LifeSize Express

LifeSize Express

Summary: As an entry point into high-definition video conferencing (telepresence), LifeSize Express is hard to beat. It's a standalone solution that occupies the middle ground between PC-plus-webcam systems and vastly expensive telepresence suite installations.

TOPICS: Networking, Reviews
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  • Delivers a 'telepresence' experience at a relatively affordable price
  • Standards-based system
  • Straightforward to set up and use


  • Single screen, point-to-point system (more expensive solutions deliver multi-screen, multi-point functionality)

Videoconferencing used to be a relatively low-resolution 4:3 aspect-ratio affair, but in recent years it has been transformed by high-definition (HD) 16:9 video, displayed on large screens in custom-built suites. To reflect this enhanced, immersive, experience, the term 'telepresence' has been adopted. The exemplar of telepresence is Cisco's eponymous product, which is notoriously expensive — it'll set you back around £150,000 for a dedicated suite, with serious service/bandwidth charges on top of that. HP also plays in this high-end market with its Halo product, along with the likes of Tandberg, Teliris and Polycom.

Clearly there is a vacant niche in the videoconferencing ecosystem for something more capable than do-it-yourself 'Skype and a webcam' solutions, yet cheaper than feature-rich but exorbitant Cisco/HP-style installations (despite recent moves to cut prices in this market). This is where Austin, Texas-based LifeSize comes in — most particularly with its entry-level £3,499 LifeSize Express product.

LifeSize Express is a single-screen, point-to-point telepresence system comprising an HD codec, an HD pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) camera, a high-definition MicPod microphone and a wireless remote control. Any display with an HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) port can be used. Note that this is a standalone system — no PC is required.

The codec, which handles the audio/video streams in real time, is a slim, roughly A4-footprint, unit measuring 28.8cm wide by 18.7cm deep by 4.13cm high and weighing 1.29kg. Bar a couple of status LEDs at the front, all the action is on the backplane, where the I/O connections reside.

The LifeSize Express codec.

From left to right, there's a reset button, a 4-pin power connector (from the bulky 19V AC adapter), a VGA input for displaying PC output, a FireWire port for the camera, HD video-in and video-out ports, RJ-45 connectors for the LAN and the optional LifeSize Phone plus microphone, line-out and line-in jacks.

The camera is a solid pan-tilt-zoom unit that can deliver 1,280-by-720 (720p or WXGA) video at 30 frames per second (fps), although the resolution you actually get at the remote end of a two-way link will depend on the bandwidth available (>1Mbps is required for 720p). It connects to the codec via a 7.5m FireWire cable, giving you reasonable placement flexibility (a 15m cable is also an option).


The LifeSize Express HD pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) camera.

The camera's wide-angle lens has a 70-degree field of view and a 4x optical zoom that's operated via the supplied infrared remote control.

The remaining components are the aforementioned MicPod microphone and the remote control. The MicPod is a disc-shaped omni-directional mic with a 7.5m combined audio/power cable, adorned by a mute button and call status/mute indication LEDs.

The LifeSize Express MicPod microphone and infrared remote control.

The remote control lets you navigate LifeSize Express's on-screen menu system, control the local or remote PTZ cameras, mute the microphone and adjust speaker volume.



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Topics: Networking, Reviews


Charles has been in tech publishing since the late 1980s, starting with Reed's Practical Computing, then moving to Ziff-Davis to help launch the UK version of PC Magazine in 1992. ZDNet came looking for a Reviews Editor in 2000, and he's been here ever since.

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