Welcome to our Buyers’ Guide to small, compact desktop conference phones. In this article we discuss the various options that are available and discuss the key things you should consider in order to choose the ideal conference phone for use either at home, on the move, or in the office. We choose and recommend the top 5 products available on the market today.
Conference phones have long been a feature of meeting rooms and boardrooms in the workplace. These traditional conference units typically connect directly to a telephone line, or telephone system. The small, portable, compact desktop conference phones we feature in this post don’t actually host the telephone call. Instead they connect to the device that is making the call. So maybe it would be more accurate to refer to them as conference speakers.
Has the ‘conference call’ replaced the humble telephone call? With the widespread adoption of conferencing and collaboration platforms such as Teams, Zoom and Skype we are all having more conference calls than ever before. By connecting a desktop conference phone to your laptop or mobile, you can enjoy clear natural sounding conversations while keeping your hands free. Of course, headsets enable you to do this, but are no use if you want to involve other parties on the call. With a desktop conference phone you have a portable meeting room with you, everywhere you go.
In this article, we discuss the things you should consider when choosing a desktop conference phone. We also have hand picked our ‘Top 5’ and outlined the features and benefits of these products.
The first thing we recommend you consider is what devices you want to connect your portable conference phone with. The two most popular options are a wired connection, via USB, or a wireless connection, via Bluetooth. Some units do also have the option of connecting via DECT using a dongle which gives a much greater range than Bluetooth.
Number of Participants
When purchasing any conference phone, the maximum number of participants you want it to cater for is a big factor in determining the product we would recommend. Products recommended for larger groups typically have better microphones, capable of picking up different voices. They also typically have a better and louder speaker. It is worth considering that with social distancing likely to be with us for some time to come, smaller groups may need to be further apart.
The desktop conference phone market is a crowded and competitive market place with a number of options at under £100. These generally make an ideal option for the home office, or to carry in your briefcase, but may come a bit short in terms of performance if you want to use them in a small meeting room in the office.
Let’s face it, most of us have laptops with built in speakers and microphones. Even on premium computers, the quality of the onboard audio is generally quite poor. We have all tried to have telephone conversations using our mobile phones on handsfree. The reason for considering desktop conference phones, is because we want better sound quality. We want to hear and be heard clearly. That’s why we have reviewed these products for you and recommended what we think are the best compact, portable conference phones on the market. So read on to find the Handset Solutions ‘Top 5 Desktop Conference Phones’
What devices do you want to use it with? The main choice you will have to make here is whether you want USB only, or if you want the wireless option offered by the Bluetooth enabled products.
Is this conference phone primarily just for you, for use in your home office? If you anticipate using it for small groups how many people do you envisage using it?
Number 1 – Konftel 70
Our New Favourite at Handset Solutions
We have just had our first look at the Konftel 70 and it’s fair to say we are suitably impressed. The Konftel 70 is intended for small meeting rooms rather than as a true ultra portable personal conference speaker. It features a clear user interface and sweeping dynamic design. An optimised set of touch buttons reflects a focus on usability, that’s earned a coveted Red Dot design award. for “Excellent product design”.
The sound quality is just stunning, the output when listening to music via Bluetooth match dedicated smart speakers at twice the price. The audio transmit uses the same beamforming microphone technology found in Konftel’s flagship Konftel 800 product.
Often in the office if we need several members of the team to jump on a phone call with a supplier we can just plug the device into a laptop, or pair it with a mobile phone and turn the work desk into a meeting room.
Perfect for Zoom calls
The Konftel C70 is perfect for Zoom and Teams calls which for many are now an integral part of our working life. In fact, the Konftel 70 is bundled with the Cam20 and the OCC Hub as the Konftel C2070, which is an excellent entry-level hybrid video conference solution.
The Konftel 70 is really easy to use, with coordinated status lights that tells you if it is in USB or Bluetooth mode. With clear LED symbols such as for call status, mute and music streaming ensure smooth overall operation. Although at the top of of the price bracket for desktop conference phones, in our opinion the Konftel 70 has raised the bar in terms of sound quality.
Number 2 – Sennheiser SP10 USB Conference Phone
Best value portable conference phone
The Sennheiser SP10 looks, feels and sounds like a high quality piece of kit. The stylish design and premium feel materials bely the very competitive price point. As you would expect from Sennheiser, the SP10 also has the sound quality to match, making it the ideal choice for groups of up to 6 people.
