AT&T EL51203 Review
Pros: Inexpensive, great value, decent range
Cons: Below average battery life
Compare to Similar Products
$43.99 at Amazon
$60.95 at Amazon
|$60 List||$58 List|
$65.95 at Amazon
$47.82 at Amazon
|Pros||Inexpensive, great value, decent range||Easy to use, good sound quality||Great range, user-friendly||Good sound quality, easy to use, good range||Inexpensive, good sound quality|
|Cons||Below average battery life||Lackluster battery life, limited features||So-so sound quality, limited battery life||Limited features, short battery life||Few features, average range and battery life|
|Bottom Line||Above average range and sound quality for a great price, making this an obvious choice for those on a budget||If you are looking for a middle-of-the-road phone at a middle-of-the-road price, then this is it||This phone is easy to use and has an impressive range but didn't make much of an impression on us overall||This phone does have one of the larger displays of the group but otherwise failed to stand out against the other phones||A bare bones model that has exceptionally good sound quality for those on a budget|
|Rating Categories||AT&T EL51203||AT&T DL72219||Panasonic KX-TGD532W||VTech VS112-2||VTech CS6719-2|
|Sound Quality (30%)|
|Ease of Use (20%)|
|Battery Life (10%)|
|Specs||AT&T EL51203||AT&T DL72219||Panasonic KX-TGD532W||VTech VS112-2||VTech CS6719-2|
|Link - to - Cell||No||Yes||No||Yes||No|
|Caller ID announce||No||No||Yes||No||No|
|Unobstructed Range Test||840 ft.||840 ft.||840 ft.||840 ft.||750 ft.|
|Obstructed Range Test||220 ft.||280 ft.||390 ft.||230 ft.||220 ft.|
|Call block||Dial *60||Up to 1,000||Up to 150||Up to 1,000||Up to 20 with a subscription|
|Expandable Handsets||Up to 5||Up to 5||Up to 6||Up to 5||Up to 5|
|Corded (phone) Base||No||No||No||No||No|
|Speaker Phone on Base||No||No||No||No||No|
|Speaker Phone on Handset||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Phone Book Capacity||50||1000||100||1000||50|
|Redial||Last 10 Numbers||Last 10 Numbers||Yes||Last 10 Numbers||Last 10 Numbers|
|Any Key answer||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Push to talk (PTT)||No||No||No||No||No|
|HD Audio w/ equalizer||No||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|Optional Belt Clip||No||No||No||No||No|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Sound quality is one of the most important rating metrics when it comes to cordless phones, as it inherently covers the main functions of these devices. Our test consisted of a panel of listeners evaluating a message left with each type of phone, and then scoring them. While scoring, our panel was not aware of which model phone left which message.
This phone still scored above average and was received favorably by our panel of listeners. The evaluation panel felt that this phone was very clear, but that it was slightly quieter than the top scorers. This sentiment was expressed across the board by our judges, who all felt that this phone was quiet but very clear.
After researching as much existing information as we could find, and talking with a wide variety of people, we felt that the range of a cordless phone as a rating metric earned the second-highest weighting. We split this test into two distinct tests: an unobstructed, line of sight test, and an obstructed test with multiple walls between base and handset. This model performed great on the clear, line of sight test, tying with our top scorers and remaining audible at 840' away from the base.
This phone's range began to suffer when it came to dealing with interference, scoring much lower in the pack as more walls were between the handset and the base. We tested with the base inside a house, and brought each handset outside, forcing the signal to travel through 5-6 walls, and then measured the maximum range each model would work at. The EL51203 became hard to understand and eventually cut out at 220' from the base. This range would be more than sufficient for most households, and not a reason to discount purchasing this model unless you have a rather large home.
Ease of Use
This model came in the middle of the pack when it came to ease of use. It wasn't the easiest to use of all the models that we tested, but it worked well enough, especially when you consider its price. We looked at both simple and advanced functions and evaluated how easy each was to use, and then aggregated the results to determine overall scores.
First off, we assessed how easy it was to actually see the information displayed on the handset. Similar to a standard eye test, each handset was set up at fixed distances from an observer with random information on the display, and the observer was asked to correctly identify the information present on the screen. This model remained visible at a little over 5' away, finally becoming illegible around 6'.
Next up, was judging how difficult it would be to use this phone in a dark environment. This model scored the highest out of all the AT&T phones, with a display and backlit buttons that made it very easy to dial out. The buttons were very easy to read, and the display was easy on the eyes. However, all of the Panasonic phones were substantially easier to use in a dark environment; something to consider if that will be one of the primary use cases for your cordless phone.
We appreciated that the display hyphenated the number as you entered it, making it much easier to catch any errors or typos before calling. The handsets also feature "any-key" answer — very handy when rushing to answer a call.
Moving on to some of the more advanced functions, it was easy enough to input names into the phonebook, navigating through this model's second set of menus and then typing in the name of the contact using multi-tap methods, just like texting on an older flip phone. Blocking an unwanted number was a little more difficult, requiring you to dial *60 and then working through a long and somewhat complicated series of voice prompts. This model only displays one menu option at a time, something we found to be slightly frustrating when compared to some of the other models that displayed a full list of options on one screen when scrolling through to change settings.
The EL51203 is a more bare-bones model of cordless phone, running a little lighter on the feature side. This phone can only host up to 5 handsets, compared to 12 on some of the other models that we tested. This model specifically advertises that it has large buttons, as well as a backlit keypad. It is not possible to link-to-cell with this device, and the lack of a keypad or speaker on the main base makes line power mode impossible.
This phone also lacks an integrated answering machine or a headset jack/belt clip combo to make hands-free talking possible; however, this model has the capability to act as an intercom system between handsets and has the capacity to store up to 50 numbers.
This model had a slightly below-average performance in battery life. This phone lasted for 10 hours and 7 minutes in our talk time test. This phone had a low battery indicator of a flashing light as well as an audible beep to notify you that the battery was depleted. This alert went off around 10 hours in our talk time test, giving you just enough time to politely end the call before the battery died. This phone also has a manufacturer-claimed standby time of 5 days, and a charge time of 16 hours.
It did lag behind the top-scoring models, but it's hard to beat its price, especially with a stronger than average performance in our two highest weighted metrics.
This phone was not the best in any category but did well enough to more than justify its price. This is the perfect phone if you want a cordless phone mainly as a backup, or for semi-regular use. It gets the job done, and won't cost you an arm and a leg.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer
Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.Learn More