Review: 4 low-cost videoconferencing devices keep you connected (video)

These four mobile video/audio kits can enhance face-to-face meetings with remote colleagues and clients relatively cheaply.

conferencecam connect

We all know that there's nothing like face time to get your point across at a company brainstorming session or to convince a reluctant customer to close the deal -- but these days, that is often not possible. Meeting remotely has become much more a part of standard business practice, especially with many employees located far from their company's main office and with businesses from small to large dealing with clients on an international scale.

Until recently, converting your meeting space to accommodate video communication with out-of-office participants meant you had to install expensive (and permanent) equipment -- or cope with an unsatisfactory speakerphone. However, new hardware is now available that can turn any office, cubicle or even café table into a videoconference zone.

The equipment doesn't have to bust the IT budget, either. According to Ira Weinstein, senior analyst at Wainhouse Research, the hottest sector of today's videoconferencing gear market is the low end. "Videoconferencing at work is growing tremendously quickly," observes Weinstein, adding that he's seen a 30% to 50% growth in the use of under-$2,500 videoconferencing technology at some of the big companies that Wainhouse works with.

This new generation of entry-level video gear is not only less expensive and easier to set up and use than a dedicated video room, but it can connect with software-based video programs like Skype, Lync and Google Hangouts. That means that you can have the video gear at one end of the conversation and just a laptop or tablet at the other.

Four moveable videoconferencing packages

For this roundup, I've tested four relatively inexpensive products: the AVer VC520, the Lifesize Icon Flex, the Logitech ConferenceCam Connect and the Ricoh Unified Communication System (UCS) P3500. These systems run from about $500 to $2,200. Compare that with a dedicated video room that can cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to build, requires personnel to run and often needs a reservation to use, and you have a potential revolution in how business is conducted.

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