Panasonic KX-TGP500

Panasonic KX-TGP500

The Panasonic KX-TGP500 is a SIP-based wireless DECT phone and base station combo for home and small office environments.

Since I’m mostly at my desk in the office, I’m not a heavy wireless SIP user so you might want to take everything I say in this review with a grain of salt and keep in mind that your reviewer doesn’t typically use this type of device in his day-to-day.

In my experience, wireless SIP phones are a tossup. You have your okay ones, which aren’t a huge pain in a butt to use, and then your not-so-okay ones, which make me want to flip tables out of rage. I haven’t tested out any other DECT phones that I love, or would make me consider replacing the Polycom at my desk.

The Panasonic TGP500 comes with a base station, an unassuming black box that you can mount on a wall or hide in the corner of a room somewhere, and one Panasonic TPA50 cordless handset. Each base station supports up to 6 handsets, and up to 8 different lines. Each base station can also handle up to 3 simultaneous calls to the outside world, but you’ll be able to intercom between handsets without taking up any of your 3 open lines. Other highlights include wideband audio, and full duplex speakerphones and large, backlit LCDs on the handsets.

Phone Configuration

We have a dedicated knowledgebase article on how to manually configure the TGP500 with our OnSIP service here. Clicking on the link will open a separate window for your convenience.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind here. First of all, you won’t be able to access your web admin portal if any of your handsets have the ‘Embedded web’ setting set to ‘Off’. This is because all of the handsets linked to a particular base station share a single IP address. To make sure that you have access to your web admin portal, go into Menu > IP service > Network setting > Embedded web on your handset. Select ‘On’ and hit save. Sometimes your handsets will inexplicably revert back to ‘Off’ for Embedded web, so if your web admin portal isn’t loading, now you know why.

Secondly, the web admin portal makes it easy to perform a manual firmware update. All you have to do is download the file onto your computer and use it in the local firmware update menu under the top-level maintenance tab. Firmware can be downloaded for free from the Panasonic website.

Panasonic TGP500 manual firmware update screenshot

Something else worth noting is the Multi Number Settings menu located under the top-level telephone tab in the web admin portal. This is where you decide which handset rings when someone calls a particular line, and which lines each handset will have access to for outbound calls. By default, everything is checked, which obviously isn’t the most practical way to handle inbound and outbound calls for every business.

Managing multiple lines on the Panasonic KX-TGP500

Overall, Panasonic made manual provisioning easy, though the web admin menu may be a little intimidating for first timers. It can get quite in-depth (different phonebooks for each handset, call control rules for each line, etc), which we can certainly appreciate. Changes we made within the web portal were pushed to the phone without any noticeable delay or the need to reboot the system.

JN Testing

At Junction Networks, we put each of the phones we use through a multi-step interoperability test in which we apply ~30 test cases. An example of a test case would be the following:

Test phone calls phone B

B picks up

B puts Test phone on hold

B calls phone C

C picks up

B transfers test phone to C

Call must be transferred correctly to C. B must be released correctly after the transfer. When C picks up, audio must work in both ways between test phone and C. When test phone is on hold, there is no audio between it and phone B.

[Firmware Version 12.35]

The Panasonic KX-TGP500 passed our interoperability tests with only minor issues. Some of the latest firmware updates have added transfer and blind transfer, which makes these phones viable in a business setting. These features worked without a hitch during our tests, by the way. What failed is actually a special case involving our own auto attendant. When we dialed into it using a SIP account, we didn’t have any problems getting to another destination by punching in an extension. However, when we tried again using an SIP account (this is the SIP domain we typically use for testing) on another handset, this second phone would decide it didn’t want to participate and return a 404. We’re still digging into this issue and will hopefully get to the bottom of it soon.

Voice Quality

For a while now, we’ve been telling you how the voice quality is on the phones we test. Starting from this point forward, we’ll let you listen for yourself.

Here are a few points for comparison.

This is a standard cell phone using GSM.

