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?
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.
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.
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.
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.