display, at the right and left to manually select either line.  Once one is answered, as in other situations, the “HOLD” button may be selected (at the bottom right of the device face, and then the other line may be answered.

In the battery department, these phones were equipped with Panasonic-branded 550mAh NiMH AAA cells and claiming up to 12 hours of talk time and six days of standby time.  For most users, I suggest starting with these batteries to see if they meet your needs, and they likely will.  It’s always a good idea to get into the habit of homing the handsets in their charger bases when not in use, or at least every night. I also know that many users are not in this habit any more than they are in the habit of nightly charging of mobile phones.

Our use, as ONLY cordless users, is modeled on this nightly charging as well as placing the handsets in the remote charger when not in use.  We’ve found that we could leave these handsets off their charger base for about a week and still have battery life showing on the display.  This does NOT take into consideration talk time in addition to standby time. However, as mentioned above, I went a different direction with our batteries.  I want the maximum battery life, daily battery use possible, so I decided to super-size for super-performance as I usually do.  I went with replacement cells from Lenmar, my go-to guys in the battery biz for digital cameras, camcorders and for needs such as this.

Lenmar has been around for more than 20 years and I know them well.  Looking on their site – www.lenmar.com – I looked at what they have available in AAA NiMH cells.  As luck would have it, they offer their 10-pack of 1000mAh AAA NiMH cells, PRO1010, retailing for $29.  With careful Internet shopping, this multi-pack of the highest performing AAA-size batteries available can be found for a delivered price of under $20!  So, for under $20, users get enough high-performance Lenmar AAA cells for five handsets.  Really, when spending a pretty penny on the phones, what’s another $20 to get the absolute most possible talk time with the bonus of a history of long service life.  At this relatively small cost, even if I need to replace them in a couple of years, I’m happy.  Oh, and these were selected instead of the pre-charged “hybrid” type of NiMH cells for specific reasons.  Pre-charged cells do not have this higher capacity, which negates their benefit in this application for any of you. They also cost more than regular NiMH cells.  In addition, pre-charged cells are known to hold a charge for a very long time with little non-use discharge.  This application calls for normally having the handsets on the charger, so the batteries need not have this capability.  What I wanted to accomplish was the longest possible talk time, even if someone forgets to put the handset in the charger, as well as the capability to operate for as long as possible in the event of a power failure, when handset charging may not be available for an extended time.

Another “extra” to consider and that we employ here at Gadget Central is battery backup for critical components. If you are supplied by lines from your regular phone company, dial tone comes from phone company power over your twisted pair of phone wires.  If you are on a digital system from “the phone company,” such as FiOS from Verizon, or U-Verse from AT&T, they supply modest battery backup in their “box.”  I use and recommend more.  For as little as about $100, consumers can find plenty of reserve power in a battery backup device to keep a modem and router powered up, plus the cordless phone base and even an LED lamp or two (low power requirements/lots of light) and more, for many hours.  One never knows, whether here in SoCal where we have earthquakes, in the Midwest where there are twisters, or you Gulf & east coasters with your storms and hurricanes just when there might be a power outage.  The brand we use and trust is Tripp-Lite, a leader in the industry many of you may not know.  HOWEVER, their quality is outstanding and I’ve trusted them for more than 20 years.  You likely know the APC brand of this type of device because of their advertising.  I get as good or better performance and excellent quality for less money with Tripp-Lite UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) Systems.

And finally, though we are really finished with this review and recommendation for what has been a real eye-opener of a cordless phone system trial, a word about your landline phone service provider. If you still have a traditional carrier, you are likely paying more than necessary.  In some cases, it’s going to make you sick when you see just how much more you are spending than needed, and to get more services, too.

There are three services recommended for your investigation.  There are others, but I only want to recommend services that have been around a while and are likely to be there in the next few years, at the very least.  I’ve tried them all – Packet8 for small office/home office (calling their residential service 8X8, as in eight by eight), Vonage and the newest of the worthy competitors, PhonePower.

Here’s my take.  Packet8/8×8 provide excellent services, most ideally suited for businesses at this time, and they are expensive when compared with others.  Not for me.  Vonage is also excellent, allowing you to use their provided adapter with your phones.  I have two Vonage lines and all work perfectly.  We also have a PhonePower line.  They seem to be the sleeper of the group, at the least cost, yet with most all features of the others, and a few not with the others.  Each of you simply must investigate all three to learn the ins and outs.  If you’ve even the most basic of high speed Internet, you may be a candidate for one of these Internet-based VoIP systems with NO reason to not check them out.  With all three, you can keep your old phone number, too.  PhonePower’s monthly charge can be as low as under $10 per month (including all mandated fees) with unlimited calling in the US and Canada and more than 45 features that will amaze and delight you, with tech support based in good ol’ SoCal, USA!  This should be enough to get you to look into switching.  Oh, and for those with fast Internet speeds and who do not want or need all the services of the big VoIP suppliers, magicJack PLUS is also a viable force and works without a glitch in my extensive tests.  At an initial cost of $70, their newest adapter can connect directly to computers, ideal for travel, and to your in-home or office router for always-on service, so do check them out, too.  I’m also a fan of this company, which, for a $20 fee may also be able to port your existing number to your new magicJack PLUS.

I’ve deviated from the reason for this article, but I just had to touch on these related topics.

And now, it is time to close with this admonition:  If you are in the market for a cordless single- or two-line DECT 6.0 phone system allowing multiple handsets, I highly recommend Panasonic to you.  After two years in service, we are all well-satisfied with the performance in every area that counts – general reliability (of the phone system exclusive of the phone service), ease of use, takes standard rechargeable batteries and exhibits excellent battery life per charge (with my added higher capacity than original batteries), ability to use standard headsets with enough volume so as to be useful and above all, call quality as good as any corded phone I’ve tried. It’s cordless, but performs as well as corded.  This is high praise, indeed!

Countless others, friends and family, as well as viewers and readers, have let me know my advice to purchase Panasonic cordless DECT 6.0 or DECT 6.0 Plus has been followed with complete success and satisfaction.

I have NOTHING against competitive cordless phone suppliers.  Many perform perfectly. The deal breaker, for me, is the battery issue explained above.  In addition, the functionality, reliability and features available from Panasonic on their cordless phones sets them above competitive makes. It would only be an issue of style that may be more attractive to certain users and steer them from Panasonic to other brands.

Thanks, Panasonic.

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