Grade: 4.5 stars (out of five).
The scoop: ConferenceCam CC3000e, by Logitech, about $1,000.
What is it? This system combines a conference-room quality Webcam with a powerful audio speakerphone base that connects to a computer via USB port. Placed in a conference room that can support up to 10 people, this system lets employees attach their computers and provide telepresence-like scenarios without the expense of a giant video telepresence system.
The webcam and audio speakerphone connect to a central hub via 16-foot PS2 cables, giving you enough room to place them in optimal locations within the conference room. Instead of having a videoconference where people are crowded around a single laptop, an entire room can be seen via this system. A remote control lets you pan, tilt and zoom the webcam (with 10x zoom, 90-degree field of view, 260-degree pan and 130-degree tilt) to highlight the person in the conference room who is speaking. The audio speakerphone base has an omnidirectional microphone with a 20-foot diameter, and can also connect to your cell phone via Bluetooth or NFC for regular audio calls (if you don't want to initiate a VoIP call via your computer or use video chat).
Why it's cool: The CC3000e is part of Logitech's business line of peripherals, and this system is an upgrade from its previous small conference room product, last year's BCC950 (which costs $250 and is geared for conferencing up to small rooms up to five people). The less-than-a-telepresence-system price tag means that companies can place these units into smaller conference rooms to provide videoconference support without breaking the budget. The system supports both Microsoft Lync, Cisco's Jabber and other basic video chat applications (including Skype and Facetime) since the user is basically plugging in a USB cable for the webcam, microphone and speaker support.
Picture quality via the camera was fantastic, although our experience varied depending on the software we were using regular Skype was the least visually appealing we got better video footage from a Facetime chat, or connecting to our internal Lync system. Webcam and speakerphone controls were easy to navigate, although we preferred moving the camera around on the audio speakerphone base rather than with the remote control.
Some caveats: I found it a bit odd that the speakerphone or central hub didn't support a landline phone port the Bluetooth support for mobile phones is a nice touch, and the system works just fine for audio VoIP calls, but landline phone support would be nice to have.
Grade: 5 stars.
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