The modern workplace is changing.
Video conferencing is becoming a must-have tool for collaboration and communication. As more employees disperse around the world, and remote work becomes more popular, the video gives us a way to stay connected. With video, you can add a layer of context to every conversation and enjoy the nuances of face-to-face interactions without meeting in person.
Wainhouse research suggests that companies save an average of around $11,000 per employee each year on video conferencing software. Plus, you benefit from a more engaged and connected team.
Now that there are so many amazing video conferencing software solutions out there to choose from, it’s much easier for every business to take advantage of the perfect video conferencing experience. However, you do need more than just the right software to get started. You’re going to need to carefully consider your video conferencing hardware too.
What is Video Conferencing?
Video conferencing is a great way to conduct live visual conversations with the people you need to speak with. Unlike a standard audio conference, which focuses on voice only, video conferencing provides a live stream of visual content too. Video conferencing means you can physically see your coworkers or colleagues and vice versa as you interact in real-time.
In the past, companies needed a vast technology budget and plenty of specialist on-site support to make video calling a possibility. Now, every company, no matter how small, can tap into a video with a webcam and the right software.
According to Gigaom, this is an essential development for the remote working landscape, as 87% of mobile employees feel more connected to their colleagues when making use of video conferencing solutions.
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Today’s videoconferencing solutions offer-up the perfect opportunity to enable remote work and enhance productivity, no matter where your team members might be. The best video software gives you a convenient way to collaborate with team members via comprehensive features including chat functionality, screen sharing, and file sharing.
Video conferencing hardware solutions are the endpoints that make these face-to-face interactions possible. They can include everything from headsets for audio conversations to VoIP phone and speakerphone technology. Some industry leaders are even creating a video conferencing solution system “rooms,” which combine everything you need for quality meetings into one package.
What video conferencing hardware do I need?
Video conferencing hardware comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. If you’re a standard home worker, you might get by with nothing more than a webcam and a good-quality headset/microphone device.
As long as you have access to your company’s video software, you can log into a call just like anyone else. Some mobile workers even video conference using just their smartphone, and the inbuilt camera and audio equipment it offers. If you want to host more immersive web conferencing experiences, you might want to invest in a more comprehensive video conferencing solution.
Some of the most common components of video conferencing hardware include:
- The desktop, laptop, or smartphone
This is the device you connect to when you want to access your video conferencing software. Your computer or smartphone is the central point that you connect your video conferencing hardware to so you can access collaboration applications, file sharing, and screen sharing tools. Your laptop or computer also acts as a display so that you can see the other person you’re speaking to, although some people will choose to have a separate, larger display for this purpose.
- The camera
The camera is the most obvious item in the video conferencing meeting room. It’s the hardware responsible for capturing your image. The best cameras can capture high-quality visuals from small conference room spaces, large meeting rooms, and huddle rooms alike. Some high-quality cameras come with a wider field of view for small spaces or automatic focusing for large conference rooms.
- The microphone
Even in the age of video, audio is still essential. You’ll need a microphone so you can talk to your colleagues and contacts. The best microphone may connect to your laptop via Bluetooth or through a wired link. Make sure you prioritise audio quality to help your audience hear you.
- The speakers or headphones
To listen to the people on the other end of your video conferencing calls, you’ll need a set of high-quality speakers or headphones. Headphones will prevent your microphone from picking up the voices on a set of speakers, so they may be a wise investment for some conferencing participants.
- The extras
Video conferencing experiences are becoming more advanced all the time. Depending on what kind of meeting room or conference room you’re designing, you might need touchscreen displays, whiteboards that you can share content on, or even digital whiteboards that share content straight to your collaboration apps.
If you want to save money and effort on putting together an amazing meeting room, you could consider purchasing a full “room kit”. These are all-in-one solutions that offer everything you need for a video meeting in one. Your room kit may be a speaker bar that contains a conference camera and microphone to capture your voice. Alternatively, you could get a room kit that comes with various tools for large conference rooms, like remote control cameras and whiteboards.
