There has been a wealth of input from end users of the two Panasonic cordless phone models, KX-TG7745 and 7645. I elected to buy the newer 7745 model, even in spite of three very significant features that are missing compared to the 7645: (1) the 7645 has a built-in Range Boost antenna on the base unit which allows it to operate at up to 20% further distances from the base without experiencing excessive static and background noise; (2) the 7645 has a battery back-up feature on the base unit which allows it to continue to function during power outages; and (3) the 7645 base unit has a two-line LCD display (which is kind of redundant to the handset display). The newer 7745 model has none of these three features.
At the time when I bought the newer 7745 system, it was about $20 cheaper than the lowest price I could find on the 7645, plus I felt a little better about buying this year's model instead of last year's model. (At the time of my writing this, I noticed that the price of the 7745 has slightly gone up and the 7645 has slightly come down; so, now the 7645 is about $10-$15 cheaper than the 7745.) Also, I had not fully understood nor discovered the 3 major differences listed above which were kind of hard to get Panasonic tech support to confirm prior to my purchase. In hindsight knowing what I know now, I probably would have ordered the 7645 model since in addition to those three features, it has all the capabilities of the 7745. But I do have to say that I am quite satisfied with the 7745 after receiving it, installing it, and playing with it for the last couple of days. The remainder of this article summarizes my experience with the Panasonic KX-TG7745S (which is the newer 2012 model):
In addition to ordering the KX-TG7745S (5-phone set), I also ordered an additional handset model KX-TGA470S for a total of six handsets, a range extender (repeater) model KX-TGA405B, a UPS backup power supply, and a set of 12 Maha PowerEx 1000 mAh AAA low self-discharge pre-charged batteries, and a battery charger/conditioner/analyzer.
A little about my usage environment. I live out in a country home with a rural setting at the top of a hill on about 30 acres of land. My closest neighbor is about a half a mile away. I have a metal shop/barn out-building which is about 50 to 60 yards from my house, also at the top of the hill. My mailbox is about 150 yards away down at the bottom of the hill at street level. I frequently ride my ATV up to about 300 yards from the house. I have wireless internet that runs on both 2.4 and 5.0 GHz bands. We have fluorescent lighting in the basement offices, some fluorescent lights up on the main level, and fluorescent lights in my shop. My home is a single level home, but has a finished out basement where we have our two work offices and our den/recreation area. The bedrooms, living room, kitchen, and dining room are on the ground level, and there is a sunroom attached to the back of the house. We wanted to put a handset in each of these areas, and I was kind of hoping a cordless phone would work throughout all of these locations. From what I was reading, it seemed like a DECT 6.0 phone might be just the ticket for this. I have a Motorola Droid 2 Android smartphone, and my wife has an LG EnV Touch VX11000 feature phone, both of which have bluetooth. We intended on using the Link-to-Cell feature on the Panasonic 7745 phones, but were going to use it with a normal landline as well.
The first thing I did was condition/break-in charge the PowerEx batteries. They are rated at 1000 mAh and are low self-discharge, which means that they hold their charge for a longer period of time when not being used, but many people have also found that when used they also get longer life between charges with these LSD batteries as they are sometimes called. The batteries that came with the phones are rated at only 550 mAh and they probably would have worked fine, but I wanted to be assured a longer lasting charge when I am out working in my shop and steal the sunroom phone off its charging cradle to take with me.
In my first arrangement, I put the base unit in my office down in the basement and the range extender/repeater out in the sunroom, but the repeater was having a hard time staying linked up to the base unit. So, I moved the base unit up to the master bedroom so that it would be at ground level along with the repeater. This actually makes a whole lot more sense anyway because there is a much better line-of-sight from the bedroom down to the street level than there is from the basement. This will allow the handsets to work better down at the street level, plus with this arrangement the repeater linked up great with the base unit in the master bedroom.
I was worried that I was going to have to program all six handsets individually to get them all registered to the base unit and set up, but the majority of features transferred over to all the handsets when you program the first one. Things that would logically need to be different for each handset such as ringer type, ringer volume, and the auto ringer silencer had to be set individually. But I liked the fact that you could name each handset so that it shows up on the display. This allows you to keep track of the phones a little better. When it came time to set up the Bluetooth link to our cell phones, this took only five minutes for both cell phones and was fairly simple. If you have ever used Bluetooth devices before, it will be straightforward. If not, you might need to read the user manual for your cell phone and also the 7745 user manual a couple of times so that you can get the cell phones linked up properly. Also, the Panasonic tech support will walk you through it step by step (800) 211-7262.
Next, we tried transferring our cell phonebooks to the base unit, which is done by keying in a 3-digit code from one of the handsets and then approving the request on the cell phone. We had about 300 numbers between both cell phones to transfer over, but it only took about five minutes to finish both. Some people have complained about this not working properly or not being able to handle contacts that have several phone numbers associated with one name. In the Panasonic user's manual, it clearly states that it will assign the same name to multiple phone numbers if you have multiple numbers for the same contact in your cell phonebook (home, office, work, cell1, cell2, etc). The manual also states that if you have pictures attached to your phonebook entries, the phonebook may not transfer at all. Luckily, we did not have any problems since we do not have pictures for our cell phonebook entries.
