Polycom SoundPoint IP 550 / IP 650 Reviewed

Originally published at www.smallnetbuilder.com on August 13, 2008

When I was asked several months ago about reviewing a pair of new Polycom desk phones, I simply could not believe my good fortune. It was a little like being asked if I’d like to have a Tesla roadster for a few weeks. But of course my good man! Where do I sign?

Then reality dawned. How could I come up with a fair and balanced review of two Polycom flagship IP phones? Not just a rave from a true believer but a real review? How much effort would be involved in fully exploring their potential? It might be a lot of work. Ah, but the process could be enjoyable, and I might learn something along the way.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am responsible for a small fleet of Polycom SoundPoint IP phones deployed across the US. And an IP 600 has occupied a position on my desk since my earliest involvement with VOIP back in 2003. I have also tried numerous makes and models of SIP hard phones over the years. Some were good, many not so good and a few were truly excellent. All the while, the IP600 has remained my primary desk phone. So I am a self-admitted proponent of Polycom and their products.

Product Tour

Polycom sent both a SoundPoint IP 650 and a SoundPoint IP 550. These were the two top models in the SoundPoint IP line, although the newly-introduced SoundPoint IP 670 is now the top of the line. Both are multi-line SIP desktop phones (the 550 supports four lines, the 650 six) that support G.722 (wideband), G.711 ?/A, and G.729A (Annex B) codecs. Both also have a 320 x 160 backlit grayscale LCD with four “soft” and 24 or 26 dedicated “hard” keys.

Core telephony features are easily accessible, often by both dedicated buttons and soft keys around the LCD. Figure 1 shows the IP 650’s controls; the IP 550 looks the same except it has four line / speed dial buttons (to the left of the LCD screen).

Polycom SoundPoint IP650 front view illustration

Dual 10/100 switched LAN ports with 802.3af PoE support let you add the phone and reconnect the computer that was probably using the single LAN drop (Figure 2). There is also an RJ11 jack for a wired headset.

Polycom SoundPoint IP650 Rear Connector Layout

While I was not able to measure the power drawn from each phone, a search online revealed that both phones draw just 6 W. The IP650 draws 12 W with three optional sidecar modules attached. Both draws are within the 802.3af spec of 14.5 W maximum per device, so standard PoE-equipped switches will handle them just fine.

It’s also worth noting that the phones come with a small universal AC adapter. Since I administer phones both in the U.S. and U.K., this saves me the hassle of dealing with different power adapters, should I not be able to provide POE in a small U.K. office.