Pros: inexpensive; answering machine works fine
Cons: terrible static and other interference on phones
When my husband and I moved from an apartment to a townhouse about a year ago, we needed to get some new phones. As we perused our options at Best Buy, we struggled over whether to buy the cheap phones or the slightly more expensive ones. Our cheap sides won out (okay, mainly mine), and we went with Vtech. We purchased the unit Im reviewing here, the t2151 phone with an attached answering machine, for the main floor of our house, and two t2121 units (just a phone on a smaller base), one for each of the other floors. It wasnt long before we very much regretted our purchase.
Phone and Answering Machine Basics
The phone headset that comes in the t2151 is, first of all, very lightweight. I generally liked this, feeling that it made the phone more pleasant to use than heavier models. It was actually so lightweight that it took some getting used toit hardly feels like youre even holding anything when youre using it.
The phone is a 900 MHz phone, which used to be the gold standard of good reception for cordless phones but which is now pretty much the norm. If you subscribe to caller ID, you can see the caller and phone number on the display panel on the handset. Normally, the handset displays the date and time. The battery in the handsets worked adequately; I usually tried to recharge each night, but didnt always remember, and we didnt often have a problem with the battery running out.
The main feature besides the phones weight that stood out to us was how loud the phone beeps when you use its buttons. Anyone dialing one of these phones anywhere in our three-story townhouse can be heard anywhere else in the house. If youre the kind of person bothered by beeping noises, the unpleasant tone and loudness of this phones buttons will probably annoy you.
The answering machine in this unit is simple but functional. It has only a few buttons, so setting it can be a bit annoying because it required pushing the same button over and over, scrolling through a sequence in just the right way, to correctly set the time and day. The machine did not have a battery backup capability, so when there was any significant loss of power, I had to reset the machine. Like most any machine today, it allowed recording a personal message, but its a simple machine with only one mailbox.
The answering machine worked fine for our needs, although we dont get a lot of phone messages at home, so we didnt test it even close to its limits.
Why Replacing these Phones Saved Our Sanity
Soon after we hooked up our new phones, we began to experience something unpleasant. Regularly when we answered the phone, the phone would emit a painfully loud screeching/static noise. (The noise was audible to people on the other end of the call, but not painfully loud as it was on our end.) Further, when we tried to both be on the phone at one time (for example, when in-laws called and we both wanted to pick up an extension), a great echo would be created, to the point that it was difficult to hear the callers. Sometimes the echo also became a delay, which made conversations even more difficult. Still, we kept trying, and as the weeks passed, the echo got worse, and even using only one extension, our conversations with our callers sounded like a long-distance call from the olden days where you could really tell how far you were calling.
I suspected a problem with the phone wiring in our new house, and figured there was nothing we could do about this annoying problem besides have the wiring redone. My husband wasnt so sure, and we ended up purchasing a new set of cordless phones. I soon felt vindicated when the problems continued (both the echoing, distance-like connections and the loud interference) with the new phones. And then we realized that while we had replaced the separate phone units, we had kept the t2151 unit to so we could keep using the answering machine.
A few experiments later, we discovered that even having the t2151 plugged into a phone jack was enough to cause interference on our phone lines. When it was plugged in so that we could receive voice mail, we continued to have bad reception using our new phones. When we unplugged it entirely, the new phones worked just fine.
In short, I would not at all recommend the t2151. I hate wasting money on something that can be purchased more cheaply while maintaining good quality, but this is not one of those cases. We suffered for months before we figured out that these cheap phones were the problem with our phone reception. Try another brand if you want a cheap phone or phone/answering machine system, or pay a bit more to try to avoid problems like the ones we experienced with this VTech product.