Review: The Polycom SoundStation IP5000 Conference Phone

This week Polycom is introducing the SoundStation IP5000 conference phone at VoiceCon East in Orlando. The SoundStation IP5000 is the latest in a long line of SoundStation models that go back to the very core products upon which the company was founded. Unlike most of their prior offerings the SoundStation IP5000 is a SIP conference phone specifically targeting smaller conference rooms & executive offices. This also makes it suitable for the home office user.

To say the least, I was eager to try the little SoundStation IP5000 from the moment it was offered. When a class leading company like Polycom creates a new product specifically for the SOHO market it makes me take notice. Will they get it right, and deliver the kind of device upon which their reputation was built…yet designed and priced to match the sensibilities of the SOHO/SMB user?

Polycom SoundStation IP5000 Conference Phone

In a larger office or small conference room you may ask, “Why bother with a dedicated conference phone? Won’t a good desk phone with a quality speakerphone feature be good enough?”

The simple answer is no.  There’s considerable merit to using a real conference phone over the speakerphone function on even a high-quality desk phone. Desk phones generally use a directional microphone that is more sensitive to sounds from the front to the phone. So when two or more people are collected to take part in a call inevitably one person will sound “distant” or “off-mic”.  In addition, you may have to gather your group awkwardly around the front of the desk phone so that they can hear or be heard clearly. Both situations are less than ideal.

In contrast a dedicated conference phone, like the SoundStation IP5000, is equally sensitive to sound from all directions. Its upward pointing speaker is clearly heard in all directions. It’s a superior solution when more than one or two local participants are involved, especially on lengthy calls.  This also eliminates the closer than comfortable grouping of co-workers in front of a desk phone, letting everyone relax and participate comfortably in the call.

While Polycom has historically held a commanding lead in the conference phone market their IP-capable product offerings have focused on the requirements of large board rooms. These devices, both because of cost and size, were not a good match to the requirements of small businesses and home office dwellers. The SoundStation IP5000’s introduction seems aimed to change that.

While I might be tempted to say that the SoundStation IP5000 replaces the now discontinued SoundStation IP4000 that would be a total mischaracterization of the device. If truth be told,  the SoundStation IP5000 is really the younger brother of the newer IP6000 and IP7000 models. The familial characteristics are plainly there, just in a more compact version.

Polycom SoundStation Family Top View

Whereas the SoundStation IP6000 and IP7000 models target medium-to-large conference rooms, the IP5000 is intended to be used in smaller conference rooms and executive offices. It certainly fits in quite nicely here in my home office.

Physically, the SoundStation IP5000 is substantially smaller than it’s higher-end brethren. It has the same three legged triangular configuration common to the SoundStation family, but measures only about 10.5 x 11″ overall. It’s footprint on a desk or table is similar to the Polycom SoundPoint IP650 desk phone that I typically use. It’s deeper front-to-back, but about the same width.

SoundStation IP5000 VS SOUNDPOINT IP650

The center & top-mounted speaker is approximately 1.5″ in diameter, smallish, but it’s a reasonably long throw driver (yes, I took it apart.) The driver is mounted in a sealed chamber making it an acoustic suspension design. It’s peak output volume is specified as 84 db @ 0.5m,  just a little less than the larger SoundStation models, which seems entirely appropriate for the smaller rooms where the IP5000 would be used.

A set of three condenser microphones are arrayed around the speaker, one at the end of each leg of the device. The provisional data sheet sheet claims that the IP5000 should be able to clearly pick up sounds from people speaking within 7 feet of the device. This also seems appropriate for the kind of situation that might be faced in a small conference room, such as at my employer’s UK head office….or in my home office for that matter.

The phones LCD display is significant as it’s used both to access the devices menus and as the display for the built-in XHTML browser function. The IP5000 has a back-lit LCD display measuring 2 1/4 x 7/8″ and resolving 248 x 68 pixels. In fact, it’s LCD display about the same size & resolution as that found on the larger IP6000, the model that my employer uses in their west coast conference room.

Polycom SoundStation IP5000 Keypad & LCD

In many ways the SoundStation IP5000 reminds me of the SoundPoint IP335 desk phone that I reviewed late last year. It’s an entry level device, but is unusually high-quality for that market segment. Unlike the SoundPoint IP335, the SoundStation IP5000 supports only one line appearance. Also, it’s higher-resolution display supports four soft keys, making accessing core functions and navigating its menus a little easier.

