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Overview of Portable USB Speakerphones

Polycom C100/C100S Communicator

communicator_c100When Polycom introduced the C100S USB speakerphone I thought it the perfect fit for my Skype voice needs. The C100S was in fact one of Polycom’s very first wideband capable products. With a street price around $110 it’s and also their least expensive wideband device.

The C100S model is intended for use with Skype but there is also a C100 model that’s not specifically tailored to the Skype client. With the S model the device has buttons that integrate with the functions of the Skype soft phone.

The physical design of the C100S is well adapted to life of the road warrior. The C100S is extremely rugged. A built-in stand folds out from the chassis revealing a hub around which the USB lead wraps neatly for storage. The result is that the wire stores completely away in a protected space when not in use.

The USB lead is permanently attached, and not especially long. This makes the device better suited to portable use with a laptop than fixed installation near a dekstop PC. Of course, a USB extension would easily overcome the short cord if it’s a problem.

Over a period of a couple of years I used the C100S with Skype, X-Lite and Eyebeam soft phones. Sharing some of the same Acoustic Clarity technology as larger Polycom devices the C100S works almost as well as the speakerphone built into my more costly desk phone. In fact, when used with a G.722 capable soft phone the C100S does a reasonable job of conveying wideband audio.

The buttons on the C100S support the common functions that users often miss when making the transition from a traditional phone to a soft phone. The round button in the center is the mic mute function. The two buttons above and below are for volume up/down. The two remaining buttons take hide/show the soft phone client and vary hook-state.

A standard mini headphone jack is found on the side of the device. This allows the use of the device as a USB audio interface when the privacy of a headset is more appropriate than a speakerphone.

The C100S was the one USB speakerphone device that I have used the most, both while travelling and at my desk. While not inexpensive, it’s a first rate device with the build quality and performance that you’d expect from Polycom. I’d still have the C100S on my desk today, but I decided to give it to my parents when they recently started using Skype.

Note: Since this overview was originally post I have also reviewed the Yamaha PSG-01s.

This Post Has One Comment
  1. My wife is a road warrior who totes a Sony Vaio. Given the fact that the Vaio was built for audio/visual, I quested whether these devices would significantly increase the quality of the audio. Because she winds up with many ad hoc conference calls in foreign countries, I decided to buy her one of these units. Call me surprised!

    While there was some improvement in the output, the input was hugely better. She can actually set up her laptop on a conference room table and hold a business conference call VOIP without any problems. It was money well spent, but I’m still trying to figure out how to get her company to reimubrse it.

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