How to buy the best cordless phone

Cordless phones: How to buy the best Dect cordless phone

  • How to choose and buy a digital cordless phone
  • Answering machine features explained including GAP and Dect
  • Panasonic and Philips cordless phone models compared

There’s a huge selection of cordless and DECT cordless phones to choose from and it's difficult to know which offer the best sound quality and longest range when you’re looking at them in the shop.

Which? tests home digital cordless phones to help ensure you don’t buy one with poor sound quality, low range or is awkward to use.

All our Best Buy digital cordless phones sound great and are easy to use, with enough range to give you great reception if you’ve a big house and garden.

What makes a good cordless phone?

Great sound quality – Using a cordless phone with poor sound quality is a frustrating experience. Avoid muffled conversation by picking one of our Best Buys - all offer great voice clarity. Most phones can also be used hands-free via a speakerphone in the base of the handset - although this can mean a drop in call quality. 

Discover which phones have the best loudspeakers in our tests.

Range extender

Extenders/repeaters can boost the range of your phone signal

Range – If you live in a large house, the range of a cordless phone can be crucial. Most claim to work over a distance of about 300 metres outdoors and 50 metres indoors though in reality physical obstacles such as thick walls can reduce a phone’s range. Some models, such as the Gigaset SL795, can be extended to work across greater distances – handy if you’ve got a large garden.

Easy-to-use – Many cordless phones are now as compact as mobile phones but tiny handsets can mean fiddly keys and hard to use menus. Look for models with big buttons, especially if you're visually impaired or just want a very simple device. Screens can also vary in quality and size. Top-of-the-line cordless phones have screens around 2 inches in size that can typically display six lines of text. This will make it easier to scroll through a phonebook. 

Discover the best easy to use phones that we've tested.

Great answering machine – Many cordless phones include an integrated answering machine but it does add to the price (models start at around £40). The amount of answering machine memory varies greatly, with some handsets offering just ten minutes of messages while others can manage up to an hour. If you receive lots of messages or travel for long periods look for a phone that lets you limit message time. Other useful features are a message counter that shows how many messages have been received and remote access so you can check for messages while away from home.

What else should I consider when buying a cordless phone?

Do I need a single handset or a multi pack? – Cordless phones typically come in single, twin, triple and quad packs. Having more than one handset is handy, as you can leave a handset in different rooms, though it will add to the price. A single handset cordless phone costs from around £20 whereas packs with four handsets start from around £70.

Extra handsets don’t have to be the same brand as the original, as long as they’re Generic Access Protocol (Gap) compatible – and most cordless phone are. This means you can use any compatible handset with any base unit, for example a Panasonic GapP handset will work with a BT Gap compatible unit.

Do I need a wall mountable phone? - If space is at a premium, you can wall mount your cordless phone, though you’ll still need to run power and phone cables up the wall to the base unit. Not all phones can be wall mounted – discover which ones are using our cordless phone product picker.

What additional features do I need? The latest cordless phones are more like mobiles than traditional phones. They come packed with features such speed dialling, texts messaging, the ability to copy contacts from Sim cards, and some can even do double duty as baby monitors.  However, cordless phones with lots of advanced features can be trickier to use than basic handsets, so think carefully about which features you really need before you buy. Read our guide to essential cordless phone features to help you decide.

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