You have to feel a little sorry for Panasonic's DECT phone engineers. While their compatriots are beavering away on Blu-ray players and Viera TVs, they're undoubtedly stuck in a dark, dusty corner somewhere, only being let out for their annual 'will this do?'.
One look at the Panasonic KX-TG7321EG should confirm your suspicions. Comprising a bulky, but curved handset and an uninspiring base station, it seems to scream afterthought. Only its orange backlit LCD display and keypad seem to shed any light.
Actually it's not quite as bad as all that. Given the asking price, the Panasonic KX-TG7321EG feels solid, weighty and reassuringly comfortable, its ergonomic curves ensuring that the handset sits snugly in your hand.
Look and feel
Its design harks back to early Nokia phones like the 3110. Heck there's even a flash of amber light at the top to tell you when the phone is charging. But then the Nokia 3110 was one of the best, most reliable mobile phones ever made.
The ergonomics stretch right over to the keypad itself - its big, comfortably spaced buttons sit proud of the fascia, while the backlight also makes it easy to dial in the dark.
The whole thing's uninspiringly finished in silver and mid-grey plastic, but the call buttons and 4-way D-pad at least make using the Panasonic KX-TG7321EG UI straight forward. Here Panasonic has made some incremental steps forward too.
The UI is still unashamedly retro, with its blocky black text and complete absence of gimmicky icons, but it's also a lot less cryptic than Panasonic DECT phones of yore. Press one of the three soft keys below the LCD now now and you actually get a real sense or what it might do, or where in the menu system it will take you - something that couldn't be said from previous generation DECT 'sets from Panasonic that we've tried.
Features and call quality
The Panasonic KX-TG7321EG is reassuringly solid when it comes to features too. The digital answering machine can store up to 30 minutes of messages, the name-and-number contact book can hold 100 contacts; while you also get slightly modern niceties like Caller ID (provided you've signed up to the appropriate service). The base station even offers support for up to six handsets.
Call and answer machine voice quality is good, while the rechargeable NiMH cells take only seven hours to fully charge - a good deal less than the 24-hour average more modern DECT phones seem to muster.
So the Panasonic KX-TG7321EG is solid, reliable, unpretentious performer. You wouldn't want to boast about it down the pub to your friends, but it actually gets very little really wrong, and does quite a few things right. Maybe being a Panasonic DECT phone engineer isn't quite so bad after all.