Chromebox For Meetings: Large Room Bundle

Chromebox for Meetings is a nice idea. It’s a tidy little bundle of goodies that delivers what is essentially an appliance for use with Hangouts. At $999 it’s even a pretty good value.

What it isn’t is terribly flexible, largely because of the limited I/O devices. The Logitech Webcam Pro C920 and Jabra Speak 510 wireless conference phone are great for a desktop or office space. Get more than few people around a table and they just don’t have the reach.

chromebox-meetings-bundle

Clearly others agree with this assessment since Google recently started to offer the Chromebox For Meetings Large Room Bundle for $1999. This collection replaces the fixed camera with Logitech’s new PTZ Pro Camera. It also adds a second Jabra Speak 510 wireless conference phone so that people at the far end of the able can hear and be heard.

You may recall that the PTZ Pro Camera is the camera from the CC3000e reviewed last year. It was the focus of VUC490 with Ziva Nissan.

I wonder if Google will take steps to support far-end PTZ remote control? That would certainly be a nice way to integrate the new camera. Logitech offers a plug-in for MS Lync (now Skype-For-Business) that embeds remote PTZ control.

Logitech’s New PTZ Pro Camera

astra-overview-main-imagePerhaps you recall last year when Logitech launched their CC3000e Conference Cam? We had them as a guest on VUC 490 to show off their new gadget. The entire audience was impressed with the device, most especially the camera portion. It seems that last month they launched the camera alone as a new product, calling it the PTZ Pro Camera.

With MSRP of $799 the PTZ Pro Camera delivers 1080P video over USB 2.0 using an onboard H.264 UVC encoder. It’s capable of SVC when used with a suitable capable client, like those from Cisco, Microsoft or Vidyo.

Apps not able to use the onboard encoder will be limited to accessing 720p30 over the USB 2.0 link. That includes Google’s Hangouts since they use VP8 instead of H.264.

Although the camera is exceptional in its price class, that class is rather limited. There quite a leap from the $100 USB webcams with a fixed lens to the entry level PTZ cameras from HuddleCamHD, Vaddio or VDO360. Things approach $1k very quickly, which makes their pricing strategy for the PTZ Pro Camera potentially quite sensible.

My own experience with the CC3000e shows that it can deliver excellent video, but it’s not without its quirks. The auto focus cannot be defeated, and occasionally hunts to find the focal plane. Also, the single preset camera position, basically a “Home” is limited. It would be nice to have a number of positional presets, as most other PTZ cameras provide.

Finally, I wish that there was more (ok, really…any!) support for remote control of the PTZ mount.

In a casual look around the web I see that many AV dealers are starting to list the PTZ Pro Camera. Prices listed vary widely, which suggests that it’s not yet shipping. Amazon has the PTZ Pro Camera listed at $978.  MacMall is the lowest at $681, but that could change once there’s real availability.

I really don’t mean to sound down on the PTZ Pro Camera. I actually like it a lot. I expect that Logitech will do quite well with this new offering.