The scoop: ConferenceCam Connect, by Logitech, about $500.
What is it? This unit is a portable, all-in-one videoconferencing and speaker, designed for small conference rooms (think 3-5 people). The camera features 1080p resolution, a 90-degree field of view, pan and tilt (digital), a 4x digital zoom and ZEISS optics with auto-focus. Audio features includes 360-degree sound for the speaker, as well as multiple microphones for members around the room to be heard on calls. The unit can run on AC power, but it also has an internal battery that can last up to three hours of active calls, so employees can take this from room to room if they want without having to lug along the power cord.
If you don’t want to use the webcam, the device can be used for its audio speaker and microphone capabilities. Bluetooth connectivity (as well as near-field communication) means you can use the ConferenceCam Connect as a speakerphone for mobile phone calls. A third function is the ability to wirelessly mirror the screen of a mobile device (Android or Windows 8.1 smartphone) via the ConferenceCam Connect to an HDMI-connected display.
All of the major videoconferencing apps/services are supported, including Microsoft Lync, Skype for Business, Cisco Jabber, WebEx, etc. This even works if you want to FaceTime with colleagues.
Why it’s cool: The goal of this external system is to have videoconferencing features available for everyone in a small conference room without needing everyone to crowd around one person’s notebook to see what’s going on with the remotes. People calling into the call then also get a great picture and can feel more like they’re in the room.
Setting up the system is very simple if you’ve ever connected an external webcam to your computer; the USB cable is also long enough to let you place the device farther away from the notebook for optimal location in the conference room. Audio settings are a bit trickier, as you have to make those adjustments in either the Sound settings of the computer or within your videoconferencing app (such as Skype, FaceTime, Lync, etc.).
The design of the device is very sleek, with a handy remote control that doubles as a cover for the camera (if you want privacy you can just pop the magnetic control onto the unit).
Some caveats: The Bluetooth audio wasn’t optimal - in some of our tests we heard cracking, and during one phone call the recipient said she could barely hear us (this could have been a function of the mobile phone network, however). The wireless screen mirror mode is an interesting concept, but useless if you don’t have one of the supported mobile devices (Android and Windows smartphones, no iOS devices can do this). In addition, you need to provide your own HDMI cable in order to connect to the TV or monitor. The portability of the unit may also concern some people, since it’s very easy to just pick this up and take it out of a room. There’s a Kensington lock port on the device, but if it’s locked down then you just lose the portability factor - if it’s locked, you might as well keep it plugged in as well).
Bottom line: If a company wants to offer videoconferencing in every conference room, the ConferenceCam Connect fits nicely for the smaller “huddle rooms” without having to spend a ton of money on larger hardware or more complicated software packages. The harder part is getting those smaller groups to embrace the idea of having a videoconferencing device beyond what they already have on their notebook.
Grade: 4 stars (out of five)
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