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Polycom SoundPoint IP 550 / IP 650 Reviewed

Both models offer a long list of call handling features, much more than I could possibly address here. But here are a few:

  • Shared call / bridged line appearance
  • Flexible line appearance (one or more line keys can be assigned for each line
  • extension)
  • Busy Lamp Field (BLF)
  • Distinctive incoming call treatment / call waiting
  • Call timer
  • Call transfer, hold, divert (forward), pickup
  • Called, calling, connected party information
  • Local conferencing
  • One-touch speed dial, redial
  • Call waiting
  • Remote missed call notification
  • Intercom
  • Automatic off-hook call placement
  • Do not disturb function

For a more complete list of features, download the product data sheets: IP550, IP650.


The main difference between the phones is in line handling capability. The IP550 provides four call appearances, each of which can be a separate line, multiple instances of the same line, or speed-dials. With many PBX systems, the various line buttons can be set up to work like a “busy lamp field” (aka BLF) indicating when a line is in use, just like on an old-style small business key system.

The IP650 takes this a lot further supporting six lines directly on the phone. Adding an Expansion Module expands support up to 12 separate lines and 24 concurrent calls. Each Module provides 14 programmable keys, each with its own LCD label. These keys can be defined as a combination of additional lines, BLF, direct access to extensions or speed-dials. This expansion capability makes the IP650 ideally suited as a receptionist’s phone.

Other Features

Whether CEO or cubicle dweller, speakerphones are a must for busy people. With a raft of related patents to their credit, Polycom’s phones excel in the area. So the 550 and 650 feature excellent speakerphones with superb echo cancellation capability.

As noted above professional-style wired headsets can be connected via an RJ11 jack on the back of the phone. The phones store separate user-defined volume preferences for each type of call: handset, headset and speakerphone. This is handy when moving repeatedly to/from speakerphone during long conference calls.

One of my greatest frustrations with my old IP600—all the older models for that matter—was the lack of a backlight in the LCD display. If you like to work in a dimly lit office as I do, then an unlit screen can be difficult to read. So I was very happy to see that both the IP550 and IP650 feature backlit grayscale LCD displays (Figure 3).

Backlit lcd

The display brightness is easily user adjustable. Further, the phones can be set to display a default image, making it a simple matter to brand them with your company logo.

Both phones also feature a novel XHTML browser that’s accessible via the “applications” hard key. This feature can be used to let the user interact with simple XHTML applications using the phone’s LCD display.

A quick search on returned an example XHTML application that displays a weather forecast based on a ZIP code entered at the phone. Polycom also provides a downloadable example including the automatic display of stock prices.

The micro-browser can have myriad applications, but they tend to be custom implementations driven by the needs of a specific company. For example, the phone’s micro-browser can perform airline database queries for flight status details (Figure 4). Such a convenience leverages existing infrastructure, while easing the burden on staff and call centers.


Implementers of XHTML applications need to deal with varying display capability, however. The IP501, IP601, IP550, IP560 and IP650 models all feature 320 x 160 pixel LCD displays. Other phones provide much smaller LCD displays, making XHTML applications more difficult to design and deploy.

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