Panasonic has a few new DECT 6.0 cordless phones for 2009, including the KX-TG7400 series, which retails for less than $100 for a two-handset package. The main difference between this model and the popular KX-TG6400 series is a larger LCD: the 7400 series has a 2.1-inch LCD while the KX-TG6400 has a 1.8-inch LCD. Also, this model adds "Choice Mail" Selectable Voice Message (a form of visual voice mail) to an already strong feature set.
Here are some highlights and impressions we had of the series during our testing of the KX-TG7432, a two-handset model that features a digital answering machine in the base.
The Panasonic KX-TG7400 series keeps things simple and only comes in black, which is fine with us, though the glossy black finish on the base unit is a fingerprint magnet (the handsets themselves have a mostly matte finish). In terms of displays, the 2.1-inch LCD on this model is one of the biggest you'll find on a cordless phone and it should appeal to sight-challenged folks who don't want to squint to see numbers and anything else on the screen (the numbers appear quite large). It has a light-blue backlight that's activated when you touch the keys.
We liked the large, rubberized buttons (they, too, get the backlight treatment when pressed) and we found the user interface to be relatively straightforward and easy to navigate. Our one small gripe is that the top of the phone is made of shiny plastic and is prone to showing fingerprints and any oil from your face. This isn't a big deal, but you will find yourself having to wipe the phone every few days if you want to keep it clean.
For navigation, there are two hard buttons just underneath the screen that correspond to virtual commands on the display, as well as a five-way directional pad that allows you to scroll both horizontally and vertically through menu items and icons. All in all, we liked the design and appreciated the clearly labeled "talk," "off," and "speakerphone" buttons, which are clustered around the D-pad.
Unlike the 6400 series, which features multiple step-up and step-down models, the 7400 series keeps things simple as all three models in the line offer identical features. Highlights include talking caller ID, talking alarm clock, talking battery alert ("Please charge the phone"), call block, silent mode, four-way conference capability, handset-to-base intercom function, and ringer ID (you can attach various ringtones to contacts in your phone book).
The 7400 series does not feature a speakerphone or dialpad in the main base charging unit, but a speakerphone is built into the back of each of the handsets (it's a half duplex speakerphone, which is standard for these types of cordless phones).
The included rechargeable batteries are two 630mAh Ni-MH AAAs that provide approximately 5 hours of talk time and 11 hours of standby time. It takes 7 hours to fully charge the batteries.
The digital answering machine can store up to 18 minutes' worth of messages and any of the handsets registered to the system (up to six) can access the phone book, which allows you to store up to 50 names and numbers. You set up the answering machine, as well as retrieve any voice mails from the handset, not the base unit. A headset jack and belt clip are included if you want to go hands-free.
As for the "Choice Mail" feature, it's very similar to the iPhone's visual voice mail, though not as snazzy. It allows you to scroll through your voice mails on a menu (if you subscribe to Caller ID, the caller's number will be displayed as long as it hasn't been blocked by the caller) and select the one you want to listen to. You can then choose to delete it or continue saving it. Navigating your messages in this fashion is much more convenient than having to go through your messages consecutively, listening to them one by one.
As we noted with the 6400 series, this is a solid feature set for a cordless phone. Add in the Choice Mail feature, and it's just that much better.
Here is a chart of all the models in the line. The fifth model listed is an expansion handset; there's a maximum of six handsets per system.
|Model||Number of handsets||Color||Answering machine included?|
DECT 6.0 phones operate in the 1.9 GHz range and are designed not to interfere with other electronics in your home, such as microwaves, Wi-Fi networks, and baby monitors. They're also supposed to offer extended range (up to around 200 feet), though distance will vary according to obstacles and the material in your walls.
Most DECT 6.0 phones offer similar ranges, but they're not all equal. In our tests, we found that the 7400 series offered similar range and performance to Panasonic's 6400 series. Both Panasonic models, in turn, offer slightly better range than the V-Tech LS6225-2, though the difference was fairly minor. Call quality was good and clear overall, though not superloud.
Like the 6400 series, the Panasonic 7400 series may not be the sexiest looking DECT 6.0 cordless phone out there, but it has a strong feature set (as long as you can live without a speakerphone in the base unit), an oversize 2.1-inch LCD, large, backlit buttons, and offers good performance.
Because of the Choice Mail feature and some minor design differences (we like the joystick), we slightly prefer the KX-TG7400 series to the KX-TG6400 series. Both the two-handset and three-handset models can be found for less than $100 online (the former for as low as $80). At those prices, it's an excellent value for a superior cordless phone system.