Welcome to our Buyers’ Guide to headsets for video conferencing solutions suitable for small to medium sized meeting rooms. In this article we discuss the various options that are available. We also discuss the key things you should consider in order to choose the ideal setup for your workspace. Read our user reviews of our Top 5 products.
The advent of fast, reliable broadband has made high quality video conferencing accessible to everyone. All you need is a computer or laptop with an internet connection. Over the past year many of us have come to rely on video calls to stay in touch with our colleagues, customers and in many cases, also our friends and families.
For many years video conferencing had traditionally been found in boardrooms of large corporates and organisations. Microsofts’ Skype was really the pioneer for peer-to-peer video calling from the desktop. Over the last few years Skype has evolved into Microsoft Teams and been joined by numerous other conferencing platforms . These include Zoom, Bluejeans, Google Meet, and GoToMeeting. As a result high quality video conferencing has become readily available to all.
In this Buyers’ Guide we are going to look at the range of products that are filling the gap between the boardroom and desktop. During the pandemic many businesses have come to rely on video calls as one of their principle means of communication. Video calls have replaced team meetings. They have also replaced face to face meetings with customers and suppliers.
Post-pandemic it is likely that many people will continue to work from home and much business travel will continue to be replaced by video calls. In this hybrid workplace companies are equipping small meeting rooms with the facility to conduct efficient video meetings. Video calls with both remote staff and customers will become essential for many businesses.
We also have a useful Buyers’ Guide for Microsoft Teams Room systems.
Small Meeting Rooms
As we know one-to-one meetings can be conducted effectively from the desktop and can be enhanced with the use of a headset, small audio conference phone and a webcam to improve the video quality. However, the problem arrises when several people in one location wish to have a meeting with remote participants.
The first thing to consider is how many people the room needs to cater for. You need to ensure that all parties can be both seen and heard. The solutions we discuss in this post are typically suitable for groups of up to about six participants.
The solutions can be divided into two distinct styles. Firstly, a single piece soundbar, where the camera, speaker and microphone are housed inside a single unit. Secondly, a hybrid set up with separate camera for the visual, and audio conferencing unit for to receive and transmit the sound. Often the soundbar style are permanently installed either above or below the display, so these can tend to be a little less portable. They can however tend to be an aesthetically neater solution.
Bring Your Own Device
Most of the hybrid meeting room solutions are a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) solution where the meeting is hosted on your laptop. Setting up and operating the call is familiar to anybody who is used to using peer-to-peer conferencing. If you are used to using Teams or Zoom, it’s as simple as selecting the conference phone as your input/output for audio and video. Plug in, and away you go. The majority of the standalone, or all-in-one solutions include an operating system that will host the call. Therefore with these standalone devices there is no need to connect a laptop. Below, we review our Top 5 choices for video conferencing solutions for small meeting rooms. We have recently added a Buyers Guide to Wireless Video Conferencing.
Is the video conferencing setup going to be permanently installed in a single room, or might you wish to move it from one location to another?
How many people are going to be involved on the conference call or online meeting? You want to ensure that all of the people will be both visible and audio. The group size is a key factor in determining both the specification of the camera, and the microphones.
What is your, or your companies preferred video conferencing platform? Do you predominantly use Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or one of a number of many other popular conference platforms?
Bring Your Own Device or Standalone
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), sometimes referred to as Bring Your Own Meeting (BYOM) refers to conferencing solutions that are run from a laptop or a computer. With a standalone video conference setup that conference phone actually hosts the meeting.
Number 1 – Konftel C20800 Hybrid Video Conferencing Bundle
Konftel Hybrid Conferencing is the Choice of Number 10 Downing Street
When the Prime Minister was recovering from Coronavirus, we saw pictures of him holding virtual cabinet meetings via video call. The choice of Downing Street was the Konftel C50800 and we at Handset Solutions agree this is an excellent choice. We are long time fans of Konftel products and the C50800, their top specification hybrid conference solution doesn’t disappoint.
However, the C50800 has been knocked off the top spot, by the brand new Konftel C20800. Bundled with the Cam20 camera and it’s 123° viewing angle that it is even better suited to meeting rooms. More participants can be in the frame at the same time. This of course means that we can therefore maintain social distancing during the call. The C50800 with the powerful Cam50 camera remains the choice for board rooms and the largest meeting rooms. The Konftel C20800 is also significantly cheaper than the C50800. Available now from Handset Solutions for under £1000.
For smaller rooms the brand new Konftel C2070 Hybrid Video Conference Bundle offers the same great functionality, but with a slightly lower specification speakerphone. However, the new Konftel 70 uses the same beamforming technology as its sibling, the Konftel 800, and in our opinion offers a fantastic value for money option.
The Konftel video range is what we would consider hybrid. This means you can select from a range of cameras and audio conference units. This allows the user to choose the perfect solution to suit the requirements of your room. These are available to purchase separately or as a number of bundles. The Konftel C50800 is the top of the range bundle featuring the Konftel Cam 50 Camera and the Konftel 800 conference phone. The Konftel C20800 simply replaces the Konftel Cam 50 with the Konftel Cam 20. The bundles all also include a Konftel OCC Hub, which connects the component parts to the laptop and to your display.
