Posted on 9-Jun-2009 16:36 by Steve Biddle.
Filed under: Reviews
Polycom have been in the phone and video conferencing business for many years and have a reputation for making extremely good products. What has been missing in their product range has been a reasonably priced desktop phone supporting video calling - this is where the Polycom VVX 1500 fits it.
The VVX 1500 features a well laid out keypad, a 16x9 7 TFT LCD touchscreen, built in camera for video calling, a red LED in the top right hand corner for voicemail notification, external ports for both a RJ9 headset connector and 3.5mm headphones and a USB port than can be used for call recording.
The phone supports both a standard DC adapter and also supports 802.3af Power over Ethernet (PoE) from a supported switch. Also included is a built in Gigabit Ethernet switch which removes the need for an extra RJ45 data port and allows the phone to be installed next to an existing PC or VoIP phone without the need for additional cabling.
Like all other Polycom devices, configuration can either be performed via a web interface, menus on the phone itself or via a TFTP server. Using the TFTP option is by far the easiest option and allows simple centralised configuration of the device. TFTP based setup is by far the easiest option, the only thing to be aware of is that all Polycom devices use DHCP Option 66 to broadcast the IP address of your TFTP server. If your network does not support this you will need to manually configure the address of your TFTP server, either in the web interface or phone setup menu.
Once configured the phone was a joy to use, call quality was brilliant and the volume from the speakerphone was great with no noticeable distortion, even when set at full volume.
While this device is not designed to be a conference phone, the volume level and microphone sensitivity were sufficient to allow this to work well in a medium sized office or room. Codec support is great and also includes the G.722 wideband audio codec (referred to as HD Voice by Polycom) that delivers audio quality that is superior to even a regular analogue phone on a PSTN network.
The touch screen is fantastic and allows many functions to be controlled without having to use the physical keypad. Calls can be easily made using the popup numeric keypad that appears on screen, SIP URI calling is also supported and alphabet can be accessed by cycling through the number buttons in the same way a mobile phone keypad works.
The phone supports up to 6 lines that are displayed on the right hand side of the screen as softkeys. These softkeys can also be configured to support speed dials or other local extensions and also support BLF and shared line appearance. Voicemail notifications appear both onscreen with an envelope showing on the LCD screen and a flashing red LED on the top right hand corner of the device.
The screen was easily viewable even in a bright room and also supports a power save mode that will dim the screen when not in use. The background image on the LCD screen can also be configured.
The phone features a full XML browser that allows custom features to be written using the Polycom API which opens up a myriad of possibilities such as a basic intranet or internet web browser, RSS reader delivering live news feeds, a phone directory or full integration with a CRM system.
Now onto the reason most people would be interested in this phone video calling. I had some issues configuring video calling with my trixbox PBX system and it appears that there may presently be some issues using this phone for video calling with Asterisk. I was able to use SIP URI calling between the VVX 1500 and another PC running Counterpath eyebeam and this worked flawlessly for video calling. Im sure now that these phones are in the marketplace that whatever issue exists with Asterisk will hopefully be fixed soon, particularly due to the large number of Asterisk PBXs now in use.
The built in camera is adjustable both up and down and also has a privacy slide cover so it can be hidden away when not in use. During video calling there are options to view the video in fullscreen or within a window in the screen. Likewise the local camera view can either be shown in a small window in the corner of the screen or a split view showing both parties side by side. The quality of the video was fantastic and the camera coped well with changing light conditions. One of the only downsides of the design is that the screen and camera cant be moved horizontally, the whole phone has to be physically moved. A hinged design would have allowed the screen and camera to be easily panned around the room would have been a nice added bonus.
The phone supports H.263, H.263 (1998) and H.264 codecs for video and allows selection of 50Hz or 60Hz power options to minimise flicker from lights. A large number of configurable options are available for each of these codecs.
Overall I was very impressed by this phone. Polycom have been in the video conferencing market for many years and have done a great job building a phone that is both great for regular voice calling and delivers a great video calling experience. The phone is certified to work on a number of different VoIP platforms and is interoperable with existing Polycom video conferencing solutions.
Superior audio quality incl G.722 HD Audio support
Multiple methods of provisioning
No video support currently with Asterisk
A large desk footprint
For more information contact Asnet Technologies on 0800 POLYCOM (765926)