Pros: Easy to use, and flexible, inexpensive for the features offered, battery backup.
Cons: Speaker phone only marginally adequate, intercom overly complex, requires AC power for many functions.
In looking for a simple POTS (Plain Old Telephone System....) multi-line phone for home-business use, I stumbled across the AT&T 964, and it's 'sister' phones the 944 (lacking caller ID or the DTAD functions, but with other plusses like a 'matrix' for speed dial -- see companion review) as well as the 955 (with caller ID but lacking the DTAD functions of the 964).
Together these phones provide a flexible, low cost alternative to a 'key'/'centrex' telephone system, and provide:
intercom (12 stations)
multiple lines (up to 15 lines in the system, 4 available at any one phone)
autodial/phone number memory (speed-dial), redial last number
tone or pulse dial
LED display of number dialed, caller ID etc.
conference calling capabilities
speaker phone / headset operation
Digital Telephone Answering Device (DTAD) a/k/a private voice mail
and many more features
These phones are designed with a small business in mind. If you want a simple corded phone, this is not it. If you want a replacement for a multi-thousand dollar 'key' system with auto-attendant features, this is a serious contender for your business.
No special wiring or a fancy 'key' system in the telephone cabinet required, just plug the phones into standard phone jacks, do a few simple programming steps, and you're in business.
The phones can be used either as a wall or a desk phone (either mounting on a standard wall jack or plugging into two RJ-11 jacks for use on a desk. (One jack is for lines 1/2 the other for lines 3/4).
The 'system' you install can consist of up to 12 'stations' and up to 15 phone lines, three of which can be available to all phones, the fourth of which can be used as a 'private line' or a 'call group' (each station can access only 4 lines, but the SYSTEM can have up to 15....)
There are also 'accessory jacks' for lines 3 and 4 so if you want to connect a fax machine or modem through the phone you can.
The 964 offers two features absent in the less expensive models: it can act as the 'receptionist' phone and has voice mail capabilities, and the 4 line LED display also displays called ID information if you subscribe to that service from the phone company. Caller ID is pretty self explanatory, but the TAD functions deserve some explanation.
Voice Mail / TAD
This phone takes the place of a receptionist if you want it to, or it can be programmed to take over those functions only during certain times (after hours, for example). In that mode, it will 'intercept' incoming phone calls, and present the caller with a menu of choices "to speak with Bill, dial 12, to speak with joe, dial 22" etc. The system will then 'ring' only the phone selected so others will not be bothered. If the other phone rung is a 964, and there is no answer at the extension, you can program that phone to take a message as well, meaning each phone can store messages for a single individual rather than having to have one answering machine serve for everyone.
The system can also forward calls to a 944 phone, but since those phones lack the TAD functions, it won't provide options for leaving voice mail if the call is unanswered.
The 'price' for this is complicated set-up. Reading the Manual is REQUIRED if you are going to use TAD / voice mail or similar complicated functions. Setting up the intercom system itself is intuitive enough, but wending through the voice menu prompts without the manual is akin to going Sherpa-less in the mountains. Take the time to read the manual!
WELL worth the time and cost if you want a professional quality system for not a lot of money. These phones are available for less than $150 each, which is FAR less expensive than a key/centrix system, and they will do nearly everything that more complex phone type will do. There is a bit of a learning curve, but even my kids picked up on basic use pretty quickly. The one real 'con' is the speaker phone is pretty marginal. The AGC is flakey meaning you will often miss the first few words someone on the other side says and it cuts off what you say as well. Since I use a speakerphone mostly as a 'let me walk around while I wait on hold' feature, that is not a big deal for me, but if you rely on a speakerphone, this won't make you happy!
Overall, nice price, decent features, reliable and handsome styling. I recommend it for small businesses on a budget.