The C50800 may well be overkill for smaller meeting rooms. In fact, due to the fact that the Konftel 800 conference phones can be daisy-chained, they also make an excellent board room solution. The 4K Konftel Cam 50 has a 72.5 field of view which means participants can keep socially distant whilst remaining in picture. With impressive pitch, tilt and zoom capabilities, along with numerous tracking and preset options the user retains complete control of how you frame your meeting.
The Konftel 800 conference is designed to support conferences with up to 20 participants so will therefore be more than capable of picking up the voices of everyone involved in your meeting. We mentioned earlier that the Konftel 800 can be daisy-chained, you can connect two or more units together to provide coverage for much larger spaces.
The Konftel C50800 is a top spec unit at a very competitive price comprising of an excellent camera, and industry leading audio capability. However, by substituting the Cam 50 for the Cam 20 with the greater viewing angle, we therefore think the Konftel C20800 is the best choice for all but the largest meeting rooms. You can of course also use the Konftel 800 independently for audio calls.
The variations with the Konftel hybrid range are extensive. The bundles consist of the choice of two cameras, the Cam 20 and the Cam 50. Konftel have recently introduced a competitively priced Cam 10. This is now available bundled with the Konftel Ego as an entry level Konftel Personal Video Kit
The Cam 50 is bundled with the all variants of the Konftel 300 conference phones. The C50300Wx is the wireless conference phone, the C50300M is the mobile enabled conference phone and the C50300IP is the IP version. There is also a C5055Wx which is the higher spec camera with a smaller wireless conference phone. The other obvious advantage of hybrid conference phones, is existing Konftel audio conference users can use their existing phones. All you would need to do is add the camera of their choice and the Konftel Hub.
As a result of Konftel’s strategic partnership with ScreenBeam, you can now use their hybrid solutions wirelessly. For more information see our Buyers’ Guide to Wireless Conferencing.
Number 2 – Poly Studio X30 Video Conferencing System
All-In-One Video Bar Solution From Poly
Poly, formerly Polycom have for a long time been the market leader for both audio and video conferencing solutions. The Studio X30 is an all-in-one solution designed specifically for the small meeting room market. Unlike the Bring Your Own Device solutions, the Studio X30 eliminates the need to use a computer to host the video call.
No Host Computer Required
The Poly Studio X30 is a completely standalone solution. This means unlike some of the hybrid BYOD units no PC or Mac is required to host the call. Not only does it provide a 4K camera, a speaker and quad microphone array, it also provides the platform to host your conference calls. The optional TC8 is a handheld tablet that provides convenient access to the controls and enhances the whole experience.
When you first connect you can select from a range of conference platforms. These include Poly’s own RealPresence, Microsoft Teams, Zoom Rooms, 8×8 Meeting Rooms, LogMeIn and GoToRoom. An easy to follow wizard will install the platform of your choice. One draw back of this system we found is you tend to be ‘locked in’ to a particular platform. If I make a call via Teams, and want to use it for a Zoom call, it requires a full system reset. We feel that the ‘no host computer’ approach along with the lack of platform flexibility that Poly have taken with the Studio range make it more suited as a ‘one per room’ approach for larger corporates.
Although the camera lacks pitch, tilt and zoom functionality we were impressed with speaker tracking and framing features. By taking advantage of the 4k resolution, it achieves these effects by cropping rather than zooming and moving the camera. The Studio X30 was able to follow a speaker as they moved around the room. Working together with the microphone array it was capable of keeping track of who was talking and the NoiseBlock technology was effective at suppressing unwanted background noises.
The Poly Studio X30 is also available without the optional TC8 control surface. For larger rooms and more participants the Poly Studio X50 also adds 5 x digital zoom and 120 degree field of view, again available with the optional TC8 control unit. The Poly Studio range is completed by an entry level Poly Studio USB which is a BYOD version of the Poly video bar design. The new Poly Studio X70 sits on top of the range, and with dual camera is ideal for larger rooms. The Studio X70 is also available with the TC8.
Number 3 – Jabra PanaCast
Best for small meeting rooms
With its 180 degree field of view, the Jabra PanaCast is the perfect choice for small meeting rooms. This is created without distorting the image by stitching together the images from its three 13 Megapixel 4K cameras. The result is a very natural looking picture. Participants huddled around a small semi-circular table will appear side by side, in focus with a natural perspective. For their first foray into the video conferencing market, with the PanaCast, Jabra have certainly landed a great product.
The Panacast range has been extended with the introduction of the Jabra Panacast 50. The Panacast 50 has the same camera functionality as the Panacast, but features an integrated soundbar. This introduces excellent audio handling capabilities in a single stylish unit, ideal for small meeting rooms.
Another brand new addition to the Panacast family is the Jabra Panacast 20. The Panacast 20 is a 4K Ultra-HD webcam, perfect for remote and hybrid workers. It brings the same cutting-edge video handling capabilities to your desktop.
