Business class hands-free Skype calls with the Polycom C100S Communicator – the Gadling review

Anyone who has spent any amount of time in the corporate world has probably come across a Polycom SoundStation conference phone. There is a simple reason for this – Polycom phones are the best in the world when it comes to allowing people to sit around a conference table making a phone call.

The Polycom C100S takes the professional speakerphone quality from those large desk phones, and turns it into a compact travel friendly speakerphone.

The C100S operates off USB, so you don’t need to worry about power adapters or other cables, plus its USB cable winds up nicely under the phone. The speakerphone itself is extremely simple to use – you download the latest version of the Communicator software, enable Skype to work with it, and start making phone calls.

The Communicator software lets you check for updates, check audio settings and perform diagnostics on the unit itself. Once installed, you don’t really need to use the application as all functions are controlled from within Skype.

The buttons on the Communicator control Skype – you can start Skype, mute the microphone, hang up a call and of course control the volume of your call. On the side of the unit is a headphone jack, which is great if you want to have a call without everyone around you listening in. With headphones, the unit still operates as your microphone.

Audio quality is exactly what you’d expect from a device with the Polycom name on it – fantastic. The C100S features dual microphones and the same kind of audio technology found in their desk phones. I made several hours of calls with the C100S, and nobody on the other end of the call could even hear that I was calling them from a speakerphone.

I tested the Communicator on Windows XP and did notice an issue with an echo cancellation setting. In Windows, the default setting for audio devices is to let Windows handle echo cancellation – when enabled, this interferes with the speaker since it has its own (much better) audio circuitry. Once I turned the setting off, audio was perfect.

The Communicator C100S is designed for Skype, but it will work with any application that allows you to change the speaker and microphone source (including business applications like Cisco IP Communicator). These third party apps don’t support the call hang up button, but the mute and volume buttons function perfectly.

And finally – even though Windows 7 is not officially supported, it works exactly as it should, including the use of the call control buttons for Skype.

Fantasic Polycom grade sound quality, compact, good looks
CONS: Pricey

The Polycom C100S Communicator is not a cheap gadget – its MSRP is $149.99, but you can find it at most Polycom retailers for well under $120. Obviously, this price puts it out of reach of anyone who just wants to make a couple of vacation phone calls.

If you use Skype (or any other softphone app) for business calls, the C100S is one investment worth making, especially if you value good quality calls and don’t want the people on the other end of your call to think you are calling from underwater.

You’ll find the Polycom C100S Communicator at your favorite online vendor, for a list of vendors, check out the product page.