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 Ego
The desktop conference phone that we use at Handset Solutions
The Konftel Ego was one of the first portable conference phones to the market, introduced back in 2016, it won the Red Dot Award for “Excellent product design”.
We have been using these at Handset Solutions for years. It is small enough to carry around in your briefcase or laptop bag in its protective case. This makes the ideal portable conference speaker. 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
During recent periods of lockdown we have also found them really useful for those Zoom and Teams calls that so many of us have had to rely on to keep in touch with friends and family members. We have also found it makes a decent portable speaker for playing music from your laptop or mobile.
The Konftel Ego is really easy to use, with a large LED display that tells you if it is in USB or Bluetooth mode. The sound quality is good, although we would recommend this primarily as a personal conference phone, rather than one for small groups and meeting rooms. Although we considered it a little too big (and also a little pricey) for our desktop conferencing review, for small meeting rooms you may want to consider the Konftel 55. This unit has the flexibility and usability of a desktop conference phone, but the stunning audio quality of a meeting room solution.
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
Welcome to our Buyers’ Guide to headsets for working from home. 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 headset for your home office. We choose our Top 5 products.
Over the last year many of us who have previously worked in offices have found ourselves working from home. Even those of us who have not used a headset have found that with our laptops replacing our deskphones, they have become an essential piece of kit. They enable us to communicate effectively with both our customers and colleagues alike.
At Handset Solutions we have been selling headsets for more years than some of us care to remember. With our experience we are ideally placed to help you decide which headset is right for you. Whatever your budget, whatever you need to connect to, we have the perfect headset to enable you to work effectively from home.
The first thing we recommend you consider is what you want to connect it to. If it is to connect to a laptop is it a standard USB-A or the newer USB-C connection. Maybe you make some calls from your mobile or tablet and would like to connect to that via a 3.5mm connection.
Next let’s consider the wearing style. If you are going to be wearing the headset for long periods of time it’s important that it’s comfortable. There are also other considerations. A binaural or stereo headset is great for shutting out distractions and letting you focus on the call. A stereo headset is also great if you want to listen to music or other stream other web content. We find that with a monaural headset you are more inclined to keep the headset on when not on the phone and less likely to find yourself taking the headset on and off between calls.
Most headsets feature ‘noise cancelling’ but this refers to your microphone. This refers to a headset that cuts some of the background noise your callers hear. If you are working in a busy house and you want to cut out those distractions and enable you to really focus on your call then you may want to consider a headset with Active Noise Cancelling or Noise Blackout.
Finally, if you don’t want to be tied to your desk whilst working from home, maybe you want to consider a cordless headset. Wireless headsets let you move away from the desk whilst on the phone. Some headsets will connect to your laptop or mobile device via Bluetooth, and others come supplied with a DECT dongle that plug into the USB port on your computer giving you a much greater range than via Bluetooth.
Would you prefer one ear piece or two? Or maybe you would prefer an over the ear design that doesn’t have a headband. There are also products that are convertible and have a number of wearing styles
Corded or Cordless
A cordless handset enables you to move away from the desk whilst on a call, giving you extra mobility
What do you want to connect the headset to? If you are connecting via USB is it a USB-A or USB-C connection? Would you also like to connect to your mobile device via a 3.5mm plug?
Number 1 – Plantronics Blackwire C3220 Binaural USB-A Headset
Our best value headset for working from home
The was no competition when it came to selecting our number one product in this category. The Plantronics or Poly Blackwire C3220 Binaural Headset was the clear winner. It’s far and away the best selling computer headset on the market.
Poly, as they are now known, were formed when Plantronics, the worlds leading headset manufacturer bought Polycom, the leading supplier of conferencing equipment, making them the dominant force in the UC market.
Our Overall Number One
So what makes the Blackwire C3220 our number 1 choice? Generally we prefer a binaural headset for working from home. The stereo design helps you focus on your call and cuts out the distractions around you. We also like the fact that you can use a stereo headset to listen to music when you are not on the phone. The comfortable lightweight design means it is ideal for all day use. The sound quality is good for an entry level product and it features a noise cancelling microphone too so your callers will hear you rather than whatever else might be going on in the home around you.
Poly’s position as market leader and the Blackwire C3220’s competitive price point for an entry level USB headset have made this headset the product of choice for many large corporate and public sector organisations as they have implemented large scale rollouts for their home working staff.
For those that prefer a monaural headset, there is the Blackwire C3210. Both the C3220 and the C3210 are available as standard USB-A, or the newer USB-C versions. For users who want to connect their PC headset to their mobile phone or tablet there is the C3225/C3215 which have a dual USB and 3.5mm connection.
Number 2 – Plantronics EncorePro 310Monaural USB-A Headset
Most durable headset for working from home
The EncorePro is Plantronics’ premium call centre line of headsets, but the EncorePro 310 USB-A comes fitted with with a USB connection, making it idea for home working.
Built to Last
Call centre headsets are designed with comfort and durability in mind. They need to be comfortable, because they are designed to be used for long periods of time. They also need to be robust because of the rigours of call centre life. In our opinion if you want a headset to last, the EncorePro 310 is a great option.
