Cisco TelePresence 500 delivers the total collaboration experience

The InfoWorld Test Center gets its hands on Cisco's most affordable suite-oriented telepresence system

Bottom Line

Cisco TelePresence System 500, installed in the private office, is designed for remote one-on-one meetings or for joining larger meetings. It features lifelike, high-definition (720p or 1080p) video from a camera that’s positioned for excellent eye contact. The all-in-one unit contains special lighting and is designed for optimal audio quality. System 500 interoperates with other standards-compliant conferencing systems, and includes extras such as video recording. Functions are easily controlled from an IP phone.

More affordable midrange telepresence systems, such as offerings from Polycom and LifeSize systems, offer fine picture and audio quality, along with usability. But in the overall product continuum, Cisco TelePresence System 500 is the most economical system that gives you the full experience of telepresence rooms.

The Cisco TelePresence System 500 I tried out was already installed at a regional office of a large enterprise. This turnkey system -- with monitor, pro-grade video camera, and built-in lighting -- creates much the same immersive experience as Cisco's high-end telepresence systems.

[ Learn more about the lay of the telepresence landscape. | Check out the InfoWorld Test Center's hands-on review of two midrange telepresence systems. ]

Cisco calls the System 500 "personal telepresence" because it's installed in a private office to connect one or two users to other individuals or to a larger group meetings. I tried the 230-pound pedestal-mounted hardware, but it's also available in a 65-pound (without pedestal and codec) configuration for wall mounting or placement on a credenza.

Although the system I used was already installed, initial setup looks to be straightforward. The internal Cisco Gigabit Ethernet switch connects to your network; the same RJ-45 interface supports a Cisco Unified IP Phone 7975G and Ethernet-attached PC. An administrator usually does networking and other configuration work through the Cisco TelePresence administrator Web interface.

Small, but powerful

You might expect the System 500 to take over a small room, but the opposite is true: The unit is a scant 1 foot deep and 3.2 feet wide. Unlike the systems reviewed that have discrete components (and require you to supply a monitor), Cisco's integrates the 37-inch high-definition display, manual-focus HD camera, microphone, speakers, and lighting in a modern-looking appliance.

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