Reviews

Poly Studio review: Take the pain out of videoconferencing

A professional 4K meeting-room solution that’s simple to deploy and boasts some useful smart features

Price
£752
  • Outstanding AV quality; Simple setup; Smart auto-tracking features
  • Focus can occasionally be a little soft in close-up

Polycom is a well established name in the videoconferencing industry - but since its acquisition by Plantronics it's now known simply as Poly. One of the first products to be launched under the new brand is the Studio, a sleek USB video bar that brings convenient 4K videoconferencing facilities to smaller businesses.

The appeal to SMBs starts with the tempting price tag, and ease of use is a focus too. Since the Studio is an integrated unit there are almost no cables or connections to mess with, and when we plugged it into a Windows 10 PC the operating system immediately found and loaded the appropriate device drivers.

The one thing you will want to install manually is the free companion app for Windows and macOS, which provides a quick start wizard, camera controls and options to upgrade the firmware. It also lets you connect the Studio to a wireless network, but this doesn't enable point-to-point connections, as you might imagine: rather, it lets you manage the Studio via Poly's provisioning server - a useful feature, especially for those with multiple Poly devices to manage.

For everyday use, the Poly Studio comes with a remote handset, with straightforward buttons for adjusting the volume, zoom level and other settings. You can also pair the Studio with a smartphone and control it and initiate calls that way.

Once your meeting is underway, some clever features of the Studio come into play. Automatic group framing detects where all participants are sitting and uses the camera's 5x digital zoom function to crop the viewing area appropriately. There's speaker tracking too, which identifies and zooms in on the active speaker. Meanwhile, Poly's Acoustic Fence and NoiseBlock features identify and remove annoying background noises such as keyboard heavy hitters.

During testing, we found these features worked very well: the camera snapped sharply to whoever was speaking and zoomed back out when they stopped talking. Even when the speaker started wandering around the conference room, the Studio tracked them accurately and kept them in view with shift delays of no more than two seconds. We also like the way that, when the camera is tracking a person, the light bar above it shows whether it's focusing on the left or right side of the meeting room. If you want the camera to stay put, you can disable both group framing and speaker tracking, and use the remote handset or the companion app to control pan, tilt and zoom. Two preset buttons let you store particular views and quickly switch between them.

The image itself is clean and sharp, with very good colour balance. Our only slight gripe is that some participants felt that the focus seemed slightly soft, especially when the tracking zoomed in for a close-up of the active speaker - but the 4K sensor still captures masses of detail.

And we've certainly no complaints about audio quality. The Studio's stereo speakers delivered a very clean sound with warm bass; meeting participants agreed that volume levels up to 50% were ample for a 6.5m meeting room and found that the handset volume controls worked fine.

The mics performed well, with participants reporting that remote speakers were clearly picked up, even from the maximum 3.6m distance. If you need to temporarily silence the call for any reason, there's a mute button on the remote; the light bar above the camera glows red so everyone knows that it's muted. There's also a privacy switch underneath the camera that covers the lens with a physical shutter.

Poly's Studio is a hassle-free videoconferencing solution that's a cinch to set up and use. The audio-enhancing and video-tracking features really help remote meetings go smoothly, and for a 4K VC solution it's seriously affordable.

Verdict

Poly’s Studio is a hassle-free videoconferencing solution that’s a cinch to set up and use. The audio-enhancing and video-tracking features really help remote meetings go smoothly, and for a 4K VC solution it’s seriously affordable.

4K camera 120° field of vision 5x digital zoom stereo speakers 6-element microphone array USB-C Bluetooth 4.2 3.5mm audio in 802.11ac Wi-Fi (for management only) 5m USB cable external PSU Bluetooth remote handset 700 x 70 x 105mm (WDH) Poly Companion for Windows/Mac 1yr limited warranty

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