Crown Fibre Holdings expects video-conferencing will be among the first popular applications on the UFB fibre network. It’s not only about staying in touch with friends and family. There’s evidence video-conferencing makes businesses more productive.
Built-in cameras, microphones and speakers on laptops and tablets will get you started. If you want better, it may pay to invest in specialist hardware like the Logitech ConferenceCam (BCC950).
Bringing professional video-conferencing to the masses
I’m old enough to remember when video-conferencing was prohibitively expensive. Companies spent tens of thousands installing kit. They spent a king’s ransom on ISDN lines so they could see grainy, washed-out images of colleagues stutter across the screen.
Logitech’s ConferenceCam isn’t expensive. It sells for around $300 in New Zealand. The money buys a professional, high-quality web camera that works at 1080p and 30 frames per second.
It has a Carl Zeiss lens with continuous autofocus. The ConferenceCam also automatically handles changing light conditions. Depending on the service you use and the available bandwidth you’ll also get good quality audio through the base mounted speaker.
ConferenceCam like HDTV only interactive
All-in-all it is like watching high-definition television.
Logitech says the BCC950 ConferenceCam works with most communications software, particularly Skype and Lync: both logos are on the box. It also works with Windows and Mac computers. In both cases set up is simple. There are controls on the base of the unit and a remote control if you want to sit further away from the camera.
We don’t have UFB in our neighbourhood, so we tested it on a VDSL connection. The results were more than good enough for business class video-conferencing. While it isn’t on a par with the dedicated video suites found in large corporations, it is better than ISDN era video-conferencing.
We liked: The idea behind Logitech’s BCC950 ConferenceCam – bringing professional standards to consumers and small businesses. It’s a well-designed device in the sense that all the controls are in the right place. We also found it easy to set up and like the loud clear audio.
We’re less keen on: having yet another desktop device to find a home for and hook-up with other kit. It performs well, but using a laptop’s built-in camera, speakers and mic means less fuss despite lower quality sound and images.
We’re not sure about: the industrial design. It’s a little strange-looking, the kind of thing Dr Who might fight. Having to shave, wash hair, iron a shirt before making calls to clients.
Overall: if you do, or plan to do, a lot of video-conferencing this is a sound investment. It’s overkill for occasional, casual chatting.