Updated August 1, 2020
If you have a huddle room, conference room, or board room, you probably need a conference calling phone. Depending on your needs, these specially designed phones are worth the extra money—if your business or team does a lot of conference calling with customers, prospects, and teammates in other countries, you don’t want to just rely on someone’s cell phone.
iPhones are great and all, and we love them, but if you’ve got a big company-wide meeting or million-dollar deal on the line, that call should not be happening on a cell phone.
Now, we know that there are hundreds of posts out there with lists upon lists of “best” conference calling phones for you to trawl through. We won’t do that to you.
Instead, we’re going to look at just nine conference call phones—each one already preselected based on what typical small businesses need. Some will be better for small meeting rooms or huddle rooms, while others will have the muscle to power a bigger boardroom-like setting.
Plus, we’ll have a range of options in terms of price so that you can decide if you want to splurge or spend more conservatively on your conference phone.
Let’s get into the phones:
- Best conference phone overall (budget and splurge options)
- Best cordless conference phone
- Best low-cost conference calling phone
- Best conference calling phone with receptionist features
- Best conference room phone for small spaces
- Best conference room phone for bigger spaces
- Best conference phone for video conferencing (budget and splurge options)
But first, let’s look at some of the basic features you’ll find in conference phone systems—and which ones you’ll be more likely to need.
Conference room phone features
If you’ve got a ton of money to put into your conference call equipment, then you could have all the features you want. But in general, these are the ones you’ll want to have if you’re managing a small business. (We’re going to skip the really basic features like built-in mics and mute/volume control—even cell phones have these functions, so we didn’t think it’s worth getting into here.)
1. HD audio quality
Nothing kills an important client call (especially if you’re about to close a deal) faster than static-y audio and “Can you hear me?” or “Did I lose you?” or “You’re cutting out.”
This one is pretty key, but often gets overlooked. Not all conference phones are compatible with business phone services! The provider that you’re with should have a list of phones that they specifically support (like this)—that doesn’t mean that you can only use these phones with them; it just means that they’re better equipped to solve any problems or bugs that may pop up. It also makes them easier to set up.
3. Integrated directory or database of contacts
This is kind of related to the last point—if your phone is already synced up with your business communications platform, then you probably already have your contacts loaded in there and you don’t have to worry about it. Either way, the directory is useful to have, especially because some of the phones below will show you whether someone is available for a call or if they’re busy on the display screen.
4. Password or PIN protection:
If you plan to have any kind of secret conversations, or even just conversations about customers and their data and deals your business is planning, you’ll probably want a conference phone with a password feature to protect the content of those calls.
5. Active noise reduction or cancellation
This is one of the most important features in a conference phone today. With open offices being so popular—not to mention working from home isn’t exactly quiet either (hello, kids and dogs)—a phone that has some kind of specialized mic and noise cancellation will really come in handy for those times when you just can’t escape to a quiet room.
Best conference phone overall: Cisco CP8851
Yep, it comes in two colors, but that’s not why the Cisco CP8851 wins best overall conference phone.
Sure, it comes with all your usual conference phone perks like a large color display (800×480, 24-bit color, 5-inch WVGA, to be precise), intelligent softkeys, and HD voice—but there are also other neat goodies that are harder to find.
For example, the 8851 lets you transfer calls between your desk and mobile phones. Let’s say, you’re coming into the office (or getting to your desk) while on a call with someone. Once you arrive at your desk, you can move the call over to the Cisco 8851 (which probably has better audio and acoustics than your cell phone).
Or, if you’re on a conference call using your RingCentral desktop/mobile app, you could just hit a button to flip the meeting over to another device. Like this:
The phone also has 10 line keys that can show you the status for up to eight users on the color display so you can see who’s available for a call. (And if you’ve got a growing team, you can add on the expansion module, which expands this to a whopping 64 users.
If you’re already with a business phone provider, you might be able to purchase this phone through them. For example, you can buy it through RingCentral for $249. But if you want to go bigger…
If you want to splurge on a conference phone: Poly VVX 601
Ultra high-quality HD audio with acoustic echo cancellation and background noise suppression.
A high-resolution 4.3-inch LCD color touch screen that shows you call logs, incoming caller IDs, and the presence status of your team.
Easy hook-up to Bluetooth headsets.
Support for internal video conferencing with your team using the Polycom VVX camera.
Everything you’d possibly need in a conference call device, you’d find in this phone for $399 through RingCentral. If you have the extra cash or if you’re on the phone most of the day, the Poly (formerly known as Polycom) VVX 601 is the way to go.
Best cordless conference phone: Yealink W60P
If you have to take lots of calls but don’t want to be tied to your desk all day, the Yealink W60P cordless phone is for you.