There are some other issues with a cell phonebook that has been transferred to the 7745: As you know, cell phone dialing is not the same as landline dialing. For example, with cell phones you never need to 1+ dial your calls even if the area code is different from your cell phone. Also with cell phones, the area code can be dialed along with the number even if the number you are dialing has the same area code as your cell phone. However with landlines, the same is not true and will result in a, "Please try your number again" message if you call a long distance number without a 1+ at the beginning. The same error will happen if you include the area code when you call a local number from your landline. The only thing you can do is edit each entry one by one and add a 1 to all long distance numbers, and remove the area code completely for all local numbers. It's a pain to do, but there really is no other way for Panasonic to solve this issue because it's not really their problem; it's a problem with the cell phone industry which is uniquely different from landline calling (and probably with good reasons that I am not aware of). Here is what I intend on doing: Instead of manually editing all 300 entries, I will edit the phonebook entries over time as I call those numbers or as those contacts call me. No sense editing someone's number that I will not likely talk to any time soon. The editing process is a snap, and if it's in a different area code than my landline, I can edit all contacts in that same area code simultaneously by using the caller ID edit feature (see the user's manual on page 44). However, you do not want to use that procedure for contacts in your same area code because for some you still need the 1+area code to dial them even though they are in your same area code; whereas for others in your area code, you can skip the 1+area code completely. So for contacts in your area code, you will have to edit your phonebook manually; just do it over time.
Now, on to the audio quality that I have experienced with the phones thus far: First off, the range is phenomenal; especially with the range extender that I purchased separately for around $30, shipped. I can ride my ATV as far as I dare (300+ yards away) and the audio quality is very acceptable. I can go down to the street level at the bottom of the hill, and I can go inside my metal shop building and talk with exceptional audio quality. I have been asking the other parties how I sound and everyone says our new phones sound great on their end. When someone calls one of our cell phones and I answer it on the 7745 via Bluetooth, it sounds pretty good as well. One of my first experiences with that was with my daughter who often calls me on her drive to work. When she called, I asked her if I sounded OK and she said, "Yeah, you sound great!" I said, "Well on my end, you sound kind of static-y..." She said it was because she had me on speakerphone and there was a loud 18-wheeler nearby her vehicle. So, her cell phone was talking to my cell phone with hers on speakerphone and mine linked up over Bluetooth to the 7745! Moreover, I was in my backyard about 30 yards away from the repeater unit inside the sunroom. With all that, I wasn't expecting to hear a pin drop in the background but it was descent considering all the junk between she and I.
Next, I hooked up the UPS to the base unit and then unplugged the UPS from the wall to simulate a power failure. Then I went to each of the six handsets and listened for a nice clean dial tone; all were excellent. So far, I don't have any significant complaints with these phones. One thing I would like to know however, is if the 7645 model that has the built in range boost antenna on the base unit will work as well as the 7745 base unit with the range extender/repeater that I purchased extra. If it does, this would have saved me about $10, had I bought the 7645 to begin with at the $20 higher price tag at that time; but, I am a little skeptical of the 7645 alone being able to perform as well as the 7745 + repeater combo which was $10 more than the 7645 alone. You see, I have my base unit positioned near a window at the front of my house, which provides excellent coverage down the hill to the street level. There are about three of four interior walls and an exterior brick wall between my base unit and my sunroom where I have the repeater unit mounted. The repeater unit faces toward the back of my property, so I get very good coverage in two opposing directions with my brick house between the two.
Bottom line: I am very happy with the 7745 phone system. Granted my experience is only 3 or 4 days old at this point. I will update this post a month from now and tell you if anything has changed my opinions. Thanks for everyone's input, especially Demanding.
UPDATE AFTER 2 WEEKS USE:
I am impressed with the audio quality on both ends of land line calls (people tell us we sound good too). We keep our Bluetooth turned on all the time on our two cell phones. The user's manual says optimal performance is achieved when the cell phone is between 2 and 10 feet from the base but we've actually used the link-to-cell feature when the cell phone was in a totally different room from the base unit. Quality is not as good though and although we hear the other party fairly well, they usually comment that we sound static-y. When we put the handset about 5 feet from the base unit, the cell calls are exceptional. One small thing to remember is that when you answer a cell call, don't say "hello" to quickly, wait about 2 to 3 seconds after you pick-up before saying "hello." This gives the link-to-cell time to patch through. We also love the fact that we have three different ring tones set up: two different ring tones for the two cell phones we have, plus a third ring tone for land line calls.
Also, I am glad that I purchased the high capacity AAA batteries because the manual says that you get about 11 days of standby time on a handset if it is within about 10-20 feet from the base unit (Eco Mode ON). When Eco mode is not on, the standby time is greatly reduced. I took two handsets off their charging cradle and left them for days out in my shop so that the Eco mode would clearly not be activated. One handset had the 550 mAh stock bats, while the other handset had the hi capacity 1000 mAh bats. After 7 days, I went out to the shop and the unit with stock bats had died, while the other unit with the hi-cap bats was still showing a full charge on the display. I left it out there another week and it still has quite a bit of charge left on it as of this update (phone indicator has a 5-step battery icon and phone was only down one step from the highest charge level).
I can also say that I do not have to refer to the manual as much as I thought I would. I originally thought I would constantly need to get the three digit codes out of the manual to operate the phone settings, but the codes are really just a quick way of jumping to a particular setting. You can also go through the phone's menu and navigate to the desired settings by using the navigator pad (up, down, left, right button), and the middle "select" soft key button under the screen. It's pretty intuitive to get where you want to go. We don't use the built-in answering machine on this phone system; instead, we use the voice mail service offered by our phone company. The advantage is that we get unlimited message length and number of messages. The indicator light also flashed on all handsets when we have a message on our voice mail. To access the voice mail, we have the phone number programmed in, plus a few pauses, and then the PIN number. Voice mail has a dedicated spot for it to be stored in the menu, and it works like a charm.
Our older 5.8 GHz UNIDEN phones had a 100 number caller I.D. memory; the Panasonic phones only have a 50 number memory. Not that much of a problem, but we could look back to calls over two months old with the UNIDENs where as only about a month on the PANASONICs. Your history will vary depending on how many calls you receive each day. We average 1 to 2 incoming calls per day on the land line, and quite a bit more on the cell phones.