I have had the pleasure of using a pre-release sample of the SoundStation IP5000 for about six weeks prior to its launch. Upon receipt of the sample unit I had it registered with my OnSIP account in just a few minutes. If you have any experience configuring the Polycom SoundPoint desktop SIP phones then the IP5000 will be immediately familiar.

  • In reference to your blogging comment:
    Could you use the IP5000 on an Ethernet (with POE brick) to your laptop and make an IP call to it from your favorite G.722 soft phone? Then press the record button on the soft phone and you have the recording without moving an SD card or USB stick around.

    • True enough, and I have done just that. However, it’s not as convenient as the call record function on my IP650. That same record function is present on the IP7000, and also the Konftel 300IP. Admittedly, both are most costly devices…but still.

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  • Greg

    Im surprised by the lack of an AC adapter option. Being that one of the target markets for this device is executive offices, I see this device being placed on a small conference table away from their actual desk where POE may have been provisioned for their main phone.

    • I don’t think that this is a problem. In a bone fide executive office there’s be POE on more than one port. In a small office or home office you’d use a mid-span insertor. They’re only about $40 for a single port model.

      • In fact, there is an AC power kit available as an option for locations without PoE.

        • Given that there isn’t a place to power the device except the network jack I presume that this AC adapter is a cable & DC source, not unlike what used to be offered for some of the SoundPoint phones. Is that the case?

          When I inquired with a dealer last week they told me that there was a mid-span insertor offered, with a suggested price of $109.

          • Correct. The AC power kit includes a power insertion cable, AC/DC transformer, and a AC power cord.

          • I now see some AC adapters and power cables listed in around the $40 range. I presume that the same unit listed as for the IP300 would also power the IP5000. POE is a great thing, as long as the requirement for the insertor doesn’t catch a newby by surprise.

  • BTW, I am the director of product management for our conference phones and really appreciate the excellent review. 🙂

    • Glad you like it. The SoundStation range are great products.

  • Now here is what I’d really like to use and haven’t been able to find on the market:

    * a RJ45 wired SIP conference phone with additional USB connector to act as sound device
    * a DECT conference phone with g722 (CAT-iq) wideband (USB would not hurt either)

    • What you seek actually exists. In the first case (RJ & USB i/f) look at the Konftel 300IP. It also has call recording to an SD card. The DECT cordless units include the Polycom SoundStation 2W and Konftel 200W, but neither support G.722 or USB audio I/O.

      I’ve been told that the Konftel 300 may be the same unit that snom offers as their MeetingPoint model, but the firmware from snom is very different.

      • Unfortunately the Konftel 300 IP does not have a USB connector. With the Konftel products (like all other manufacturers) it is either USB or RJ45.

        • The one I had back in July DID have the micro-usb connector, but it may have been a 300 and not 300 IP.

      • The snom MeetingPoint indeed uses the Konftel hardware. The firmware, however, is quite different with 12 instead of 2 SIP accounts, with MS OCS support, LDAP and whatever else you normally have in SNOM firmware. It does not yet support the SD card slot.

  • IP5000 does NOT have automatic gain control. We have huge problems in conference calls due to that. I am now purchasing both the IP6000 and Knoftel 300IP to check how they work.

    • Ajay,

      That does seem curious. I would have thought AGC to be a “must-have” feature for a conference phone. I’ve forwarded your comment to the maker for clarification.

      OTOH, we have the SoundStation IP6000 in our Burbank conference room. We’ve not had any problems. It’s a great device.

      Michael

    • I pinged the product manager about your assertion. Here’s the response from the company:

      As you know, SoundStation IP 5000 has been designed for use in small conference rooms and executive offices. The phone is able to reliably pick-up the voice of a person talking within 7 foot (2.1m) of range even without Automatic Gain Control.

      The far end may experience difficulties hearing a person talking in a conference room, when the person talking is either too far away from the (micro)phone and/or speaking very softly. If testing of the SoundStation IP 5000 (running the latest Polycom UC Software?!) suggests otherwise, there is a chance that at least one of the microphone is defective. The reseller, the customer purchased the phone from, should be Polycom Certified and able to handle this.

      In any case, the SoundStation IP 6000 and the newly released SoundStation Duo have a larger pick-up range and should meet the customer’s requirements.

      This certainly seems sensible. I’ve used my IP5000 in a variety of situations, even took it to the UK with me, and never had such a problem. Yours should be checked to ensure the latest firmware and fully functional mic elements.