The W60P is good for small businesses or small teams in particular because you can have up to four handsets per “station,” and you can also be on four calls at once.
You can mount the W60P to the wall or just have it on your desk, and it gives you a range of up to 165 feet indoors and 18 hours talk time (240 hours on standby).
Best low-cost conference calling phone: Avaya J169
Whether you’re working from the office or from home, the Avaya J169 is a great budget conferencing telephone at $149 through RingCentral.
Not only do you have a whopping eight lines to use, the button layout is also pretty intuitive and simple overall. No overly fancy keys that you’ll never use.
There are the four softkeys for everyday functions like transfer, conference, and forwarding, and the grayscale display is easy on the eyes.
Avaya’s also thoughtfully included a volume boost function for folks who have hearing impairments so that you don’t have to buy a separate amplified headset.
Best conference calling phone with receptionist features: Yealink T46S Gigabit Desk Phone
Yealink markets this phone to both corporate executives and also receptionists, and it’s easy to see why.
The T46S gives you a high level of control and optimization, from the 10 lines with programmable line keys to the USB port for Bluetooth headsets, Wi-Fi access, and call recording, to the ability to share a single network connection between your phone and PC (using the integrated Gigabit two-port Ethernet switch).
Just customize the phone’s buttons and functions to what you need. And for receptionists of course, there’s the call waiting (what Yealink calls “distinctive incoming call treatment,” fancy!), call timer, call transfer, hold, forwarding—even a remote missed call notification feature. Just in case you’re away from your desk.
Best conference room phone for small spaces: Poly IP 5000
Ah, the conference room spider phone, also sometimes referred to as the star phone.
If you have a small office or conference room with, say, a seven-foot radius, the Poly IP 5000 might be a good option. The built-in mic picks up sound from, you guessed it, seven feet all around—and about six people. (The “six people” part is recommended by Poly—why six, we don’t know.)
And here’s the kicker: this mic is also supposed to resist interference from cell phones and other wireless devices in the room. Very cool.
What’s special about these Poly conference room phones is that they’re equipped with “Polycom HD voice technology,” which, Poly says, can turn ordinary conference calls into conversations that sound as natural and dynamic as a face-to-face chat. It also has an audio range from 250 Hz to 7KHz, which better captures the natural deep lows and high frequencies of the human voice.
Best conference room phone for bigger spaces: Poly IP 6000
The Poly IP 6000 comes with everything you saw in the IP 5000, including the cool HD voice and patented Acoustic Clarity technology.
But… this being the 6000, it definitely has a few upgrades compared to the 5000.
Namely, it expanded the mic pick-up range to 12 feet compared to the 5000’s seven feet. It also has a wider audio range of 220 Hz to 14KHz (instead of 250 Hz to 7KHz). And if you ever grow into a larger office or conference room, you can add up to two optional expansion microphones to the IP 6000 to make sure everyone’s heard on a call, no matter how far away they sit.
Best conference phone for video conferencing: Poly Trio 8500
This conference call phone is for even larger conference rooms and offices, with 360-degree mic coverage and a 14-foot range—and of course, all of Poly’s legendary patented technology like Polycom NoiseBlock and Polycom HD.
(The NoiseBlock technology automatically detects non-speech noise and mutes the mics for you. They’ll automatically unmute again when someone starts speaking.)
Now, if you’re not using video conferencing software, then the Poly Trio 8500 can give you the option to get on video calls. You just have to add the Poly Trio Visual+ feature and buy one of their recommended USB cameras. Those two elements will let you use the Poly Trio 8500 for video calls.
Of course (and we realize we’re biased), the easier way would just be to use a video conferencing tool. That way you can just use the camera in your laptop and won’t have to buy extra equipment.
If you want to splurge: Poly Trio 8800
Like the Trio 8500, the Trio 8800 conference phone has a 5-inch touch screen LCD display, all the standard patented HD voice technologies, and even support for a 1080p USB camera.
The key differences are the expanded mic pick-up range to 20 feet, and the ability for everyone in the meeting to BYOD (bring your own device) by hooking up their computers or phones into the Trio 8800 using Bluetooth or USB. Again, here you can add Poly Trio Visual+ or Poly Trio VisualPro along with one of Poly’s EagleEye cameras to create a video and content sharing solution for your huddle room. This way, you can share content, presentations, and files directly from your computer. Through RingCentral, you can get the Trio 8800 for $1,499.
Which conference calling phone is best for your team?
No matter your budget or the size of your team, there’s likely a conference room that will do the job better than your cell phone.
A conference calling phone can make your business come across as more professional, and way more importantly, it’ll make your job and your team’s jobs easier because you won’t have to keep asking the person on the other end of the line to repeat themselves or speak more clearly or dial back in or… you get the idea.