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We bought our last home phones when we moved into our first house nearly 4 years ago. We bought some BT model because it was on offer in Argos, and I think we got 4 handsets for about £80, which seemed like a bargain. Very little thought went into the purchase and within a couple of months I was regretting the decision. They were useless, but as they worked we couldn't justify or afford to replace them. The display went on one handset within about a year or two, but as we still had three more that worked we carried on with them. In December all the phones stopped showing who was calling even though we subscribe to caller display. After a phone call to BT we discovered the problem was with the handsets. This was the final nail in the coffin for the BT phones as I like to know who is calling before I answer the phone.
After having put up with the useless BT phones for many years I had a wish list of features that I wanted in the new phones. I also refused to have another BT model. After much searching I decided upon the Panasonic KX-TG 8220. It had everything I wanted and more to boot, the only downside was the price. We bought the 3 handset pack for £109.99 from Argos.
Here is a brief explanation of the Panasonic model naming system. The KX-TG8220E refers to the model that consists of the answer phone base unit and one handset. I bought the KX-TG8223EW, the 3 meaning it comes with 3 handsets and the W at the end meaning the colour of the model is white. The model is also available in black and these model numbers will have a B at the end instead of the W. A twin pack will be 8222 and a quad pack will be 8224. They are all the same model but with a different number of handsets. For simplicity I will refer to the phones as 8220 throughout the review.
The Panasonic KX-TG8220
This is a feature packed DECT phone with answering system, and it feels more like a mobile phone than a home phone. It has a 1.5 inch colour LCD display, is compatible with caller ID and SMS, the phonebook can store up to 200 names and numbers, it has a 40 minute answer phone, speakerphone, and the battery lasts up to 12 hours of talk time.
We only have a three bedroom house so we decided that three handsets would be plenty, to be honest two would probably have been enough. The price in Argos for just one handset is £69.99, two handsets £89.99, three handsets £109.99 and four handsets £129.99. The phone is available in either black or white.
We went for the white model, and it is rather sleek looking. The case is a smooth glossy white, the handset is shaped so it is curved and feels comfortable to hold. The keypad is backlit and has no spaces between the keys, but the buttons are large and easy to use. Above the keypad is a joystick surrounded by 4 more buttons. The joystick is used to navigate through the menus and select items, it
is also used to adjust the volume during calls. The menus are easy to navigate and very straightforward and logical. The buttons around the joystick are the call/talk, speakerphone, end call/power off, and mute buttons. Just below the screen are two soft keys, and these access the function shown directly above it on the screen. There is also a headset jack on the side of the phone.
Up to 6 handsets can be registered to a single base unit. Each handset can be registered to up to 4 base units, this means you can add extra base units to extend the area in which the handsets can be used. I have never had any problem with reception, even out in the garden there is no interference.
The phones come with Ni-MH batteries. I haven't checked this out but apparently the battery will last for 12 hours of continuous use or 150 hours on standby before needing to be recharged. We leave the phones on the base units when not in use so as not to lose them and this doesn't harm the battery.
The screen is a 1.5 inch colour LCD screen and this makes navigating the menus very easy. You can change the wallpaper (we have a tropical island) and the colour of the display.
To conserve the battery the screen backlight turns off completely after 1 minute of inactivity unless the phone is on the base unit or charger. This is very annoying as we have one of the chargers in the bedroom and the best way we have found to avoid losing handsets is to keep them on their charger. I cannot bear any light at night when I am trying to get to sleep and as such refuse to have any sort of clock in the bedroom (analogue ones tick, another pet peeve) and have a blackout blind. If the phone is on the charger it makes it too bright at night to sleep so the phone in the bedroom sits next to the charger. I feel this is a design flaw, at the very least you should be given the option to turn the backlight off when on the charger. This is my only complaint with the phones and is not really a major one, it's liveable.
Making calls is easy, just enter the number and press call. To use a number in the phonebook press the left soft key, find the desired number and press call. The phones store the last 10 phone numbers dialled which can be accessed via the redial list by pressing the right soft key. You can also store numbers from the redial list.
Answering calls is equally as easy, you just press the call button to answer. You can also set the handset to automatically answer the call when you lift it off the charger/base unit.
The clarity of the sound during calls is excellent, voices are clear and can be heard perfectly. One problem with our old phones was that the speaker was not loud enough even on full volume and wasn't that clear either. This is not an issue with these phones, because the sound is so clear it doesn't need to be so loud, and if there is noise in the room the handsets can be turned up louder so you can still hear the person you are talking to. There is also a function that allows you to change the tone quality of the receiver during a call.