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Things to consider when choosing video conference equipment
When buying video conferencing equipment, you’ll need to think carefully about several factors to ensure that you’re making the right purchase. Video tools can be excellent for generating better collaborative experiences.
However, these solutions work best when business leaders choose technology carefully. Remember, poor work conferencing practices lead to around $34 billion in annual losses. Here are some points to think about when making your purchase:
Number of participants
How many people are going to be involved in these video conferencing sessions? A simple webcam might be enough for one person. However, for multiple people, you may need a wider field of view, HD video, and other features, like optical zoom. More participants also mean a greater need for more microphones.
Ease of use
How simple is the technology to use? The last thing you want is to spend hours setting up your meeting spaces. You should be able to easily access any software you need instantly, from Avaya Spaces, to Microsoft Teams and RingCentral, and everything needs to work seamlessly together with your other day-to-day software.
Types of meeting
What kind of meetings are you hosting? Are you going to be collaborating on complicated projects? If so, you might need features like whiteboards and screen sharing. If you’re hosting a meeting from home, do you need your microphone to include noise cancellation technology to prevent unwanted distractions?
The video conferencing hardware you choose needs to work perfectly with your preferred collaboration technology. This means as soon as you turn on your camera and microphone, you can log into the software that suits you and access excellent call quality. Simple and compatible hardware makes life easier for everyone.
What kind of bonus features do you need from your hardware? Some solutions come with AI to detect where a person is in a meeting room and focus the camera on their face. Some headsets come with technology that can differentiate between human voices and distracting background noise. These days, your hardware can be just as intelligent as your software.
What’s the best video conferencing equipment in the UK?
The best video conferencing equipment depends on your needs. There are tons of different products out there from market leaders like Polycom, Logitech, Lifesize, and countless others. Here are just some of our top choices for use in a variety of meeting spaces.
1. AVer VC520: Best webcam
The AVer VC520 Pro is a Zoom certified webcam that provides portable plug-and-play functionality for smaller meeting rooms. Whether you’re working from home or in a huge office space, this sensational camera can do it all. The camera automatically frames participants with detection technology, as well as optimising colour and light levels.
The VC520 comes with WDR control to manage light exposure in high-contrast environments, so you never look washed out, plus there’s a remote control to move the focus of your camera too. All you need to do is plug the camera in with the USB cable, and you’re ready to go. It’s compatible with your favourite app, and it comes with a full-duplex speakerphone too.
- Convenient plug and play setup
- Compatible with leading apps
- Amazing video quality
- Duplex speakerphone included
- Quite expensive for a smaller office
2. Logitech Meetup: best video bar
Video bars are a convenient way to get everything you need for a video conference in one simple package. The Logitech Meetup brings exceptional video quality into smaller conference rooms with an impressive 120-degree field of view and a 4K ultra-high-definition sensor. The clarity in this camera is second to none so that you can get a better experience every time.
The Meetup comes with integrated audio optimized for huddle room environments, so you don’t have to worry about the acoustics in a small space. There are three beamforming microphones included ensuring that meetings sound fantastic, no matter how small your room might be. The package offers some amazing value with excellent sound, room-optimised software, and the Logitech tap controller all in one lump.
- Excellent functionality with leading apps
- Fantastic all-in-one package
- Good for huddle rooms and small spaces
- 120-degree field of view
- The initial set-up might be a bit tricky
3. Polycom RealPresence debut: Best all-in-one simplicity
The Polycom RealPresence Debut from Poly is a sensational all-in-one solution that combines enterprise-grade video conferencing with Poly software and amazing audio. With an elegant and simple design that fits perfectly in any meeting room, this is the perfect way to discover the power of video for the first time.
The Polycom RealPresence Debut comes with a motorised pan and tilt camera, with two-times digital zoom and two integrated microphones for better voice management. There’s also a built-in ethernet port with integrated PoE to help users get the most out of their device with minimal setup. There’s even lost packet recovery tech included maintaining call quality.
