Panasonic KX-TA824 phone system
Panasonic’s KX-TA824 is an extremely popular residential and small business phone system, with a wealth of features, easy installation, high quality, and good value.
It's initially equipped to handle up to three lines and eight phones, and easily expands to handle up to eight phones and 24 phones.
The 824 is a “hybrid” design allowing you to connect either Panasonic proprietary telephones, or single-line phones and gadgets (fax, TiVo, modem, etc.) to any phone jack in the system, without special hardware.
You can save money by using an ordinary $20 single-line phone in less important places like the garage or attic; or where you want to keep things simple, like the guest room (no need to explain all the buttons to grandma). You can also take advantage of this flexibility to let a child or wife keep using a favorite “decorator” phone or novelty phone, when you upgrade from having just a bunch of phones to a real phone system. (With some other systems, if you want to use a $20 phone instead of a $200 phone, you need to get a $200 adapter. Goodbye savings.)
The KX-TA824 is the first Panasonic phone system to offer three voicemail options:
#1 You can use telephone company voicemail. Each outside line can have a voice mailbox, and calls can be answered by the telco’s robot even when your lines are busy. When a message is waiting, a light will let you know; and you’ll hear a “stutter” dial tone when you access a phone line. You'll probably pay $5 - $10 per line per month for this.
#2 If you want mailboxes for individual people rather than phone lines, and don’t feel like enriching AT&T or Verizon any more than necessary, you can use Panasonic’s optional “in-skin” voice mail circuit card. It provides up to 60 minutes of high quality recording time, and gives each phone a personal mailbox that can be customized to greet callers. We DO NOT recommend this circuit. It requires that every call be answered by automated attendant, and it can become expensive compared to the much more versatile KX-TVA50, mentioned below.
#3 If you require a more fully featured voice mail system with auto attendant, the KX-TA824 can be connected to a Panasonic voice processing system, such as the KX-TVA50.
Out of the box, the KX-TA824 supports three outside lines and eight phones (3X8 configuration). Up to two additional circuit boards can be installed, for a maximum system capacity of eight lines and 24 phones. The 8 x 24 size has not previously been available in Panasonic KX-T systems, and makes the 824 particularly well-suited for serving your home and your business, if the business is at home.
The system is almost organic, in how it can evolve with the needs of your business or family. If you have young children, their phones could stop ringing at 7 or 8 pm. If you have college-age kids, you can allow their phones to ring at any time of night, but program the phones in the master bedroom to not ring after 11.
You can also program which lines ring where, so business calls don’t ring in the playroom, kids’ calls don’t ring in the office, and no calls ring in the home theater.
At proprietary phones where different kinds of calls ring, you can program different ringing patterns, such as a single ring for kids, a double ring for parents, and a triple ring for business. If you do this, no one will waste time running to answer a phone, only to find it's for someone else when they see which light is flashing.
The door intercoms produce the same ringing patterns, but you can connect door chimes, bells or other signals, and they can be programmed to ring with different patterns. Phone displays will show “Door 1,” “Door 2,” etc.
The system can handle ordinary analog phone lines, as well as VoIP. It will also work with phone company distinctive ringing service; but since it does not have ring decoding built-in, you will need a “ring detector” ahead of the 824.
In addition to displaying Caller ID name and number on a Panasonic proprietary telephone, the KX-TA824 can also send Caller ID to single-line telephones, PCs, or Caller ID display accessories.
Other Panasonic systems either couldn’t do this at all, or could do it for just one phone, or required an extra-cost circuit board to do it. With the 824, the feature costs you nada.
The 824 has sockets for up to three miniature 3-line Caller ID cards. The first card is a freebie, pre-installed at the factory, saving you over a hundred bucks. As Elvis used to say, “Thank you very much.”
You also get Caller ID on Call Waiting ("Type 2"), which was not available on the more expensive KX-TD systems.
The Caller ID log can log all calls into a common log that can be viewed at any display phone, and it can log both answered and unanswered calls.
You can also plug in a Caller ID display box (often free from your phone company), or connect a PC for a detailed record of all calls, in and out ("SMDR").
The KX-TA824 is extremely easy to install, with simple modular jacks for dial tone and phones. I recommend a 2’ x 4’ piece of 5/8” plywood mounted horizontally, at eye level, to hold the 824 and add-ons.
Don’t forget surge protection, for both phone lines and AC power. ITW Linx has recently taken over the PanaMax phone system product line, and their stuff is very good.
