The HDX4000 is one of Polycom's premier products in their video-telephony range. These are desktop machines with both HD and standard definition models (4002 and 4001 respectively). In our experience Polycom build high quality products and we would expect no less from these attractive devices.
We connected the units to our LAN with a speed of 100Mbps. One device was set up in a quiet office and the other in a noisy laboratory environment. Call quality was tested at 1920kbps and 4096kbps.
Our test procedure was directed towards ease of set-up, customer support, configuration options, interoperability with other communication systems and quality of sound and vision and lag times. Time constraints mean that many features will be enumerated rather than tested -- these systems tend to come with a wealth of options.
Design and Features
The biggest barrier to quality videoconferencing is network bandwidth. Users of Skype or even hardware options such as desktop phones and 3G mobiles will be familiar with having to either suffer low resolutions, poor refresh rates -- or both. Fast Internet connections are finally making quality real time services a reality.
This is a desktop phone and it isn't small. It has a large monitor and is driven by a box which is basically a small form factor PC. Both monitor and box are encased in shiny black and silver and the design of both is very stylish. User control is via a keypad at the base of the monitor stand.
You can control monitor and camera action at both ends of a call (if permitted) in order to determine such things as zoom (digital) and display source (local/far/both). Content from an attached computer can also be transmitted. Lack of a green screen prevented us from testing another novel option -- superimposing the user onto a background image -- such as a Powerpoint presentation.
The menu system is user-friendly and should not take long to master. Our only gripe about the interface was that when there is an incoming call we are asked if we want to answer (the default is no) and if, rather than selecting yes, we press the illuminated call button (as indicated by the user manual) the incoming call ends!
Chances are you already have a computer on your desk and there is hardly room for a second monitor. The HDX4000 will accept a signal from your existing computer and a button on the HDX monitor allows instant switching between phone and computer inputs. Since the system has a 20.1-inch screen with a native resolution of 1,680 x 1,050 this is unlikely to a backwards step. The camera captures video at a very impressive 1,280 x 720 pixels. Audio signal is collected via widely spaced stereo microphones and delivered to four independent speakers -- all integrated into the monitor.
The quality of both picture and sound is very high. Our first impressions were that we were actually receiving video in real time -- we experienced none of the jerkiness associated with ordinary videophone or Skype transmissions.
We were, after all, using a 100Mbps network connection between the two machines and we made calls at both 1920kbps and 4096kpbs. The latter was better, but in both cases we could clearly see impressive detail such as the smooth motion of a tree blowing in the breeze outside and the motion of an electric fan inside our lab. Admittedly these are small areas of the screen to update and the story is a bit different when there are much larger movements.
If a person in the foreground moves quickly that portion of the image becomes severely pixellated; however, ordinary facial movements are easily handled. As with similar devices network bandwidth is conserved by only sending that part of the image which is changing at a given moment. These are fantastic machines!
Between the two machines we noticed a lag of about half a second each way on both audio and video signal. This is pretty insignificant, but greater lags may occur when transmitting across the Internet. There is a lot of data to process and this is something we are used to with Internet usage generally -- it is a small price to pay for communications at such a high standard.
Audio quality was excellent -- despite the location of one device in a room full of servers we received sound very distinctly allowing us to separate out the server noise as if we were in the same room. We did not detect any -tinniness" or echoing at any time.
Security comes in many forms depending on the type of intrusion that we are trying to avoid. The HDX4002 protects against network based attacks with such features as AES encryption and port selection.
Passwords can be used to protect entry into administration settings, software updating and participation in multi-point conferences. Additionally the user can choose to disable video and use headphones to further improve privacy.
I guess this is a new product, but it is disappointing to be given a documentation disk where most of the files simply say -The document you requested will be available soon". This is even sillier when we note that the files are not actually on the disk, but Web based. We gave up, went to the Polycom Web site and found that the manuals are all there -- apparently the Web addresses need updating.
Aside from a standard LAN connection, the HDX4002 can be connected to an ISDN or through an SIP server.
As we have come to expect from Polycom, the HDX4002 has a feast of features, and they are implemented with quality and style. Both video and audio quality was excellent. These machines are easy to use and configure and are very flexible in terms of the data sources and the formatting of transmitted data.
Service options will vary depending on your reseller, but Polycom do have their own support services which may be utilised by some suppliers. The Polycom Web site gives customers access to a helpdesk (24/7 support on some service plans) and the relevant manuals and knowledge base can also be located there. Minor software updates are offered free and patches are offered under a 90-day software warranty. Hardware is supported by a 12-month parts and labour warranty.
Now lets all take a deep breath: the HDX 4000 units begin at AU$9312.00, and you will need at least two. A product like this is designed to make a good impression -- and it does -- but you won't be putting one on every desk at your office.
Most of us won't be buying one for the home so we can call our spouses to ask, "what's for dinner?", but a quality conferencing system like this could negate the need for a lot of expensive air travel and wasted transit time to attend meetings overseas or interstate. Some savings are available by cutting down on options; for example the 4001 series machines are non-HD.
|Technology||TFT active matrix|
|Diagonal Size||20.1 in|
|Native Resolution||1680 x 1050|
|Image Aspect Ratio||16:9|
|Max Transfer Rate||4 Mbps|
|Digital Signaling Protocol||H.281, H.323, SIP|
|Data Compression Protocol||G.711, G.722, G.722.1, G.728, G.729.A, H.261, H.263++, H.264|
|Features||auto gain control, echo cancellation|
|Service & Support||Limited warranty - parts and labor - 1 year|
|Type||Digital camera (color) - integrated|
|Digital Video Capture Resolution||1280 x 720|
|Data Link Protocol||Ethernet, Fast Ethernet|
|Features||NAT support, manageable|
|Software / System Requirements|
|Software Included||People + Content IP|
|Min Operating Temperature||32 °F|
|Max Operating Temperature||104 °F|
|Humidity Range Operating||10 - 80%|
|Product Line||Polycom HDX|
|Dimensions & Weight|
|Service & Support|
|Type||1 year warranty|
|Service & Support Details|
|Full Contract Period||1 year|
|Service Included||parts and labor|