Pros: Integrated Caller ID function with three-line LCD display, battery backup not required.
Cons: No separate mailboxes, no memo function, fast-forward and rewind functions do not operate correctly.
I purchased this unit as a replacement for our aging Panasonic Easa-Phone (KX-T1470), which was suffering from increasingly frequent playback tape spasms. Since electro-mechanical devices seem to be prone to more potential for problems as they age, I decided to try a digital machine for a change. I had considered some wireless phone / answering machine combo units, but preferred the simplicity and flexibility that a stand-alone answering machine offered.
The Panasonic KX-TM150B seemed to have the best overall selection of features for the $40 price including remote message retrieval, and Caller ID with three-line LCD display. This function not only displays the number when the call is received, but also each time the message is played back. It even marks messages heard with a check mark on the Caller ID list, and can dial a number from the list of received calls with one button, then tells you when to pick up the phone after dialing. A handy combination indeed, especially when the phone number is cut off, unintelligible, or forgotten altogether in the voice message. Since the information appears on the LCD display, there is no more repeated rewinding of the message to listen for the number. This combination is very handy, and very cool. It is important to note that you most have a subscription to Caller ID services through your local telephone company (at an additional fee) for this feature to be of use. Caller ID aside, for setup and operation, the three line display is definitely an improvement over flashing lights, cryptic codes or audio feedback for communicating status information quickly.
I was mildly disappointed that it did not offer a memo feature that allows you to record a message using the built-in microphone, as do many other comparable machines. Nor does it include multiple mailboxes, but this was not an important feature for our needs. It does have two-way recording for telephone conversations, but with a maximum of only 15 minutes of total recording time (including the outgoing message), and no direct output to tape or other storage device, the usefulness of this function would probably be limited.
This model does allow up to three minutes per message, but does not offer any adjustment to message time or an announce only function. Total recording time may be shortened by up to three minutes if messages contain lots of background noise, probably due to the means of digitally converting and storing the audio. Audio quality is probably not quite as good as our old cassette unit, but is still decent enough for phone messages. Since flash memory is used, it should not be affected by power failures, so it does not require a battery backup for the memory.
One of the features that I was happy to see on a digital machine was fast forward and rewind" buttons. No more having to wade through the entire message in real time just to get to the part that you want to hear again! Now you could scan through it at a somewhat intelligible double-speed! Alas, this feature was to prove a frustrating disappointment. Like many cheap CD players, the KX-TM150B fast-forward and rewind buttons do double duty as skip and repeat function buttons respectively. This is bound to cause problems and this machine is a poster child for this malady. After scanning forward or rewinding to any point in the message, the machine may play only a brief portion (if any) of the remaining message before cutting it off short. This was true with both brand new units that I tested. Separate buttons for each function would have been the intelligent way to go here. As seems to be typical of most Panasonic products, they got 90 percent of it right, only to make a bonehead error on a key feature.
The KX-TM150B is not as very intuitive to set up, but a quick glance at the instructions usually clarifies things, though it would have been nice to have a cheat sheet on the bottom of the unit. It would also handy to have and a screw hole for wall mounting, but at least the hidden, bottom-mount telephone and power jacks make for a cleaner looking countertop installation.