Midrange telepresence systems marry high quality with affordability
The Polycom QDX 6000 and the LifeSize Express 200 deliver a high-quality face-to-face experience at a price any company will find appealingFollow @infoworld
Hooking up LifeSize Express 200's remarkably small codec is simple because the backplane is uncluttered, sockets are logically arranged, and the number of cables is kept to a minimum. I made five easy connections: power, network, camera, HD video monitor (using a single HDMI cable for both audio and video), and microphone pod. The just-released model I tested has a second HDMI output to connect another HD monitor (which is used to display content from a PC).
After making a few initial settings, such as creating a room password, via the remote control, I was ready to make my first call. In all, I went from unboxing to making my first call in about 15 minutes.
Advanced configuration is done from a Web-based management tool, which is localized for 14 languages. The context-sensitive user interface makes it easy to create address book entries (up to 1,000 local entries are possible), change video or networking settings, and perform other similar tasks.
The difference between the two Express 200 models is that the lower-priced unit has a fixed autofocus camera, while the more expensive system that I tested includes an upgraded PTZ camera. In quantity, its 10 presets (any combination of pan, tilt, and zoom settings) don't match the 100 you get with the Polycom QDX 6000 but should be ample for most situations. Moreover, LifeSize camera's autofocus worked quickly and reliably.
Compared to the Polycom system, the high-definition camera required more room illumination to produce a picture with natural-looking skin tones and moderate contrast. However, LifeSize pulled ahead in video quality. The true high resolution (even though it's limited to 720p) made a noticeable difference in picture clarity, especially when zooming in on small objects. People, too, appeared more realistic.
The system includes a single high-definition microphone (a dual MicPod is optional). With full-duplex audio, conversations were natural, with no echo.
The LifeSize Express interface that's displayed on a room monitor is aesthetically pleasing -- and performing common tasks didn't require more than one or two steps. For example, the main screen shows what the near camera is viewing along with options to place a call. Once you're in a call, the solidly constructed handheld remote is used to zoom the camera, take control of the far system's camera, and change video sources. As with the Polycom system, LifeSize also lets you control a lot of conference functions from the Web interface.