The limitation of the SP10 is that it doesn’t have a Bluetooth option, so is only really suitable for use with your computer, rather than other mobile devices.
The retractable USB cable is a useful feature, ensuring you never lose the lead. It also makes it idea to carry around in your laptop bag. Compatible with PC or Mac the Sennheiser SP10 can be used with any communication software. This really is a plug and play portable conference solution that you can take with you everywhere you go.
There is also a ‘MS’ variant which is optimised for use with Microsoft Teams. The is also a Sennheiser SP20 that has the addition of a 3.5mm connection to enable connection to mobile devices.
Number 3 – Poly Sync 20 Smart Speakerphone
Newest Desktop Conference Phone
The Polycom SoundStation has for many years been an industry standard when it comes to boardroom and meeting room conferencing in the workplace. For that reason, we were excited to learn of the launch of the Poly Sync 20, the newest addition to the desktop conference phone market.
Poly was formed when Plantronics, the worlds leading headset manufacturer purchased Polycom, the number one in conferencing hardware. With this pedigree, Poly have become a giant in the Unified Communications marketplace. A compact, portable speakerphone is right in the sweet spot of these two industry giants.
So what is the Sync 20 like? First impressions are it looks great and the sound is up to the standard you would expect from Poly. At 182mm x 95mm and 360g it isn’t the smallest, or lightest, but a wrist strap emphasises that this is designed to be portable. The fact that it is IP64 rated, so dust and splash resistant also reminds us this is a product you can take anywhere with you. Connection via USB and by Bluetooth was as quick and easy as you would expect. Another nice feature is that it can be used to charge your smartphone or tablet.
As the entry level product of the Poly Sync 20 is aimed at flexible enterprise professionals who split time between corporate office, home office, and travel. There are larger Sync units due for launch later this year aimed at the small/medium meeting room market. We have little doubt that the Poly Sync will dominate the desktop conference market for years to come. The Sync 20 makes the perfect addition to the home office.
As you would expect from Poly there is a Microsoft and Standard UC options, as well as USB-A and USB-C versions. There is also a Sync 20+ which includes a Poly 600 Bluetooth dongle, ideal for users whose computers are not equipped with Bluetooth voice capability. The Poly Sync 40 due to launch soon is aimed at the small meeting or huddle room where users use BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) conferencing. A top of the range Poly Sync 60 for larger meeting rooms and hybrid video setups, expected later in the year.
Number 4 – Yealink CP900 Portable Speakerphone
Best for Microsoft Teams
The Yealink CP900 is a premium level desktop conference unit with an effect 360 degree range of up to 2m. This makes it suitable for groups of up to 6 people. As you would expect from a premium product the full duplex microphone eliminates any echo, even at full volume.
The feature we liked, that made it stand out from the crowd was the dedicated Microsoft Teams button. This lets you access the Teams app at the touch of a single button. it also flashes to indicate a missed call, voicemail or to notify you of an upcoming Teams meeting.
The Yealink CP900 looks, feels and sounds a premium product. In our opinion, if you are a Teams user, it certainly worth considering the slightly higher price tag.
There is a standard UC version of the Yealink CP900 for non-Teams users. There is also a slightly lower spec CP700 that has 1.5m 360 degree range rather than the 2m range of the CP900 This makes it better suited to single users rather than groups, coming in at a price point of under £100.
Number 5 – Jabra Speak 410
Budget desktop conference speaker
Coming it at just over £65 the Jabra Speak 410 hits a price point that none of its competitors can reach. This makes it a very popular choice for larger corporates looking at issuing desktop conference phones on a one per employee basis.
The Jabra Speak 410 is compatible with all major phone and conferencing platforms. It offers high quality 360 degree HD audio with plug and play functionality.
The Speak 310 comes with a convenient carry case and has integrated cable management which means you are far less likely to mislay the USB cable. The Microsoft Teams variant is also popular with companies and public sector organisations who have invested in a Teams platform. At this price, it’s no more expensive than a mid-range headset.
There are plenty variations on the basic Jabra Speak 410. There is a Microsoft optimised version. The Jabra Speak 510 adds Bluetooth capability and the Jabra Speak 510 + Nano Dongle adds longer range DECT wireless functionality. Top of the Jabra Speak ultra portable range is the Jabra Speak 710 which is perfect for small meeting rooms and groups of up to 6 participants