Plug and play
The Jabra PanaCast is small, weighing only 100g and measuring about 15cm. This therefore makes it extremely portable. USB powered, we had it up and running in under a minute. We would recommend downloading the optional Jabra Direct app which gives easy access to some of the more advanced settings. It’s certified for use with Microsoft Teams and is compatible with Skype, Zoom, Webex, GoToMeeting, Amazon Chime, Vidyo, BlueJeans, Panopto, Slack, Rainbow, Fuze, and more.
During a call we were impressed with the intelligent zoom feature. The image dynamically adjusted to the number of participants. When someone left or entered the meeting room, the picture adjusted accordingly. A concern for a camera cable of such wide angle views was that you could easily end up with a lot of empty space, but the PanaCast kept the participants in a very natural looking focus throughout the call.
The sound quality was adequate, but not brilliant, which for such a small unit isn’t a big surprise. The dual microphones claim to be able to pick up sound effectively from about 3m. If you intend on using it in larger rooms and groups of any more than 2 or 3, we strongly recommend pairing it with a Jabra Speak 710. This provided an audio experience to match the cameras remarkable video performance. The introduction of the Jabra Panacast 50 addresses this issue bringing excellent audio to your small/medium meeting room. The Jabra Panacast 50 ScreenBeam adds wireless connectivity and content sharing, removing the need to physically connect to a host computer.
There are no product variations, but the are a range of accessories available for the PanaCast. The PanaCast wall mount on top of a TV or monitor, but there are also both a wall mount and specially designed table available to ensure you can place your camera in the optimum position. The Panacast Hub is a useful option, enabling you to connect your computer with just a single cable.
Number 4 – Konftel CC200 Video Conference Unit
Standalone all-in-one solution from Konftel
The Konftel CC200 video conference unit is the second entry in our Top Five from Swedish collaboration specialists, Konftel. In addition to the seemingly endless options offered by their hybrid range, in 2020 Konftel launched their first all-in-one solution. The stylish video bar contains a 4K camera and four microphones. Unlike the hybrid solutions it negates the need for a computer or laptop to host the meeting. Connection is via SiP/H323, so you effectively add the CC200 to your telephone system in just the same way you would a telephone.
It couldn’t be easier to use
Designed for groups of 1-6 users the Konftel CC200 is a premium home solution or a mid-level meeting room device. The most striking feature of the CC200 was just how easy it is to use. We were up and running in a matter of minutes and no additional cabling was required. At under 30cm in length, this unit will sit discretely in a meeting room when not in use. The user interface is completely intuitive and with two channels you can stream content from a computer or mobile device via Bluetooth or USB. The CC200 also supports external control devices such as wireless keyboards, mice or touch screen devices.
Audio and Video
With a 4K camera running full 1080p at 30 frames per second, the image is as clear and crisp as you would imagine. The 102 degree field of view enables optimum coverage even in small meeting rooms. The pitch tilt and 5x digital zoom enable a great deal of control over the how the meeting is framed. The four microphones do a good job of picking up the voices of all meeting participants. Most users will route the output audio via the display monitor. You can however connect an additional audio conference phone such as the Konftel 55w via bluetooth to enhance both receive and transmit audio.
We also liked the ability to record calls onto a USB drive so you can watch and review your meetings at a later date. We are also fans of the fact that Konftel are certified carbon neutral. Konftel are one of the first in the industry to achieve this climate neutral status. With its no computer required and discreet positioning on top of the display the Konftel CC200 is the perfect addition to any small meeting room.
The Konftel AV Grabber enables you to connect to the Konftel CC200 via a cable to use a computer as a presentation source, both for image and audio. Although the sound quality is very good you can further enhance your audio by adding an additional conference phone such as the Konftel 55, Konftel 55W or the Konftel Ego
Number 5 – Yealink A30 Microsoft Teams Video Bar
Microsoft Teams video conferencing solution
The final product we have reviewed for you is one specifically for the Microsoft Teams user. The Yealink A30 is an all-in-one video bar that runs on a Teams client on top of Android 9.0. There is no need for a PC or laptop to host the call. Everything is housed inside the body of the A30 which is designed to sit on top of your TV or display.
Video Call Performance
Once the device is signed in to your Teams Room account, initiating a call is as simple as inviting the room into your meeting. Control is via the CTP18 from which you can control the call, the camera, and easily start and end calls. Unlike most video bar systems, the Yealink A30 features twin cameras. This enables you to focus on the speaker, whilst keeping a panoramic view of all the meeting participants. The built-in 8 MEMS microphone array and speaker provide full duplex sound. The effective coverage is 6m which makes the A30 ideal for medium sized meeting rooms.
The benefit of a Room System is that you don’t need to connect, or even bring a computer to the meeting. There is also a Yealink A20 which just has the single wider angle 133° camera. This makes it ideal for smaller spaces where participants are closer to the camera. For larger rooms there are Windows based solutions with a dedicated mini-PC. These include the MVC640 and MVC840 which cater for even the largest board rooms. For an in depth look at Teams Room systems we have a Buyers’ Guide to Microsoft Teams Rooms.