So for the company buyer looking to equip their staff with a headset for home workers that isn’t going to break the EncorePro 310 is the ideal product to protect your investment. The monaural design is ideal for high volume call roles where users are more likely to keep their headsets on between calls. We also find that the single ear design are also less likely to go missing as they are less useful as a pair of headphones!
With straight forward plug and play operation the EncorePro 310 is compatible with all applications, whether it is Microsoft Teams, Zoom calls, or using on any standard UC softphone making it the perfect choice for the business user.
The EncorePro 310 features HD sound and a noise cancelling microphone and a flexible microphone boom which lets you position the microphone just where you need it. Another feature that we liked was the dynamic mute alert that detects and informs you when you are talking when muted.
The Plantronics EncorePro 310 comes with USB-A and USB-C variants. There is also a EncorePro 320, which is the binaural version of this headset. Please ask sales for details.
Number 3 – Jabra Evolve2 40 Stereo USB-A Headset
Premium corded headset for working from home
At number 3 we have a real premium quality corded headset, the brand new Jabra Evolve2 40 Stereo headset. These look and feel like a high quality pair of stereo headphones and they have the sound quality to match.
The padded headband and soft touch memory foam ear cushions are very comfortable. The headset is surprisingly light to wear. The larger ear cushions do an extremely good job of cutting out unwanted background noise. This enables you to focus on your call whatever distractions may be going on around you. There is even a buy light indicator on the headset which lets others know that you are on a call, so others in your household will know when that light is on you are not to be disturbed!
The Jabra Evolve2 40 has an advanced digital chipset and the latest sound processing technology and there is a real depth of sound that you won’t find on a budget headset. Listening to music on them, there are nice clear mids and trebles and a good deep punchy bass. It’s not just your callers that will sound great to you, with three optimally positioned microphones your callers will hear you loud and clear. As you’d expect on a premium product, there is a noise cancelling microphone that seeks out and suppresses and distracting background noise that may distract from your call.
The Jabra Evolve2 range have a version optimised for Microsoft and another for all other standard UC applications. If your home working set up utilises Microsoft Teams we advise choosing the MS variant. For all other applications the standard UC version is recommended. There is also a monaural version for users who prefer a headset with just the one ear piece and all products are available with either USB-A or USB-C connection.
Number 4 – Sennheiser SC 45 USB MS CTL Mon USB-A Headset
Best for working from home, or on the move
If you want a headset which is ideal for working from home, or on the move, the Sennheiser SC 45 makes an ideal choice. Small and light enough to carry around in your brief case or laptop bag its dual connectivity make it a versatile performer. The dual connectivity is provided via the headsets’ 3.5 mm jack and a detachable USB cable, allowing connection to smartphones, tablets, etc
Sennheiser is a name synonymous with high quality audio and they are one of the leading manufacturers of high end stereo headphones, so it is no surprise that the sound quality is excellent for a product at this price point.
The SC 45 is optimised for Microsoft which makes it the ideal headset for the Teams user who might need to jump on a conference call whilst working from home, or when out and about using their mobile device.
We also liked the call control built into the headset. Designed to make calls easier and more manageable, the SC45 headset has easy to use controls built in to the cable. This lets you accept and make calls easily. You can pick up and initiate calls, control the volume, or silence your microphone, all directly from the headset control.
Number 5 – Jabra Evolve2 65 Stereo with Charging Stand
Best wireless headset for working from home
A top 5 wouldn’t be complete without pushing the budget to find what is in our opinion, the very best headset for working from home. After trying the top end offerings from all the major manufacturers, it was the one that we wanted to take home with us.
It comes supplied with a DECT USB dongle that plugs into your USB port (USB-A and USB-C versions available), giving you a range of 30m which was enough to stay on your call anywhere in the house, and even into the garden. As well as connecting to your computer you can also connect to mobile phones and tablets via Bluetooth. This allows you to answer and make calls on any connected device.
Historically battery life on cordless headsets can be an issue. This is not the case on the Jabra Evolve2 65 which has an 8 hour charge in just 15 mins and is fully charged in 90 mins giving you up to a whopping 37 hours of talk-time. The optional changing stand provides convenient storage and reduces desk clutter as well as ensuring the headset is always charged whenever you need it.
What we liked best about this product however was the headset itself. Our preferred version, the stereo weighed in at a feather light 176g making it comfortable for all day use. The super soft memory foam ear cushions are a snug fit, without feeling as though they are pressing against your ears and the effect is that you feel isolated from any distractions and able to focus on your call. Your favourite tunes will sound as good on these as on a pair of premium headphones.
The in-use indicator is a useful feature, great for letting those you are sharing your home office with that you are not to be disturbed. The Evolve2 65 also has a host of enhanced features for Microsoft Teams users, accessed via the dedicated Teams button.
For many of us, working from home is going to be the ‘new normal’ for the foreseeable future, so why not treat yourself to a Jabra Evolve2 65 Stereo headset. Trust us, you won’t regret it.
The Evolve2 65 comes in Stereo and Mono versions. Both are available with USB-A or USB-C wireless dongles. All variations are available with or without the optional charging stand. Although we prefer the black, all variations are also available in beige. Click here for more details on the Jabra Evolve2 65 range of headsets