During calls you can turn on the speakerphone by pressing the speakerphone button, but to switch back you have to press the call button. This takes some getting used to as logically you would think that you would press the speakerphone button again to switch back.
You can mute the call so that you can hear the other person but they can't hear you, to do this you press the mute button, and pressing it again un-mutes the call.
Because the phones come with an answer phone you can record telephone conversations. This can be done through the menu by selecting record call. A beep sounds every 15 seconds which can be heard by the other person.
During a call someone else can join in the conversation by using a second handset, all they have to do is press the call button. If you don't want anyone to join in or overhear your conversation you can prevent this by pressing the joystick button to bring up the menu, selecting privacy and turning it on. The call privacy is automatically turned off when you hang up.
You can lock the handsets so that no calls can be made or buttons can be pressed (like keylock on your mobile). To do this press the joystick button for 3 seconds, to unlock press the joystick for 3 seconds. Unlike mobiles when locked you cannot make calls to emergency services until you unlock the handset.
I wasn't too fussed about the phone having an answer phone as we used the BT 1571 service. The downside to the 1571 service was that we never remembered to check our messages. With these phones if you have a message then on the base unit a red LED flashes. You also get a symbol on the handset so you don't have to look at the base unit to see if you have any messages. We are much better at checking our messages now.
The answer phone is really easy to use, you can access it from the base unit and all the handsets, which is great. It will record about 40 minutes of messages so it has plenty of memory for our usage, especially when the standard message we get consists of listening to the caller hang up (why do people do that!). You can record a greeting message which can be up to 2.5 minutes long or use the pre-recorded greeting that comes with the phones. The clarity of the messages is also really good.
You can store 200 names and numbers in the phones memory, the name can be up to 16 characters long and the phone number up to 24 digits. This was one of the features that I wanted as my old phones only allowed something like 9 characters which was irritating. You can assign categories to each entry e.g. family, friends etc. which will make it easier to find someone as you can search for entries by category.
Pictures of Panasonic KX-TG8223
Handset on charger
You can have 9 categories.You can assign speed dials so that one entry is called by pressing a dial key. To call the speed dial press and hold the desired key. I haven't got round to sorting this out yet as we mainly make calls to people we know on our mobiles with our free minutes.
You can copy the phonebook entries of one handset to the others so that all the phones have the same phonebook. This was a feature I really wanted and is really useful, as you only have to enter each entry once and can then copy to the other handsets. You can copy just one entry or all of the entries.
This was a requirement of mine and the phone supports this. For this to work on the phones you have to subscribe to the caller ID service of say BT. With caller ID the last 50 numbers that called you are stored in the caller list.
I didn't realise this when we bought the phones but you have a choice of 20 different polyphonic ringtones. The default ringtone is a standard phone ring, but you can also have jingle bells if you want. You can assign each category a different ringtone, I have set it up so that his family has one ringtone and mine another so we know who the phone is for before we even have to look at the display. So no more arguing over who should answer the phone, brilliant feature.
If you use the answer phone then the phones will only ring a maximum of 7 times. You can choose how many time the phones will ring before going to answer phone and I would prefer to have the option of more rings.
This allows you to set a period of time during which the handsets will not ring for incoming calls, useful for times when you do not want to be disturbed (e.g. at night) or if you do not want young children to be woken up when the phone rings late at night. You can also set certain categories to override night mode and ring the handset. Very useful feature.
You can restrict what numbers can be dialled from each handset. You can select up to 6 numbers to be restricted, which doesn't sound like a lot, but you can enter just the area code so all numbers which start with that code will be restricted (e.g. premium rate numbers). This is a great function and means you can barr access to premium rate numbers so your phone bill wont be huge. If you need to call a restricted number you can override it by entering your PIN.
One feature of the phones is that it has an alarm clock function. You can set the date and time you want the alarm to go off or set it to go off daily and it will sound for 3 minutes at the set time, to stop the alarm you press any dial key. Haven't used this function but useful to have.
These are brilliant phones, we have had them for 4 months now and we have no complaints. The sound is very clear, the phones are easy to use, have lots of useful functions and are very robust. I would definitely recommend these phones, so much so that my mother has since gone and bought the 4 pack, and she is also very pleased with them.