We hate the saying ‘game changer’ – it’s one of those words that doesn’t really mean anything and people bandy about from time to time.
But I think this new device from Polycom deserves it. Polycom have been flogging conference phones to all and sundry for probably close to 20 years – analog, digital, wireless, SIP enabled, then Lync enabled – but they’ve all been close to the original recipe invented way back then. This unit really does change the game in terms of conference and meeting room technology.
Polycom really needed some devices to shake up the collaboration industry and fight off some of the lower cost competitors that were coming to market from Logitech, LifeSize and others. The Trio is the first in hopefully a long line of innovative products that really simplify the conference room meeting conundrum. Polycom are marketing this new unit as a smart hub – and it really is.
To cover off the conference phone features you get
- SIP capable conference phone – supports Open SIP, Lync
- High Definition voice quality
- NoiseBlock support, blocking out keyboard presses/taps
- 5 inch colour touch display
- NFC and Bluetooth pairing to use with mobile devices
- WiFi! – if you just want to power your device locally using AC power, you can – helpful for some scenarios
- My favourite bit – an Ethernet interface that doesn’t require a contortionist to work a cable into the interface – anyone that’s deployed a CX3000 will know what I am talking about!
- Native Skype for Business support – can’t be understated – this unit will integrate with your on-premises Lync 2013, Skype for Business 2015 services
- CloudPBX and PSTN Conferencing support – this unit fully supports Modern Voice and registration to Office 365 for the use with CloudPBX and Microsoft PSTN conferencing
If you just wanted to use this device as a conference phone, register it to your SIP provider or Lync/Skype for Business and be done with it – you can – and it will work as advertised, and well. The audio pickup is fantastic, the unit feels solid and easy to navigate. But it’s when we add video and content features to this unit where it really shines.
We’ve had this unit for quite a while as part of the Polycom Beta program, and I’m sad to see it going back shortly. We had a good run with it and have been taking lots of customers through the various scenarios on how it can be used in a modern collaborative business. We’re more excited by the little black box you can see on the bottom left on the above illustration – the AV Pod.
The AV Pod is what turns this conference phone into a smart hub. The AV pod pairs back to your main conference unit via IP, and can provide HDMI out to your display, as well as audio out and two USB ports, one for your Logitech C930e camera. I haven’t tested this over different VLANs/subnets, so it would be safe to say the pairing would only work on a local subnet or where the AV pod can ‘see’ the main unit.
I’ve had the Trio 8800 with Visual+ Collaboration Kit in use for a while now, and the video quality is excellent. The Logitech C930e camera does a great job with a great field of view and delivers pretty much close to 30 frames per second all the time. I’ve been really impressed with this – for the street price of about $3000-$3500 AUD, it can turn a meeting room into a fully-fledged videoconferencing capable room.
It’s a really neat hardware package and by using standard IEEE 802.3af, you don’t need chunky power injectors or AC adapters clogging up your cabling. We simply powered it off our PoE switches and it worked well. I can’t emphasise enough how quickly it is to get this unit going – literally out of the box and up and running in minutes. You just need network access and a clear spot to connect the AV pod to your display via HDMI.
We’ve had this dialed into Skype for Business 2015 conferences as well as using Acano ‘Spaces’ and the quality is superb – easily eclipsing the whole ‘PC on a desk with a USB camera’ scenario we often see in small meeting rooms.
Some things to note about the Trio 8800 when using the Visual+ collaboration kit:
- Only camera that can be used is the Logitech C930e, I tried using Microsoft LifeCams and they weren’t detected or able to be used
- Nice home screen GUI with the AV Pod connected – clean, professional interface
- Exchange support with support for Exchange Online – so your meetings can show up in the main GUI
- Meeting Join support for Exchange and Exchange Online – single tap to join a meeting
- Only supports H.264 AVC and H.264 High Profile – so anyone using Lync for Mac 2011 will unlikely be able to see/utilize this unit. The new Skype for Business for Mac client should address this.
- The AV Pod supports Consumer Electronics Control – so you should be able to sleep and turn on displays with HDMI CEC support
- Again, I believe it can only pair over the local Layer 2 subnet – happy to be proven wrong here though
- No Acoustic Fence support – not surprising but it would have been nice to include this, perhaps in a firmware update
It’s not often you see a solid product at this price point compared to the competition – this unit goes a long way to addressing the small and medium conference/meeting room spaces, with a goal for mass adoption of video into these rooms. For us, it’s a 95% product – sure, there’s 5% of scenarios it CAN’T do, but for 95% of your users it will be a solid offering and allow you to extend video in your organization cost effectively.
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