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Review: The Polycom SoundStation IP5000 Conference Phone

Before I could configure the SoundStation IP5000 I first had to get it powered up. The IP5000 has only one external connector; an RJ-45 jack for connection to your network. This means that 802.3af power-over-Ethernet (P.O.E.) is literally the only way to power the device.

Polycom SoundStation IP5000 Net Jack & Wire

The use of P.O.E. is a double-edged sword; both convenient and inconvenient. It’s convenient in that you power the phone from your network. You need not worry about providing an AC outlet near the phones physical location, and only one cable runs to the phone. It’s inconvenient in that you must consider exactly how to provide power to the phone, and possibly procure the requisite additional hardware.

In truth, this requirement for P.O.E. should not be a problem since smaller P.O.E.-capable switches are now affordable, if not yet commonplace. Alternatively, a single port mid-span POE insertor could be used to power the IP5000. These are inexpensive and available from a variety of sources, including Polycom.

Around my office I use a couple of mid-span P.O.E. insertors to power my phones. These were less costly than a P.O.E.-capable gigabit switch back when I was building out my network.

P.O.E. is in fact a very good idea for IP phones since it allows you to sustain their operation during a power outage using a single UPS in your network closet. It’s just one of several considerations that are at heart of achieving traditional telco reliability in your IP telephony installation.

Like the SoundPoint desk phones phones there are three possible ways to configure the SoundStation IP5000; the built-in LCD display & menus, the web interface or a remote provisioning server.

The basic network configuration is done using the LCD display at the initial point of boot-up. All that is required is to establish the core network settings, like enabling DHCP or alternatively, setting the IP address, subnet mask and default gateway.

Polycom SoundStation IP5000 Network Menu (approx actual size)

(LCD images shown near actual resolution)

You may also elect to define a provisioning server at this point. The IP5000 fits easily into an existing Polycom provisioning scheme offering a variety of ways (tftp, ftp, sftp, http or https) of fetching configuration files from a central repository.

I chose not to point the IP5000 at my provisioning server since it was running a beta version of firmware. I did not want it to load the same firmware used by the rest of my Polycom phones.

You could also use the on-phone menus to establish the SIP Server & Line settings but I find this approach a little tedious. Instead, I used the built-in web interface to establish it’s SIP configuration.

(Click to see full sized image)

SoundStation IP 5000 MENU SAMPLE

The web interface is about the same as any of the Polycom SoundPoint phones, except that the IP5000 supports only one line appearance. This fact also limits the number of reboots required as you go about configuring the phone.

Many of the web interface menu options respond only to report that those settings are not relevant to this particular device.

SIP interoperability has long been a Polycom hallmark. Polycom phones are supported by a diverse range of IP-PBX systems and hosted VoIP providers. During my trial of the SoundStation IP5000 I had it registered with various SIP service providers, including; OnSIP, IdeaSIP, SIPGate & Gizmo5.

All the basic call handling functions of hold, resume, transfer, etc presented no issues. I could even perform a three-way conference on the SoundStation IP5000 itself, without resorting to using a conference bridge.

As you can see from the photo of the IP5000 keypad, the device proudly bears the Polycom HDVoice logo. My initial test calls were to other Polycom phones on my network, specifically SoundPoint IP650 and IP335 models. As expected both ends of the calls displayed the animated “HD” icon, indicating that the phones were providing wideband audio via the G.722 codec.

Polycom SoundStation IP5000 LCD HD Call

I made further test calls to other G.722 capable phones, including several models from Gigaset and Cisco. At no point did I encounter any problems with wideband interoperability.

Progressing on to calling outbound from my network I was pleased, but not at all surprised, to find that the IP5000 worked well with my OnSIP account and the ZipDX HDVoice bridge. Calls to PSTN numbers were of course negotiated down to G.711 or G.729, but they sounded great in all cases.

For the longer term evaluation I assigned the SoundStation IP5000 to ring in parallel with my existing SoundPoint IP650. Then as calls came in I could answer using the IP5000 in those cases where I knew that I’d prefer to use a speakerphone function on that particular call. I used the IP5000 for numerous conference calls over the six week period, including a couple of very lengthy VUC calls via the ZipDX HDVoice bridge.

During colder days in February I also used the IP5000 on my dining room table, which approximates a mid-sized conference room setting. Polycom claims that the IP5000 is well suited to small conference rooms, where 3-6 people may need to participate in a call. My experience certainly bears out this claim. While I never had a group as large as six on a call with the IP5000, I found that anyone around the table could both hear and be heard.

The SoundStation IP5000 also features technology designed to reduce or eliminate interference from nearby cellular phones. As a test I set my Blackberry 9700 right beside the IP5000 then called my cellular number. The cell phone rang as expected, but the IP5000 didn’t make a peep.

Of course, the ultimate measure of a device like the SoundStation IP5000 is simply how it sounds. Over the course of my time using the sample unit I could not find fault with the device. It sounds great, both to those listening locally and those at the far end of the call.

The suggested list price of the SoundStation IP5000 is $599 USD, which seems like a fair price. However, the larger SoundStation IP6000 can often be found available for around that very figure. This gives me reason to believe that the street price for the IP5000 will be very attractive indeed.

This Post Has 20 Comments
  1. 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.

    1. 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.

  2. 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.

    1. 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.

        1. 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.

          1. 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.

  3. 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)

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

  4. 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.

    1. 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

    2. 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.

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