Pros: good base to handset range; good battery life; dependable; feature-packed
Cons: relatively poor sound quality, especially from the answering machine
I bought a Panasonic KX-TG9331 cordless phone three years ago and have been using it as my primary phone ever since. It's a basic re-chargable cordless with a "base unit" and a "handset," and an "answering machine" included in the base unit. You can also buy the same phone with one through three "satellite" handsets and small bases, with the model number reflecting the total number of handsets (e.g., the 9333 has three handsets total).
Set-up of the KX-TG9331T is very straightforward. Plug in the base unit, set the phone (handset) in the base unit, hook the base up to you phone line, and wait for seven hours while the thing charges up. I've used my phone for three years and have never had to recharge the batteries in the handset. The phone comes with NIMH AAA rechargeble batteries, and the instructions make it clear that the phone should only be used with NIMH rechargable batteries.
This phone comes with a host of features, many of which I've never used. Both the Complete Operating Instructions and the Guick Guide are in English and read like they were written by English-speakers. I found them quite clear. The first thing I did once my phone was up and running was to record a greeting message, something clever like, "Hi, this is Colin. Leave a mesage after the beep." How to do so is clearly described (on page 35 of the Complete Operating Instructions), and you can actually leave a greeting message of up to two minutes in length if you want to discourage people from calling you. I was able to get my short message up and running in about 30 seconds.
The next thing I did was adjust the number of rings before the machine picks up (2 to 7). I did this just to see if I could actually do it as described (on page 38 of the Complete Operating Instructions). It worked, and I wound up back at the default of 4, which gives me time to make it from my comfy chair to the phone before the message kicks on. The "toll saver" feature allows you to program the phone to ring twice before the machine kicks on if there are messages and four times if there are no messages. This allows those who bothered to learn how to remote-access their messages (I didn't) to see if there's a message on their home phone from elsewhere without having to pay for a phone call (assuming no messages). It also allows stalkers and ex-girlfriends to see if you got their message and didn't call them back. I haven't used this feature.
Once set up, the phone seems to operate smoothly (but see below). Placing a call involves pushing one button on the handset (labeled "talk") and then entering the number you want to call. Ending a call involves pushing another button on the handset (labeled "off") or putting the handset back on the base. A red light flashes if you have messages. Listening to messages can be accomplished by pushing a single button on the base. To erase all messages you press the erase button on the base twice. Buttons on the base that look like fast forward and rewind buttons on a tape deck (or skip track buttons on a CD player) allow you to scroll back and forth among old messages.
Among the features I've never used, in no particular order, are:
* hold (to make caller feel you have something more important than them to attend to)
* mute (so you can hear them but they can't hear you)
* phonebook (up to 50 entries; enter name and number, so you don't have to dial entire number when you call this person again)
* night mode (allows you to set a time span when the ringer will not operate)
* alarm (phone rings for up to a minute at pre-set time)
* listening to message using the handset only (I walk to the base unit)
* voice memo (leaving yourself or family member a voice message)
* remote operation (allows you to listen to messages from another phone or change phone settings from another phone)
* speaker phone (to make caller feel you are multi-tasking while talking to them; see asterisk 1, above)
* orgasmatron (this feature induces spontaneous gratification in the user, obviating the need for direct face-to-face interaction with other individuals)
A feature I have used is the adjustable volume control (on the base) which can raise or lower the volume of recorded messages as well as the volume of incoming and outgoing talk while on the phone. Something I hadn't realized until re-reading the manual while writing this review is that there is a battery level indicator on the handset. Mine still reads three little bars, meaning that my original battery is still going strong after three years.
In actual use, I find that this phone works well. All functions have performed exactly as they're supposed to, and I can venture all the way to my truck, 50 feet away, and still get good a strong signal from the base unit. In fact, I haven't really tested the limits of base unit-to-handset transmission. Its dependability as an answering machine is also good. My previous phone was a misogynist and would hang up on women trying to leave a message. It must have had an area of insensitivity in the range of the fundamental frequency of the adult female voice. This machine hasn't cut anyone off, male, female, adult or child, trying to leave me a message.
The KX-TG9331T's weak point, however, is in the "fidelity" of sound, especially the answering machine. During normal conversation, I'd say the quality of sound is adequate. I can generally hear what the other person is saying, though I sometimes I have to ask them to repeat parts of sentences. You have to differentiate "f" and "s" by context, for example. Callers say they can hear me well, however. It's not a matter of volume (which is adjustable). It's a matter of the quality of the sound. And the quality of messages left on the answering machine is notably worse, to the point where I generally have to ask callers to repeat much of what they told me in messages. This issue is particularly problematic when someone leaves me a phone number or other numeric data. Odds are I won't get every digit right.
Still, I haven't had the problems other Epinions reviewers talked about (I couldn't really figure out what they were talking about), and I'm glad overall that I bought this phone. It is not a fidelity champion, and it wouldn't be my first choice if clarity, especially clarity of left messages, is a priority. However, if overall ease of use, dependability, and good base-to-handset distance capability are priorities, I can say that I recommend this phone.
3.25 stars and a thumbs up overall.
Note: This phone does not really come with an orgasmatron, as suggested next to asterisk 10. I was just wondering whether anyone actually read "bullets" in phone reviews.