When selecting a VoIP phone you should be aware that there are a few different types to consider: desktop, conference, and video phones. Each type provides a specific purpose and each plays its part in a VoIP system deployment. This article provides details on each type to help you with your selection process.
Desktop VoIP phones sit on the desktop (in an office or at home) and are connected to the wall via an Ethernet cable which provides power and both voice and data connectivity. They are still the most popular option for any business telecom solution as they are typically high quality, good looking devices that offer excellent sound quality. Additionally, they offer features and capabilities that could only be dreamt of a few years ago. They make it extremely convenient for any user to perform a number of communication related tasks such as 3-way conferencing and call management.
There are in fact a few alternatives that could be considered:
There are many manufacturers and models available on the market today. Refer to our comparison table for twelve (12) popular models from manufacturers such as Polycom, Cisco, Yealink, Snom, Grandstream, Panasonic and Aastra.
These are specifically designed to go in a larger room, such as a meeting room, and be integrated into the office VoIP system or hosted VoIP service. It is critical that it enables multiple people, located anywhere in the room, to effortlessly be heard when talking and be able to clearly hear the entire conversation. As such, a powerful and extremely clear speakerphone and sensitive microphones that can easily pick up speech from anywhere in the room are important features. Some models are designed for larger rooms and typically feature optional expansion microphones that plug into the base unit and extend to the ends of large conference tables.
The following provides some models worth considering.
Polycom offers a wide selection of conference phones that support hosted VoIP service, on-premise digital PBX, USB and Analog. There are four models that are IP enabled and support hosted service. The SoundStation Duo model can function as either an analog or an IP phone. The Polycom SoundStation IP 5000 model is mainly for smaller conference rooms and does not support expansion microphones. The Polycom SoundStation IP 6000 is mainly for mid-sized rooms and does support expansion microphones while also featuring automatic gain control that adjusts microphone sensitivity. The high end Polycom SoundStation IP 7000 introduces Polycom video integration. Review this Comparison Chart offered by Polycom for more details.
Cisco currently offers the Unified Conference Station 7937G as its sole conference solution. It is SCCP based and does not support the SIP protocol. It cannot be used for hosted VoIP service and is intended for use with the Cisco, on-premise call manager solution.
The Snom MeetingPoint model is currently the only conference model available from Snom. It supports SIP and should work with a hosted VoIP service. It also supports expansion microphones for larger rooms.
The Konftel 300IP model supports SIP and should operate with hosted VoIP services. Other Konftel conference phones are not IP enabled.
These have a video screen integrated and they allow you to both see and speak to the person you are calling. Some desktop models also offer this feature through the use of a separate camera that is connected to the phone and then placed on top of a PC monitor or laptop. The monitor or laptop display is then used to view the other calling party, while the phone is used for the voice and the camera is used to capture images at your end so the calling party can see you.
Here are some solutions that can be used with a hosted service from different manufacturers.
The Polycom VVX 1500 and VVX 1500D models do not require any additional hardware. However, the VVX 500 and VVX 600 have the capability for video calling but they require a VVX camera that is plug-and-play via USB into the 500/600 models.
Cisco currently offers the 8000 (8941, 8945 & 8961) and 9000 (9951 and 9971) series models that support video calling. Select models in Cisco's other series also support this feature through the use of Cisco Unified Video Advantage and the Cisco Advantage VT III camera. These models are supported with the Cisco call manager solution. In addition to these models, Cisco also offers a video conferencing solution with its WebEx webinar software product. Cisco does not currently offer a solution for 3rd party hosted VoIP services.
The GXV3175v2 and the GXV3140v2 are multimedia telecommunications solutions currently offered by Grandstream. Older models are the the GXV3000, GXV3005, GXV3006 video phones and the GXV3140 IP multimedia phone.
The VP530 is Yealink's sole offering for video communications. A large, integrated 7" display makes this phone a decent option.
IP enabled video calling capable phones are likely an expensive option and there are much cheaper alternatives that utilize stand-alone cameras that integrate with a PC based solution such as WebEx. In saying that though, they are a great solution for busy executives that need frequent communications with remote customers or employees. They are also extremely cool!