Review: LifeSize Brings High-Definition Enterprise Videoconferencing to a Meeting Room Near You

The LifeSize Room is an affordable, simple-to-set-up videoconferencing system with HD video resolution and super wideband audio. In our test drive, its video and sound quality were outstanding, but minor issues hindered the overall experience.

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Why LifeSize Might Not Be the Right Size

Although the LifeSize Room is a beautifully designed videoconferencing system, the shape and size of the codec itself is a bit awkward. Gonick, the Case Western CIO, wished the codec were smaller and more suited to sit on a desktop, next to his monitor or in some other unobtrusive place. I couldn't agree more. As Gonick said, "Rather than an appliance to the side, I'd like to see [the codec] more integrated into the executive environment."

The HD video quality was impressive overall, but it became spotty on a few occasions and left what looked like tiny red bursts of light in the wake of moving objects. When Gonick waved his hands in front of his face rapidly, I saw reddish traces for a second or two before the camera focused back in, and we were connected at 2.0Mbps with very little packet loss. (You can easily check connection statistics at any time during a videoconference via the remote control.) Gonick said he'd never experienced any such lapses in video quality.

LifeSize Phone
LifeSize Phone

Occasionally, I heard my own voice on the other end of the call. For instance, I'd ask Gonick a question; as he started to respond a second or two later, I could hear the tail end of my inquiry. I imagine this had something to do with our conference room's acoustics—or Gonick's—but I can't be sure one way or the other. However, this is a good example of why you might pay to customize a room for videoconferencing.

CIO.com has a number of remote workers. We don't videoconference, but we often use speaker or conference phones for meetings. The folks on the phones constantly request—sometimes more politely than others—that the person speaking raise his voice. It's downright maddening, on occasion. So naturally, I tried the LifeSize Phone without the rest of the LifeSize Room system.

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Much to my dismay, the phone wouldn't work, because our phone system is digital. LifeSize Phone provides voice-over-IP (VoIP) audio conferencing and it integrates with a number of enterprise-class IP-PBX systems. It also works with traditional analog phone systems, but it won't work with Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) phone systems, unless your organization uses a PBX for line-sharing that's capable of providing an analog signal internally. You can purchase a separate Power over Ethernet adapter to connect the LifeSize Phone to your network for VoIP; however, we didnt have one to test and couldn't connect the phone without the rest of the videoconferencing system.

Although LifeSize Room's price tag is attractive, the competitors also include room customization and design and audio setup, among other perks. The cost of the LifeSize Room covers only the codec, HD camera, remote control and the cables to connect it to your network and display, so you're on your own for the rest.

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