“It makes audio conferencing a visual experience.”
That’s what my colleague Stephen had to say when I asked him about the RealPresence Trio. He, along with the rest of the Lync/Skype4B team, spent some time working with the Trio these past couple weeks.
We’ve gathered our experiences for this blog post. There were a few surprises and snags. But overall, we all came away with the same impression – the Trio 8800 is a powerful conferencing system that works with Skype for Business very well.
The Trio 8800 Hub.
Audio/Video Quality: Awesome!
As I mentioned last week, we have plenty of bandwidth in the office to test the RealPresence Trio. And test we did – running several conferences internally, with remote participants, audio-only, video-only and audio/video.
The audio quality? “Phenomenal.” Careful not to tap on the table; the hub picks it up! No configuration is needed either.
Video Quality: In JB’s comment last week, he mentioned that he’d occasionally see remote meeting participants’ video freeze up. But only on the Trio – when viewing on a laptop, no freezes occurred. We tested this with two remote participants, but didn’t encounter any freezing.
Now, freezing could occur from any number of factors. I’m not discounting JB’s experience at all; we just didn’t see it ourselves. One remote participant did lose audio once. But their video just kept on going!
One final note here: I’ve written about Music on Hold in the past. With the RealPresence Trio, you can turn it off with a toggle! It’s under Features in the Settings menu. If you’d prefer changing the music, you can do that from the same menu.
Setup: Couple Hurdles, Easy Afterward
I will limit my descriptions here, out of respect for Polycom’s ongoing development. Suffice to say that initial setup was easy. “Straightforward and clean,” as another colleague described. The webcam didn’t even need configuration – we just stuck it to the top of the TV, plugged it into the Visual+, and done.
First off: Update the Trio 8800 to the latest firmware as soon as possible. As of this post, the latest update was released 1-29-16. Jeff Schertz has a blog post on how update the firmware: Updating Trio 8800 Firmware – Jeff Schertz’s Blog. You’ll use the USB ports on the hub to administer the update. CAB files are also listed for download on the post.
Secondly, it’s critical to change the Trio’s base profile to Lync Mode.
Why? The Trio 8800 is set to “Generic” by default. This works only by plugging in a phone. You must enable it for Lync/Skype. The best way to do this, we found, was to use the Trio’s setup webpage.
This is accessible by getting the hub’s IP from your network, and loading it in a web browser. Like you’d do to configure a wireless router.
(This step is NOT in the documentation right now, as far as we could tell. If it is in there and we missed it, please let us know!)
After we updated the setup webpage, we discovered that the Base Profile setting is also buried in the hub’s Settings menu. You’ll find it here:
Advanced Settings/Administration Settings/Network Configuration/Base Profile
The Base Profile has only two choices – “Generic” and “Lync.” You must select “Lync” to use the full Lync/Skype for Business conferencing feature set.
Advanced Settings: Now here’s something very interesting. The Trio 8800 has TWO levels of advanced settings. Which you get depends on the password you enter.
The “initial” level only gives options like Change User Password and Reboot Device. I thought this was a great way to enforce security – users have some control over the Trio’s functionality, in case they get locked out. But they’re prevented from accessing (or even seeing) the “deep” advanced settings, so they can’t break its configuration.
The Base Profile settings are only visible in the “deep” advanced settings.
Ease of Use: As Simple as Skype for Business
I’ll start here by talking about connectivity. The Trio 8800 has USB ports for sharing content, Ethernet for network audio/video, and Bluetooth for device pairing.
I paired my phone to the hub with two taps on the LCD. One to Search Devices, the next to pair the phone. Then I played some music and heard it loud & clear through the hub speakers. The quality was just as good as expected.
Next, let’s talk about the hub itself.
The hub’s LCD screen defaults to a keypad, but you can change it to icons. We kept it on the icons menu; making choices takes less time. Starting a meeting & adding users only takes a couple icon taps.
At all times the hub LCD indicates the Skype user account on the icon menu. If you need the Trio’s conference number, it’s displays on the connected screen (as well as its IP and user account name).
JB from the last post was correct – the hub boots up in a couple minutes, and does maintain its settings. Meaning CypherBit’s desire to “keep it in a drawer and place it on the table a couple minutes before the meetings” is totally doable!
However, the hub does not support touch screens. You can connect a screen to the RealPresence Trio, but it won’t recognize touch. I found this out with my touchscreen laptop.
Privacy Screen: The Logitech cam has a fun little feature – a flip-down privacy screen.
Behold, the privacy screen!
If you’re installing the Trio 8800, make sure all its users know about the screen! Someone who doesn’t know about it may think the cam’s not working when it’s down. Stephen had a good suggestion – put a colored sticker on each side of the screen. Instant recognition of open screen/closed screen.
(If you don’t need or want the privacy screen, you can remove it by unsnapping it from the bottom.)
Visual+ Unit: The Visual+ is basically an HDMI output. It operates separately from the hub, with its own IP. You must pair the hub with it to display on the screen, and connect the cam to it for the video. After setup, we stuffed it behind the TV and that was pretty much it.
Skype for Business/Exchange Integration: Acts Like Another Client (On Steroids)
The Trio’s integration works excellently! The Trio hubs acts as a virtual attendee for joining or managing a conference. You can even set it up as a resource you can book. I’d argue that this is the most efficient way of managing a large meeting.
The LCD has a Contacts list, just like the Skype for Business client. Contacts display their Presence status. Groups do too.
Content Sharing: You can share content a few ways – share from an attendee’s computer, or plug a USB drive directly into the hub. We found it’s best to use a PC for sharing. It’s easier to control the application shown.
Issues: Early-Version Snags
So far, we saw 3 snags with the device.
- Sparse documentation. Some data sheets, a FAQ, and some Knowledge Base articles are what’s available. Made setup a little time-consuming. But in fairness, this is a very new product. More documentation will come with time.
- Early-version software. Most of the issues we encountered appear like simple bugs. Things you’d expect from an initial software release. Minor frustrations, but that’s all.
- Video is limited to the Logitech C390e cam. I understand the limitation here–you’ve got to make sure the hub works with at least one cam, before you can make others work. I note it here just for everyone’s reference. It’s very likely Polycom will add compatibility for additional webcams in future firmware updates.
Verdict: Great Conferencing System with Lots of Usefulness
Our testing experience? Great! Polycom did a solid job with the RealPresence Trio. The audio quality alone makes it worth a look.
For the capabilities you get, the price point is very good too. (You can get pricing on request from Polycom here.) No, we weren’t paid for this post. But I do know some good folks at Polycom (hey Adam!) and appreciate their work.
It IS a new product. You expect a couple rough edges. We expect improvements to come soon – added functionality, support for more webcams, etc. That said, there’s no reason you couldn’t put this in your conference room right now.
I’ll end with an anecdote. We had the Trio 8800 hub on the conference room table yesterday, and another customer came in for a meeting. He asked about the device, so I told him what it did. 2-minute intro kind of deal. I wasn’t actually trying to sell it to him.
Afterward he asked where he could get one. Two minutes was all it took!
We hope this information helps anyone considering the Polycom RealPresence Trio 8800. If you have more questions about the device, or are interested in help configuring it, please comment or email me.
And don’t forget to join us next time!