VTEL SETTOP 250: video conferencing

The VTEL SETTOP 250’s appliance-style model eliminates the problems associated with PC-based video conferencing solutions for...

The VTEL SETTOP 250’s appliance-style model eliminates the problems associated with PC-based video conferencing solutions for less than the cost of a transatlantic first class flight

Recent statistics from BT suggest that the typical manager driving to and from work and on business travel spends nearly 11 hours behind the wheel each week - two of them stuck in traffic jams - to travel 232 miles.

It's estimated that today's technology is able to replace seven per cent of business travel - by 2007, video conferencing is reckoned to have replaced 20 per cent. VTEL SETTOP 250 is one of the few professional video conferencing solutions that is also highly portable. The supplied flight case contains the standalone unit, a Sony digital camera and enough cables to connect it to every flavour of ISDN and v.35 port. This is not pocket sized - weighing over 5 kilos - but even with a laptop and remote control unit, it fits comfortably into a large flight case.

Unlike the majority of bolt-on video conferencing solutions, operation is smooth and not overly complex. The appliance model means that configuration software is not prone to temperamental operating systems or interference from other PC applications.

The user manual is slim, but well written, and provides a simple 10-step program to connect the VS250 to another video conferencing unit. Because the unit supports most of the older H.2xx and the newer H.320 protocols, it will work with the majority of Professional class, point-to-point video conferencing systems.

In operation, the VTEL operation screens are written in understandable English, not acronyms, and once configured, both the operation of the motorised camera, secondary inputs and volume are all controlled via an intuitive one hand controller. For speedier operation, you can also use a keypad.

Although the more advanced multimedia and presentation elements are not included in this scaled down product, the system does have a second video input so additional content can be supplied such as a video presentation, an additional audio source or even a slide projector.

Like all video conferencing, the quality is dependent on how much bandwidth you have. The VST250 scales up to 384k (three ISDN lines) at which point quality boarders on average, which is still a 100 times better than the cheap and unpleasant web-cams.

Where this product really shines is in price and portability. At a sub £4,000 price point, it is the kind of purchase that a company can rationalise. When you consider that a first class ticket on BA to Tokyo is probably more expensive, you only need one "special" deal to justify your TCO on one of these gems.

Will Garside

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