IPhone Handset by junctionnetworks

This is a Polycom Soundpoint IP 550 using HD Voice.

Polycom 550 Handset by junctionnetworks

And, finally, this is the Panasonic KX-TGP500 in wideband audio (G.722).

Panasonic KX-TGP 500 handset by junctionnetworks

Not bad, right? For some reason the recording is much quieter, but I daresay it’s comparable to the Polycom in clarity, which is pretty fantastic.

For the speakerphone comparison, I’m just going to leave out the cell phone because it’s pretty terrible.

This is a Polycom Soundpoint IP 550 speakerphone using HD voice.

Polycom 550 Speakerphone by junctionnetworks

This is the Panasonic KX-TGP500 speakerphone through the cordless handset (G.722).

Panasonic KX-TGP 500 Speaker by junctionnetworks

Again, I’m impressed. I yelled a little at the beginning there because I was afraid it'd be too quiet. There's a slight increase in background noise when you compare it to the Polycom but the speakerphone on this little puppy was way better than the one on the Panasonic KX-UT136 when we tested it a couple of months ago (although I’m sure there have updates to that as well since then so we’ll certainly have to take a second look). I could hear the person on the other end very clearly on my end, while they reported high clarity. The only complaint I got at one point was that I was a little quiet.

Of course, I have to mention that you will only get wideband audio on IP calls, calls that do not traverse the public switched telephone network at any point. For OnSIP customers, this means all SIP calls, extension-to-extension calls, and conferencing. For calls that do traverse the PSTN, Panasonic uses G.711. Those calls obviously don’t sound as crisp, but what you do get is still much better than cell phone quality.

Overall, I’m pleasantly surprised with the audio quality. Panasonic delivers on this front.

Ease of Use

First, I’ll go over some of what I think are the phone’s highlights in no particular order.

The Panasonic TPA50 cordless handset features a large, white, backlit LCD. It’s the biggest one I’ve seen on a DECT handset, allowing up to 6 menu options to fit on the screen at once.

To navigate through the onscreen menus, Panasonic provides you with a mini joystick, which makes using the handset that much more tolerable. One of my biggest gripes with most DECT phones is that they’re just not fun to use. In my experience, this is because of several main reasons. The LCD may be too small (which we’ve already established isn’t the case here), or menu options may be hidden behind layers of submenus and require too much alternating between arrow key presses and ‘select’ key presses to find them. There may even be noticeable lag between user inputs and the desired responses, which always frustrates me to no end. Luckily, the TGP500 handset suffers from none of these issues. The joystick is multipurpose, and acts as both your 'select' key and call button in addition to being the navigation mechanism. I also experienced no noticeable input lag during testing.

The handsets have good battery life when left in standby mode. I’ve had one on my desk since Monday morning (after a full charge) and it’s currently still at 2 bars out of 3 on a Thursday night.

The handsets have the same form factor as most other DECT phones we’ve seen, and are very well made, which isn’t unexpected considering the brand. They come in black with a thick, reflective outline. It’s simple, not too out of the ordinary, and wouldn’t look out of place in the office.

The handsets can also serve as their own paging / intercom system. You can easily set them up so that they auto-answer when someone’s using the intercom feature. On an unrelated note, if you ever happen to lose one of them in your home or office, clicking the ‘All’ button on the base station will ring all the handsets associated with that unit.

I have a really short list of things I’m not so crazy about.

Spongy rubber buttons. I’ve never been a huge fan of them. It’s on my list of things that make a phone not fun to use. With the exception of the joystick, everything you can press on the TPA50 handset is a spongy rubber button. I will say that the numpad keys are quite far apart so you’re unlikely to fat finger anything. You can also set your handset so that it plays a tone each time it recognizes a key press.

I guess that was only one thing. To date, the Panasonic TGP500 would probably be my favorite DECT phone I’ve tested. Again, take that with a grain of salt considering my limited experience with SIP cordless phones, but if I had to replace my Polycom with a DECT device today, it would be with this one.

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