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Panasonic 2.4 GHz Multi-Handset 4-Line Cordless Phone System

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Whether due to downsizing, specialization, the proliferation of satellite offices, or the internet boom, a large percentage of workplaces now operate with 10 employees or less. With such limited staffing, is an expensive phone system really necessary?

Until now, there haven't been many reliable alternatives. But if you have a small- to medium-sized office, Panasonic's new cordless system can save you the hassle and expense of installing a costly PBX. The KX-TG400B is cordless, equipped with voice mail and an automated attendant, inexpensive, and capable of connecting up to 8 handsets to 4 incoming phone lines. I've reviewed quite a few phone systems in today's market, and I must say that, in my opinion, this product blows everything else away. And if you are part of a small department in a large company that already has a PBX in place, this system can function behind it.

Setup
The single handset included with your base station is pre-registered at the factory and is ready to use right out of the box. If you choose to purchase additional handsets (for $150) the registration process takes just a few seconds. Setup involves the usual connection of phone lines and AC adapters (one adapter for the base station and one for each handset charger). You'll also need to program a few features such as the clock and your voice mail passwords. Overall, getting started is quick, simple, and intuitive.

Base station features
Without the button clutter commonly found on other high-end systems, this well-designed base station provides an array of functions. Its tilted design and large LCD make reading caller information and accessing system features much easier. Actually, the only thing I didn't like about this phone system at first was the base station's somewhat large size. But when I remembered it's replacing the need for a PBX, the overall dimensions seem extremely compact.

Caller ID, phone directory, and redial
Because it acts as the central router, the base station can store more Caller ID and phone directory entries than the handsets. From any extension, Caller ID information can be transferred to a directory for speed-dialing. The base station stores up to 50 Caller ID entries and 100 phone numbers, while handsets hold up to 30 Caller ID entries and 50 phone numbers. Additionally, each extension offers a 10-number redial memory. With these 3 services, you will rarely dial a telephone number yourself.

Intercom/call transfer
Often with cordless systems, the intercom feature is seldom employed. Is anyone ever that far from the base station? But with the extended range supplied by 2.4 GHz technology and the Panasonic's handset-to-handset intercom capabilities, you'll probably find yourself buzzing co-workers often. On the base station, each extension has its own intercom button with space beside it for writing down corresponding names. These buttons can also be used to transfer calls to one or all handsets. If they choose to, employees can then use their handsets' own intercom buttons to transfer calls or talk to each other.

Conference call, speakerphone, headset capabilities
Up to 3 people can participate in calls using either the base unit's speakerphone or the conference call feature. Conference calls can be initiated from any of the handsets or the base station. If you're worried about privacy, the base station has its own corded handset as well as a jack for using a headset (headset not included).

Backup battery
During normal use, the base station keeps a NiCd battery fully charged. Should a power failure occur, this battery can maintain full system power for up to 20 minutes. You don't have to worry about AA batteries rusting or expiring.

Handset features
The stylish handsets with lighted dialpads are among the best on the market. Using 2.4 GHz technology, range is superb and the NiMH battery keeps power strong for up to 3 days of regular use. Each handset provides access to all 4 lines as well as the ability to communicate with all the others. As with the base station, the excellent ergonomics and large backlit LCD make functions easy to use and keep button clutter to a minimum. And if you use the supplied belt clip and a headset, mobility can be at a maximum.

Voice mail
The base and all 8 cordless extensions have their own voice mail mailboxes and passwords. Together the mailboxes can hold up to a total of 50 minutes of messages and greetings. If you need additional space, recordings can be set to a lower quality level, thereby doubling the capacity to 100 minutes total. Even on this setting, the clarity is excellent. And since keeping track of capacity when you have up to 8 extensions in the office can be difficult, the system can be set to erase all messages that are one month old.

Here's a great example of this system's user-friendly design: When listening to messages, most voice mail systems prompt you to both save and erase a message. But when you think about it, isn't doing one negating the other? If you save a message, you obviously don't want to erase it. Why do systems make you listen to both options? Well, this system doesn't. This may seem like a trivial point; but, personally, I appreciate any amount of time a phone system can save me.

Automated attendant system
By greeting callers and transferring them to the appropriate extensions, the Automated Attendant System (AAS) gives smaller offices a larger, more professional image. Each of the incoming lines on the base station has its own button to activate the AAS. Once activated, one of 5 greetings (pre-recorded or self-recorded) can be selected. Assign specific lines to each department yet still give employees access to all 4 lines. The greetings instruct callers how to reach their desired extensions.

The system can be set up to function as a simple answering machine where calls immediately ring all extensions, then are diverted to the general mailbox if no one answers. Or if you'd like to assign specific extensions to each incoming line, ring groups can be programmed. For example, a call to line 1 can ring extensions 0 (base unit), 2, 4, and 8. A call to line 2 can ring extensions 5 through 7.

If another call is received by an active handset, 2 short tones will sound and a line status icon will flash on the LCD as it displays the Call Waiting ID information. If left unanswered, the call will be diverted to the AAS.

Remote operation
One of the few flaws of Panasonic's single line 2.4 GHz cordless phone was its poorly configured remote operation. Fortunately, the entire process has been revamped. When you call the multi-line system from an outside telephone, press * and your password. You'll be transferred immediately to your mailbox. From there, helpful voice prompts guide you through other system features.

Limitations on simultaneous use
You cannot have all 8 handsets active at the same time. The possible combination of active components is somewhat more complicated, but, in a nutshell, only 4 handsets can be simultaneously in use, whether they are connected to an outside call or to each other via intercom. Keep this in mind if your group will be using the intercom feature often during times when phone traffic is intense.

Miscellaneous
Pager notification is available for each extension. Input your pager number into a handset or the base station. When you receive a new voice mail message, the system will call your pager and leave the caller's telephone number with an "11" at the end. If Caller ID information is not available, your pager will display a preset number of your choice.

The Panasonic Multi-Line Phone System lets you restrict calls made from individual extensions. For instance, if you have a few employees who abuse their phone privileges, you can prevent their extensions from making long distance or international calls.

Recommendation
By incorporating all the best features of their single-line 2.4 GHz cordless phones while fixing a few problems (such as remote message retrieval), Panasonic has delivered an outstanding multi-extension 4-line phone system. At the low price of $529.99 (which includes the base, one handset, and a handset charging cradle), this is the best phone system I have ever reviewed. I can't imagine anyone being disappointed with it. If you don't have 4 lines in your office, you might want to check out the 2-line version here. It has the same great features at a lower price.

What I Liked Best   What I Didn't Like
  • Accommodates 4 incoming lines and 8 cordless extensions
  • Easy setup
  • Call transfer/intercom between extensions
  • Separate phone directories and Caller ID for extensions
  • Stylish handsets
  • Excellent 2.4 GHz range and long-lasting NiMH batteries
  • Automated Attendant System
  • 9 Voice mail mailboxes
  • Excellent remote operation
 
  • Only 4 handsets can be in use at the same time



 


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