In VUC625: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly I offered Grandstream as an example of a company going in a good direction. I didn’t start out feeling this way. This post describes my history with their products, and the evolution of my opinion about the company.
Voice: The Early Impression
The very first Grandstream product I even held in my hands was the infamous BT-101. It was possibly the very first affordable SIP hard phone, which is why a friend bought one. Beyond merely affordable, it was cheap. Everything about it was cheap, which tainted my view of the company.
To be fair, there were a lot of really bad SIP desk phones at that time. Grandstream’s strategy was to own the entry level space, which they did, handily.
As a result of that initial experience with the BT-101, I actually bought a snom 200.
It wasn’t long before I was gifted (yes, gifted!) a Polycom Soundpoint IP600. That device won me over completely. It was superior in every way. It lived on my desk for years, not displaced until the Soundpoint IP650 brought HDVoice to my attention.
But that was long, long ago…and nothing remains static.
In more recent times, I was intrigued by the GXV3175, which is an Android powered desk phone with a large touch screen. While it showed promise, it was under-powered and ran an outdated version of Android. Still, it was a good start.
It proved that Android in the desk phone was going to work, even though others had tried and failed.
Grandstream followed up with the GXV3275, like it’s predecessor but on more capable hardware and running a newer OS. It addressed many of my issues with the earlier model.
Amongst the numerous improvements, it swapped the analog CVS video output for a mini-HDMI output, which I have found much more useful.
Then they took their adventure in Android-land further with the GVC3200 video conference device. Given my background with various VC systems, I volunteered to participate in the beta for the GVC3200. Based on my experience with the device we featured it in VUC561 in October 2015.
Honestly, I would have like to have done a long-form review of the GVC3200. However, just after its launch I didn’t have the resources to do an extensive evaluation in a real-world situation. So I simply used the device in my own, somewhat obtuse use case. Even so it’s proven to be a valuable tool in my office.
They followed up the GVC3200 with the GAC2500, an Android-power conference phone. The pair, while fully functional independently, are a natural team in the conference room. Both offer very good QPR.
Security: A Parallel Track
Late in 2014 our car was broken into while parked on the street in front of our house. Fortunately, there was no real damage done, but the event motivated the installation of some surveillance cameras to monitor the street along our western boundary.
After some research I decided that I’d try Grandstream’s GVC Series IP surveillance cameras. While not the least expensive, they looked more interesting than most.
I especially like the fact that they were SIP-capable. In theory, I could register them with our OnSIP hosted PBX, and call them from my Polycom VVXs, GVC3200 or a soft phone like Bria. It’s like making a simple video call.
The cameras support two connected clients, sending a full-resolution stream to one, and a reduced resolution stream to the other. A SIP call can be set to deliver either stream.
In our case, the first client is the Grandstream GVR3550 Network Video Recorder. Fitted with a pair of 2 TB hard drives in a RAID1 configuration, this devices allows us to record the camera feeds. It can record continuously, on a scheduled or motion triggered basis. Recording continuously we can retain the full-resolution feeds for 26 days!
I’ve also had a small project that used the GVR3552 NVR. This smaller version of the Grandstream NVR is designed to accept two 2.5" hard drives as storage. This limits it’s scalability, but it’s still more than adequate for many situations. At under $100 (without storage) it’s both capable and affordable.
My project involved placing the device in a weatherproof case located outside, subject to considerable temperature variation. Thus I installed a single San Disk SSD, since that would be more temperature resistant than a traditional hard drive. An SSD is actually less than ideal for an application that involves continuous writing to the media. So far it’s been well-behaved.
The company offers some interesting and useful free software:
They offer Grandstream Wave, a free SIP client for Android and iOS. I don’t have much to say about Wave since I was already a long-established user of Bria, on various platforms, when it was released.
Their GSurf Pro software is a surveillance recording app for those who prefer a PC-based solution over an NVR appliance.
They are in beta on GS Monitor, an application for monitoring surveillance cameras and NVRs from Android devices. I’ve used this on a Nexus 7 (2013) and my new nVidia Shield K1 tablet. While not as full-featured as tinyCam Monitor Pro, it’s easy to use and genuinely handy.
If you’re interested you can still engage in the GS Monitor beta program. The app is not available from the play store. Once registered for the beta you can download it directly from Grandstream.
Most Recently: Wi-Fi APs
In just the past quarter Grandstream launched a new range enterprise networking products. The first of these is the GWN7610 Wi-Fi access point.
This looks like a strong product for SOHO installation, one that we might consider had we not just installed the Ubiquiti UniFi AC Pro AP. My friends over at OnSIP have published a review and seem to find it worthy.
Grandstream has been in the VoIP game a long while. Their strategy of delivering exemplary QPR has served them well. They seldom lead a market segment, but they have a significant impact once they enter a segment.
For years pundits have warned about the impending demise of the desk phone. Grandstream has responded by diversifying the product offering, with well considered moves into surveillance, video conferencing, and now networking.
There are no perfect products. I could pick at faults in any of the products mentioned here. That’s role role of the long form review, highlight the edges so they’re not hidden. Nonetheless, the Grandstream products that I’ve used have been solid offerings.
I look forward to their new product announcements in 2017.