Unlike some TVs, the KX-TA824 will work right out of the box with no programming at all. However, you’ll probably prefer that the displays show the correct time and date; and you have four programming options:
You can program the 824 with a proprietary display phone. The KX-T7736 or older 7735 are the best choices, because of their big displays, but you can also use other models, like a KX-T7030.
Use a PC through the DB9 serial port.
Use a PC through the USB port.
Use a PC remotely by PC through the system's built-in remote programming modem.
With other Panasonic systems, a programming modem costs hundreds of bucks. With the 824, the modem is on the motherboard; so again, installation time is zero minutes, and the cost to you is gornicht.
And if that’s not enough free stuff to get you salivating, you also get terrific Windows software, for nutten, honey. Panasonic software for the KX-TD816 and 1232 costs nearly $300.
Your system's custom programming can be saved on a PC for backup and restore. The USB and serial ports can be live at the same time, permitting simultaneous programming, and logging for call accounting.
The 824 system supports up to four door lock controls (or remote gate openers) and four door intercom speakers.
Of course, you also get phone-to-phone intercom, and you can make an announcement (“Supper’s ready!”) through the speakers in all of the phones if your press Intercom, 330 or press a pre-programmed button.
If you want to have a conversation, say "(name) call 43." When the other person picks up the phone and dials 43, the two of you will be connected in a private conversation, and all of the speakers in the other phones will be shut off.
On a new KX-TA824 installation, you’ll probably use Panasonic’s excellent KX-T7700 series proprietary phones. On an upgrade, you can also use older phones, particularly the KX-T7000 series models. The new 7700s are nicer, can have displays that show three lines of text, and have money-saving, space-saving built-in 2.5mm headset jacks. Unfortunately, their output level is a bit low, but AbleComm has high-output monaural and binaural headsets to solve the problem.
Even if you are not going to use Caller ID, you will miss a lot of convenience if you don't get display phones. They're very important for use with the built-in voice mail, system speed dialing, and for programming features in individual phones.
In any location where you want to see Caller ID, the KX-T7736 is a better choice than the KX-T7731, because the bigger display can show both name and number at the same time. In places where you don’t need displays, you can save money by getting the KX-T7720. Don’t bother considering the KX-T7750 “monitor” phone. It’s a lot less convenient than the other models because it lacks a microphone, but the dollar savings are insignificant, unless you need hundreds of phones.
The 824 feature list is endless, and we don't have endless space, so here are a few more items to entice and excite you: music-on-hold input, built-in on-hold reminder tone, paging output, account codes, automatic redial of busy numbers, conference calls, DSS console, electronic phone lock, exclusive hold, room monitor (great for checking on babies or spying on employees), power failure transfer, class of service, timed reminder (wake up at six or take a pill at ten), away from phone text messages, background music, flexible buttons, "this-extension" number display, extension groups (press one button to ring a group of people).
The 824 is supplied with four manuals. The FEATURE MANUAL is the most important, because it tells you what the system can do, and refers you to pages and sections in the other books. The OPERATING MANUAL is the second most important, because it tells you how to do the things that are listed in the Feature Manual.
LOOK CAREFULLY: It can be hard to find things. If you want info on telephone company voicemail, you don't look under V or T or P or C in the index. It's in the L section, for "local carrier-based voice mail service." When you find important pages, bookmark them with little plastic Post-It Notes. You may want to add some of your own notes, too, as you make discoveries. For example, the programming manual skips over some “secret programs," such as #113 and 114, which set auto-busy-redial.
WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE: When the manuals talk about a “pager,” they don't mean a beeper you clip to your belt. They mean a paging system ("public address" system). Panasonic has kept this bit of stupidity through many generations of manuals, and will probably never fix it.
IN CONCLUSION: Despite a few lapses in documentation language and organization, the KX-TA824 is an extremely good phone system, and a fine choice for just about any home, and many businesses.
Since the value of the FREE auto attendant, FREE Caller ID circuit, FREE Caller ID on single-line phones circuit, FREE remote programming modem, and FREE software, is more than twice the price of the 824, it’s like getting the 824 for FREE… and that’s hard to beat.
We don't know of any other system that gives you so much, for such a low price; and many other systems do less and cost more. Panasonic has set a new standard for phone systems in the 824 size range, and it will be very difficult for other manufacturers to catch up.