Monday, December 27, 2010

Panasonic KX-TG6445 - a great cordless phone for the OOMA Telo

I've been a fan of the OOMA Telo since I got it just over a year ago.  In fact, I just got my first annual bill associated with OOMA that starts on your second year of service.  I paid only $11.75 for another year (saving me $360 per year).  A fantastic deal for what has been excellent phone service and a great way to cut your bills without sacrifice!

When I bought my OOMA telo I simply used it with my old Uniden cordless phones (and it worked reasonably well with them).  However, the batteries on my Uniden handsets were starting to die and rather than replace them I thought  it might be time to look for something better.

Panasonic KX-TG6445t

Initially, I was just looking for a decent deal on a phone set with at least 4 handsets.

However, as I read a bit more about the newer DECT 6.0 phones I ran across some really cool features that made upgrading my phones particularly tempting.

Because my old Uniden phone wasn't able to detect if there was voicemail on my OOMA telo, I was always stuck with using two message systems.  I used the built in answering machine on the Uniden 95% of the time.  However, if I got a call while I was on the phone, it would still go to my OOMA voicemail.

This was particularly annoying as it was easy to miss that I had a message waiting on my OOMA telo (v.s. my Uniden which would simply flash to get my attention).

Time for a better phone!

Note:  The KX-TG6445t is the 5 handset (t = titanium black) version of KX-TG6441 (one handset w/answering machine), KX-TG6442 (two handsets), KX-TG6443 (three handsets), KX-TG6444 (four handsets).
What I look for a in a cordless phone

Besides the obvious features that we all take for granted (good voice quality, simple use, long battery life, good build quality, etc.), there are some things that I MUST have in a cordless phone:
  • It shouldn't interfere with my wifi network (DECT 6.0 uses 1.9 Ghz) - so that should be fine
  • Lots of handsets (I could use 4, and the KX-TG6445 comes with 5) - nice to have a spare!
  • A easy to use MUTE feature (comes in handy when you have a noisy household)
  • It should also have a standard 2.5mm headset jack... for those long phone calls!
Bonus features of the KX-TG6445:
  • Talking Caller ID - This is, in a word, simply awesome.  It announces each call on the second ring with fairly reasonable clarity.  You can even edit (or override) the name that each phone number announces (a feature that is just asking to be abused!).
  • Supports a caller block lists - for those annoying robo-calls that just won't stop! - works great!
  • Each handset uses two standard AAA rechargeable batteries (no more battery packs to replace, yeah!)
  • Very power efficient (only 1.1 Watts while in standby) - less than most nightlights!
  • Cool intercom feature.  With enough handsets for one in every room, my kids love this.  Beats the heck out of using tin cups and string!
  • Automatically updates the time from caller ID info - one less device for me to update for daylight savings time!
Note that you might have noticed that Panasonic has newer models branded "DECT 6.0 Plus".  The KX-TG6445t is not one of the "Plus" models.  However, last time I was at Fry's Electronics I noticed quite a few returns of the "Plus" models.  Also, the KX-TG6445 gets pretty good reviews on Amazon.  Sometimes the "lower" model is the one to get!

So, how does it work with OOMA?

Just about any phone will "work" with the OOMA Telo.  However, the trick with using one with the OOMA telo is good voicemail integration.  A phone should have the following features:
  • Should be able to disable the built-in answer machine (if it has one)
  • Should be able to program (and easily dial) a voicemail number
  • Should support a Visual Voicemail Waiting Indicator (VMWI).  Turns out there are two ways to do this:  FSK (frequency shift keying) or SDT (stutter dial tone).
In the case of the Panasonic KX-TG6445, it works great with OOMA voicemail.  The answer machine is easily turned off and you can configure it to call OOMA's voicemail instead.  As far as Voicemail Detection, the Panasonic KX-TG6445 seems to support either FSK and SDT.  FYI:  the OOMA telo uses FSK for those that care.

Once you set it up, each handset will show if you have new voicemail waiting (and flash the charging LED).

Finally!  No more hassles with two different message systems!

Note:  I could have just gotten a phone without an answering machine as well (might be cheaper).  However, I might not always have OOMA and I don't want to have to buy a new phone if I change providers.

What about the cordless OOMA handsets?

OOMA does make a DECT 6.0 cordless handset you can buy:

I'm sure these handsets have even better OOMA integration (and/or voice quality).  However, at $50 a handset, they just aren't as good of a deal (for me).  If you only need one or two handsets, they might be worth trying out.

Other tips for using the Panasonic KX-TG6445

It is definitely worth spending some time reading the manual to look at the different ways you can configure this phone (there are lots of options).  I ended up disabling the ringers on all of my handsets.  I enabled the ringer (and voice caller ID) on my base station only.  If you have a small enough house, having only one phone ringing may be enough for you.

What I didn't like about the phone

So far I only have a few minor criticisms of the phone:

Issue #1:  I can't name each handset like I could with my older Uniden phone.

The Panasonic KX-TG6445 handsets are labeled 1-5, plus there is the base station.  Naming is really nice if you like the intercom system.  However, since all of the phones look alike, it is really easy to mix them up.  If you named them then you'd have to worry about them ending up in the wrong room.   So, the lack of naming is a minor issue for me and easily ignored.

Issue #2:  I wish the handset display was a bit easier to read from a distance.

The LCD handset display isn't very high contrast and is hard to read from a few feet away.  Once the backlight is on, this isn't a problem.  I'd also like it if the charging LED was more visible from the front.  This would make it easier to notice when it is flashing for new voicemail.

All in all I'm pleased and the Panaxonic KX-TG6445.  It is a cool phone and makes a great addition to my OOMA Telo!


  1. Hi,
    I believe the phone purchased from US works on DTMF. Is there any way i can configure FSK on the phone? Please help....

  2. Get the TG-6541 and each of the five phones can be identified as to location, e.g. Kitchen, Bedroom 1, Family Room, etc.

  3. Thanks for the sharing of such information we will pass it on to our readers.


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