Lifesize Icon 500 and Phone HD review: Killer conferencing
A classy all-in-one 4K videoconferencing solution that’s ideal for first-timers – you’ll be set up in minutes
Plenty of companies will sell you a standalone videoconferencing system, but Lifesize has been offering an integrated platform from the start. Its Icon cameras and Phone HD base stations combine with the company’s own conferencing service to form a complete one-stop system.
Lifesize is also one of few providers that currently supports 4K video calls and content sharing. That’s made possible by a proprietary compression scheme, which cuts bandwidth requirements to a modest 3Mbits/sec. Security won’t be an issue either, as all meetings use end-to-end encryption.
The Icon 500 camera unit we tested is Lifesize’s affordable option for small to medium-sized meeting rooms, and includes motorised pan, tilt and 5x optical zoom controls. The Icon 700 option adds around £1,300 to the price but features a longer 20x optical zoom – potentially handy for larger rooms.
The other half of the package is the Phone HD unit, which incorporates a 5in colour touchscreen, an internal speaker and four mics, capable of picking up 360° audio coverage at a range of up to 4.5m.
Remote participants, meanwhile, can connect using native client apps for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. The online videoconferencing service lets you host meetings of up to ten people for free, but we recommend you invest in at least the Standard plan (which costs around £10 per user per month) as this adds access to Lifesize’s cloud-based management console. Step up to the Plus option, for around £12 per user, and you gain integrations that allow Lifesize to slot seamlessly into Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, Alexa for Teams and Slack. There’s also a Chrome extension for web-based access, and integration with Exchange, Office 365 and G Suite for email and calendar syncing.
We were impressed at how swift it was to set up the Icon 500 kit. All we had to do was connect the camera to the lab network via Ethernet, then attach a monitor and hook up the Phone HD unit using the supplied 9m cable, which carries both data and power. We then booted up the system and were greeted with an IP address, which you can visit in a browser to access the setup portal. Here you can set secure admin passwords and select whether you want audio to come through the monitor or the Phone HD unit.
The final step is to log in to your cloud portal account. This opens with a dashboard showing a wealth of details on calls, participants and devices; new users are easily added by sending them an invitation email, which includes a web link enabling them to set up their own account.
Launching meetings is just as straightforward. We found the Phone HD’s touchscreen very easy to use, allowing us to browse our directory of users, choose who we wanted to include and kick off a meeting with a few taps. Likewise, remote clients can browse lists of contacts or room systems, and initiate sessions with a couple of clicks.
In-call video quality is clean and sharp, with very good colour balance. There’s no automatic speaker tracking, but far-end controls allow remote participants to take over the PTZ functions from their own app. Sound quality is great too, and impressively loud: we tested the system in a meeting room measuring around 23m2, and found we had no need to push the volume over 50%. The microphone array also worked well, with remote callers confirming that they could clearly hear all of our meeting room members.
Together, the Icon 500 and Phone HD make a videoconference room solution that’s easy to deploy and blessed with highly intuitive controls. A fine range of client apps plus great call quality make this a superb choice for any business that’s ready to embrace videoconferencing.
Lifesize Icon 500 and Phone HD specifications
4K resolution, PTZ, 5x optical zoom, 88° field of view, Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac wireless, HDMI in, 2 x HDMI out, RJ-45 link port with PoE, 2 x USB 2, external PSU
5in colour touchscreen, 4 x internal mics, internal speaker, RJ-45 Icon link port, 9m link cable
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