Commercial Integrator 2023 - 53

C llab rati n
TODAY and TOMORROW
users. Laptop cameras, while getting better over time, still lag
in quality behind webcams. If you're a frequent video user,
a webcam is recommendable. Typically, integrated cameras
have limited settings to control the scene or enhance the
quality of the image. The main benefit of integrated cameras
is their ease of use; a secondary benefit is not needing any
extra pieces of equipment.
Audio Devices
Laptops, tablets and smartphones also have built-in capabilities
for the transmission and broadcast of audio. However,
the typical laptop and tablet audio experience can often be
lacking, featuring substandard microphones and speakers.
Smartphones have exceptional audio for voice calling, but,
when video is added to the equation and the phone moves
away from the user's mouth, the quality can be less than ideal.
Device-integrated audio rarely has built-in noise cancellation;
thus, you'll need to rely on the meeting service to block
unwanted noise from reaching the people you're talking to.
That said, these audio solutions are extremely easy, good for
all levels of expertise and the least-expensive ones in this
article. However, I wouldn't recommend using this method
if you are anything more than an infrequent user, as the
experience for you and the remote participants is typically
less than ideal.
Headsets have been around for a long time, and USB wired
versions for use in meetings can be inexpensive. The low
price does not necessarily mean low audio quality on your
calls. However, lower-end models may have poor music playback,
depending on the device. There are as many opinions
in the wired versus wireless debate as there are headsets out
there. In my opinion, it really comes down to the individual's
use case, device-portability needs and simplicity of use. If
you're going mobile, wired likely won't cut it. If your headset
stays in one place all the time, there may not be a need for
wireless. Wired headsets have plug-and-play simplicity and
are always ready for use, whereas wireless versions may not
be as user friendly.
In general, wireless headsets are going to be more expensive
than their wired counterparts are. They also may
be heavier due to having integrated batteries. The sound
quality of wired vs. wireless is entirely subjective to the user,
and I haven't found one type to have better quality than the
other. Wired headsets are for users of all difficulty levels, for
infrequent to regular use, and are best for those working
from one device in a permanent setup. Wireless headsets
might seem slightly temperamental for infrequent or beginner
users, as there can be Bluetooth connectivity issues
that stem from a lack of use. Wireless headsets are excellent
for mobile users in noisy areas, and they can be swapped
easily between devices.
Wireless earbuds are becoming more common in business
communications. Not only do they work well with mobile
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devices via Bluetooth but, in addition, a few recent models
have included a USB Bluetooth dongle that maintains a
better connection with a PC or laptop. They might not be the
best choice for those on calls all day long due to the potential
of ear fatigue and the batteries not making it through the day.
However, the pros are numerous: Higher-end earbuds typically
have excellent noise cancellation for the wearer; they can
serve as your audio device for music listening; and they are
the ideal device for multi-device mobile professionals.
The final audio-only device category in this article involves
USB/Bluetooth speakerphones. Speakerphones are an excellent
option for people who are on calls all day long, as headsets
or earbuds can get uncomfortable after long periods of
use. Modern speakerphones are connected to a computer
either via USB or Bluetooth. Although primarily designed for
conferencing, they can replace dedicated speakers for music
listening. They are also typically easy to use. They're good for
beginners through advanced users, and Bluetooth-enabled
models are an option for multi-device users. The primary
concern is using a speakerphone in a noisy space or an open
area. Privacy can be a concern, as can be the imperative not
to disturb nearby people. If you are in a loud space, the device
might pick up noises and transmit them to the person to
whom you are talking. However, many speakerphones have
built-in noise suppression, as do many meeting services that
can greatly suppress static noises in the room. If two people
are in the room for the same video call, a speakerphone is
the logical choice over headsets or earbuds.
Assessing Hybrid Devices
For an excellent hybrid device with microphones, speakers
and video, a USB-based video bar might be right for you.
There are many positives with this type of device: the primary
benefit being that you're not forced to juggle between two or
three separate devices, each of which is taking up a USB port.
Hybrid devices typically include a robust set of audio and video
features that are manageable via a software download. Individual
pieces of gear might also have software downloads for
management, and it can get cumbersome to deal with multiple
software downloads for multiple devices. With a USB video bar,
it's all in one place, making device management easy.
USB video bars are best in a permanent setup connected
to a single computer, as they are not exceptionally portable
and aren't mobile-device friendly. This lack of portability due
to their size is the primary downside with this type of device.
They are also more expensive than other solutions are. However,
realize that, by the time you buy a high-end webcam, a
high-end microphone and a top-of-the-line speaker, your cost
might be close to - if not more than - just buying an all-inone
video bar.
Bryan Hellard serves as a product evaluator in unified
communications, AV and smart home.
JUNE 2023 Commercial Integrator 53
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Commercial Integrator 2023

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