- Compact design
- No cable clutter
- PoE integration for ease of use
- Two times digital zoom
- Two integrated microphones
- A little pricey
4. Cisco Webex DX Pro: Best touchscreen
All-in-one room systems don’t have to come in a microphone or video bar format. The Cisco Webex DX Desk Pro is a conferencing monitor and collaboration display for slick and effective conversations. This stylish solution will transform any conferencing room, with an easy way to connect to your laptop or computer, and access to digital whiteboarding.
Although this meeting solution is a little pricey, it comes with a ton of advanced features to enjoy. The Desk Pro features virtual backgrounds, noise suppression, facial recognition, and more as standard. You can also use Cisco Webex software to make your remote calls too. AI-enhanced analytics introduces users to “cognitive” collaboration.
- AI features to enhance collaboration
- Facial recognition and virtual backgrounds
- Amazing noise suppression
- Easy to set up and use
5. Avaya IX Room System XT5000 – Best comprehensive kit
The Avaya IX Room System XT5000 is an incredible piece of technology for the modern business, sure to transform the way you communicate with your team. The result of more than 100 years of experience, the XT5000 is brimming with great features, like 6T0FPS live video, HD audio, 20 times optical zoom, and so much more.
This fantastic solution is perfect for larger meeting rooms when you need to conduct a conference call with lots of people or just adhere to social distancing guidelines. There’s also a series of six available cameras and microphones to choose from, so you can build the kit that’s right for you.
- Fantastic audio quality
- Unbeatable video streaming
- 20 times optical zoom
- All-in-one functionality
Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all meeting room solution for the video landscape. You’ll need to consider the needs of yourself and your team carefully when making your purchase.
Web Conferencing Hardware FAQs
Do you still have questions about video conferencing? Here are some answers to frequently asked questions.
Q: What are the benefits of video conferencing?
A: Videoconferencing improves productivity, boosts engagement, and cuts the costs of travel for people all around the globe. With video conferencing, you don’t have to meet face-to-face to interact with someone in live colour. Around 41% of users say that video conferencing leads to better engagement, while 35% believe that video makes people feel more involved in company culture.
Q: What’s video conferencing etiquette?
A: The rules you follow for video conferencing will depend on your business. However, it’s good etiquette to test your video conferencing equipment before a meeting to ensure it works and ensure you arrive on time. Mute your microphone when you’re not talking, and make sure that you listen when someone else has the floor. Avoid multitasking when you’re on camera, as this can appear rude, and don’t do anything distracting, like shuffling papers.
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Q: How do I know what system to use?
A: The best video conferencing system for you will be the one that works seamlessly with your video software and delivers amazing productivity for your team. A video conferencing solution should be easy to use, compatible with your existing tools, and equipped for the kind of meetings you want to deliver.
Q: How much does video conferencing equipment cost?
A: That depends on what you need. A good camera, headset, and microphone can set you back a couple of hundred pounds. However, if you want a full meeting room solution, then you might end up paying in the thousands. The more features you need, and the better the video quality needs to be, the more you can pay. It’s worth checking your options carefully before you invest.
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Q: What’s the difference between video conferencing equipment and room systems?
A: The term “video conferencing equipment” refers to the individual components within a video conferencing system. You might be talking about a webcam or a microphone and speaker set. Video conferencing equipment can also include your laptop and the software you use to collaborate. A room system is something that combines everything you need to create a video conferencing room into one kit. This solution provides your software and hardware in one neat package.
Q: How do I set up a good video conference?
A: Start by ensuring that your team members know how to use the software and hardware they have available to them. If you’re using new hardware for the first time, make sure that you set it up and take some time to experiment with it before you begin a meeting. It might be worth hosting a test meeting with someone so you can check that the video camera quality and the audio quality are up to par before a professional conference begins.
Originally published Oct 28, 2020, updated Jan 16, 2023