Poly Sync 20, hands on: Portable sound for work and play

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Working from home is now well established, and likely to continue for many people regardless of what happens in the wider world. As a result, tech vendors are keen to offer products that can do dual duty -- for both work and leisure. That's what Poly has in mind with its Sync 20 speakerphone, citing its utility from 'meetings to music', its portability and its 20-hour battery life.  

But is it a good speaker, and does it really make the grade for both work and play? It's going to have to, considering the £161.95/$169.55 price tag.  

Zoom and Teams certification are welcome, and it's good to have both wireless (Bluetooth 5.1) and wired connections. The built-in cable is generously long at 71.5cm, and while it's natively USB-A, Poly provides an adapter for USB-C devices. The cord wraps neatly around the underside of the speaker, so it's not visible when not in use, but you don't have to remember to carry it around with you.


The 182mm-wide, 360g Poly Sync 20 speaker comes with a matching fabric case.

Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

The 71.5cm USB cable stows neatly on the underside of the speaker when not in use. Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity is also available.

Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

When it comes to carrying the speaker, Poly provides a sturdy, well-constructed case, made from an attractive fabric that matches the top of the speaker. It should sit nicely in a backpack -- the in-case measurements are just a bit more than the speaker's 34mm by 95 mm by 182 mm, and while you'll notice its 360g weight, there's no extra paraphernalia such as a power adapter to factor in. There's a lanyard too, just in case you should need to hang the speaker up. The Poly Sync 20 has an IP64 rating for dust and water resistance ('dust tight' and able to handle 'splashing of water'). Its firmware can be updated via a desktop app. 

A full charge of the 3200mAh battery takes four hours and delivers a claimed 20 hours of life. The speaker can be charged from your laptop or a wall socket; you can also use it as a portable charger for your phone if you've got its charge cable with you, which is a nice touch. I'd have appreciated some sort of physical charge indicator on the device -- a press-and-hold button that illuminates a set of indicator lights, for example. That could save you worrying about charge level before dashing out to a meeting or social occasion where the speaker could play a role. 


As well as call, volume and mute buttons, there's a customisable 'Rocket' button that you configure via a desktop app. The default function is play/pause.

Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

A panel on the front of the speaker provides touch-buttons for call (and Siri/Google Assistant if in use with a smartphone), volume up, volume down, mute and a customisable button that you configure in the Hub software. The default setting is play/pause music. If you opt for the Teams-certified version of the Poly Sync 20, you also get a Teams button. 

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Above the buttons and beneath the main speaker area there's a narrow strip of light which runs almost the full length of the speaker. If it's flashing blue, Bluetooth pairing is underway, while solid blue indicates paired. A flashing green light indicates an incoming call, with solid green for a call in progress and solid red when you're muted. These visual indicators are useful extras for those of us with video call fatigue, who can sometimes forget (embarrassingly) that we're muted (or, possibly even more embarrassingly) not muted.  

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Establishing a connection to both my laptop and my Android smartphone was quick and easy. Audio output for leisure purposes was impressive. The sound was loud enough at top volume, and while bass tones were sometimes distorted at this level, orchestral music was nicely rounded. Audio calls were routed directly to the speaker from my phone, delivering a better experience than the handset's speakerphone. PC-based video calls benefitted too, with crisp and clear sound at both ends. The Poly Sync 20's three-mic array has a pickup range of 2 metres, and supports noise and echo reduction.

The Poly Sync 20 can't be described as 'affordable' at £161.95/$169.55, but it does effectively straddle work and leisure use cases. It's nicely designed, the touch controls are intuitive to work with, and the ability to charge a handset could come in useful.


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