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Logitech's New UC Portfolio: Plug and Play Business Class Communications at Your Workstation
The common desktop PC is undergoing a cultural transformation from a workstation, to a communications hub. Many workers, myself included, no longer even have a "landline" at their office and simply rely on smartphones for quick calls, and their desktop PC for higher quality audio, and video, communications. Logitech, famous for its high quality mice, keyboards, webcams, and other PC peripherals, has responded in the last few years with a strong focus on business quality PC communication devices.
I recently tested three new Logitech communication tools, optimized for a UC environment (and MS Lync in particular). Assuming your team has standard PCs or laptops at their workstations, providing this portfolio top each team member can allow them to completely switch to fully IP based communications, integrated with their production environment.
The three new products include the following:
- The Logitech Webcam C930e: Logitech describes this new device as the first enterprise-grade webcam with a wide field of view (90 degrees) and support for the H.264 SVC technology in Microsoft Lync 2013.
- The Logitech Wireless Headset H820e: Boasts a range up to 300 feet and "enterprise-grade" audio quality.
- The Logitech USB Headset H650e: Includes a corded headset with a unique no-tangle cable and other advanced features.
The Logitech Webcam C930e
When you think of consumer webcams, you think of Logitech. Theoretically, a standard Logitech home webcam can do the job in the workplace as well, so some may wonder at the need for this new product. However, a quick look at its unique features (as described below) clearly show the benefits of an optimized UC solution. At $129.99, the C930e provides affordable entry into 1080p videoconferencing.
The Wide Angle View
The typical use for a home webcam is a single person headshot view. In the workplace however, a wide angle view can provide a superior experience for certain types of meetings. The most obvious is for when you need to include multiple people at a single location. With a typical narrow view webcam, your colleagues would have to hunch over your shoulders to be included. It is far more natural and comfortable for your colleagues to join the meeting by pulling up a chair and sitting beside you. The C930e's wide view is ideal for supporting this meeting dynamic.
The wide view is also preferable for certain working sessions with a single participant. Many offices and cubicles now include a whiteboard as a standard element. A wide angle view camera can cover the person, and the whiteboard behind them, which can then be used as an active tool during the working session. The wide angle view essentially changes the feel of the meeting from the "talking head" dynamic, to something more like virtually visiting your colleague's office.
The Privacy Shutter
The privacy shutter included with the C390e is a very simple, and wise, product accessory option. In my opinion, every device with a camera (including smart phones) should consider including a physical lens cap of some sort. At the very least, it will soon become a sales / marketing necessity in response to today's heightened privacy concerns.
Manufacturers of communications devices simply must take the inherent insecurity of the internet into consideration in the design of their products. With the renewed global interest in NSA activities, and the constant threat of hacking from nefarious internet associations, security and privacy is on everyone's minds. While true security requires a multilevel approach, starting with the network; from a human perspective people need some visual reassurance. A physical privacy shutter is the obvious, and logical answer. The greatest hacker in the world can't force a camera to see through a closed lens cap.�
The C930e benefits from everything Logitech has learned from their multiple previous iterations of consumer and business webcams. Little things, like the Velcro strip attached to the USB cable, improving cable management, all help to provide a superior experience. Even the design of the clip used to attach the webcam to your monitor is clearly the result of multiple design rounds. There is also more going on "under the hood" as it is capable of processing H.264 SVC for Lync within the camera itself, taking some of the burden off of the PC or laptop.
While I did not test the embedded microphone extensively, as I was primarily testing the new headphones, I did use them for several calls, using different VC clients, and the remote party always told me that my audio quality was excellent. Note, even if you do plan on primarily using headphones, a quality embedded microphone is still essential for the occasions when do you have multiple participants at your location.
Logitech Wireless Headset H820e
This product has flat out changed the way I work. I engage in long working sessions on video, and I like to move around. Corded headphones are too limiting for me. I have a Bluetooth earpiece, which is great when I am out and on the go, but also not comfortable during extended desktop sessions. As a result, I tend to use the embedded microphone in my webcam, which is really better suited for group sessions, as mentioned above. It does the job, but sometimes I send background noise, which can be distracting and disruptive.
This wireless headset resolves all of these issues with no compromises. It is exceptionally comfortable and the sound quality is excellent. The fact that I often chose to intuitively "hang up" calls by placing the headset on its recharging stand resulted in a constant charged device. I never came close to fully using its listed 10 hours of talk time. The device's range was also excellent, as I had to actually leave my building and walk well into the parking lot before dropping out.
Nice touches include a red light indicator at the back of the microphone to let others know you are on a call. A second red light indicator at the tip of the microphone gives you active notification that you are muted. The controls are also well designed, allowing for easy answer/hangup, mute and volume control by touch. At $199.99 I would call it a premium headset, but considering the importance of quality audio it is a solid investment.
You should note that this is not a Bluetooth device and is not designed to be paired with your smartphone. It is a USB peripheral. That being said, it provides such a superior experience to a smartphone earpiece that I soon found a simple workaround. I created a free Google Voice phone number, and set my smart phone to forward calls to that number. As long as I am logged into Google, I can receive calls sent to my old existing number, at my PC, allowing me to use the headset. Again, this product has changed the way I work.
Logitech USB Headset H650e
At first, one may be confused by the inclusion of a wired headset in this portfolio. Who needs two headsets, and who would choose wired over wireless? There are a few reasons why it makes sense to have the wired headset available. The primary reason is mobility. The wireless headset and base just aren't designed for travel. The wired headset actually comes with a travel bag. Throw the headset and the webcam in the travel bag and your laptop becomes your mobile unified communications station. Also, at $89.99 the H650e is a budget alternative for those needing business quality audio and willing to forgo on the convenience of wireless.
IP based communications is happening. Logically, it is just a more efficient workflow to start host communications on our PCs, which already host our contact lists, directories, calendars, project management systems, databases, working files, etc. etc. It is unclear which of the many new video service approaches will win the current market battle, but keep in mind that all services are limited by the quality of the user's webcam and headset.
About the Author
David Maldow, Esq. is a visual collaboration technologist and analyst with the Human Productivity Lab and an associate publisher at Telepresence Options. David has extensive expertise in testing, evaluating, and explaining telepresence and other visual collaboration / rich media solutions. David is focused on providing third-party independent analysis and opinion of these technologies and helping end users better secure their visual collaboration environments. You can follow David on Twitter and Google+.
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