At the University of Huddersfield we have been transitioning to Skype for Business for the last couple of years. As a result of this we have been fitting out rooms so that they are SfB ready when they are refurbished.
Our refits commonly involve a Logitech C920 camera along with Audio Technica boundary mics in the ceiling which has worked perfectly well for us but we always felt that there must be something better out there. We looked at a couple of other products that were close but not quite what we were looking for. The Acendo Vibe was very close but with the controls on the side we didn’t feel that it was quite as intuitive as it could be and was a bit on the pricey side. The Crestron Mercury was good too but lacked a camera and you would still have cables dragging across the table when you linked up additional mics.
One of the problems that we encounter is that people agree a specific time for a video conference and then find that there are no suitably equipped rooms available at that time because they are being used for normal ‘physical’ meetings. What we would like is a portable option so that we can transform any room into a video conferencing room.
So when I went to the LTSMG conference at the University of Hertfordshire in November last year, I was happy to see the Yamaha CS700 on display. We have been using a Revolabs FLX UC500 mic/speaker combination with great results and the CS700 appeared to use the same technology but with an added camera and the controls are clearly visible on the front. An added bonus was that Yamaha were demonstrating it attached to a screen on a trolley which is exactly what we had been thinking of doing ourselves for the portable option. It looked perfect for us.
When I got back to the office, I spoke to our integrator Roche AV to get a price. I was pleasantly surprised and decided to buy one to try it out. Unfortunately as this was such a new product they were not actually available yet so I would have to wait for a month or two. So I waited … and I waited … and eventually I saw a tweet from AV Technology Europe that they were finally available in the UK. I called Roche and they said that I would be getting mine the next day and sure enough it appeared on my desk on Valentine’s day. Not quite a bunch of roses, but who am I to complain?
The device was securely packed and came with everything that I would need to connect it to an office. There was a mounting to screw into the wall and the instructions showed how the bracket to hold it easily snapped in. I would say that you can easily have it installed and working within half an hour of opening the box. As I was just testing it I just laid it on the table, connected the USB cable to my laptop, connected the power and I was ready to start.
Within SfB I selected the CS700 for the audio and video source and made a call to a colleague in our office. Everything worked perfectly straight out of the box. I set up a table so that it would seat appx 6 people. The camera took in the whole table and could easily accommodate a larger table if required. The camera was of a good quality and produced a good picture and there is even a camera shutter for privacy if that is a requirement.
The audio quality was excellent. Without any tweaking whatsoever my colleague could clearly hear what I was saying whether I was right next to the device or at the far side of the room about 6m away. The CS700 picked up everything and it sounded great at my end too.
On the front of the device there are audio and video mute buttons which glow blue when muted and volume buttons. It is possible to connect your mobile phone via Bluetooth which can be done easily by the usual method of pairing or you can use NFC to connect quickly. I connected my phone and made a call. The CS700 mic and speakers automatically kicked in but I was a little surprised that the phone’s camera is still used instead of the CS700’s. Nor could I find a way to get the CS700 camera to be used via Bluetooth, but I don’t think that will be an issue for us at all.
I then connected the CS700 to our network and was able to easily control things via the web interface. It is a nice touch to be able to control remotely but the device will work just as well without a network connection.
On the bottom of the CS700 there are 3 screw holes so that tripods can be attached if required instead of the wall fixings. This will be ideal for us for the portable solution.
So are there any drawbacks? Not many to be honest. It would be nice to be able to use the CS700 camera with a mobile phone. Whilst it is easy to press the buttons on the front of the device, some room layouts may make it awkward to do so and I think that a remote control might be a useful addition.
A great product at the right price. I don’t think you could want more from a video conferencing system without making it too complicated. The clarity of the audio is excellent and the wide angle of the camera incorporates the whole meeting.
5 stars *****