LifeSize Room 200 Delivers Quality Multiparty Videoconferencing

REVIEW: The LifeSize Room 200 system provides organizations with impressive high-definition videoconferencing and the ability to natively host multiparty conferences. Different levels of HD-quality videoconferencing will accommodate various bandwidth needs.

With the Room 200, LifeSize delivers an impressive high-definition video conferencing experience that provides added value with its ability to natively host multiparty conferences.

Priced at $17,000, a Room 200 system includes the primary appliance (called a codec), an HD PTZ LifeSize Camera 200 and a conference phone that acts as a microphone for the system.

The codec can output to two HD displays at the same time (with one connected via HDMI and the other via DVI-I). Meanwhile, the unit can accept two HD inputs (two HD cameras or, in my tests, one HD camera and a PC connected via HDMI). The unit also has component, RCA and S-Video inputs, as well as a DVI port for a PC (for use with H.239 presentations).

The Room 200 offers different levels of HD-quality video conferencing: 1,080p (1,920 by 1,080 resolution) at 30 frames per second and 720p (1,280 by 720) at either 30 or 60 frames per second. Although the 1,080p image was best overall in tests, 720p at 60 fps is best if fast motion will be present throughout the conference.

LifeSize promises excellent bandwidth performance at all HD levels using the H.264 video codec, claiming 768K-bps usage at 720p30, 1.1M bps at 720p60 and 1.7M bps at 1080p30. In practice, I found the LifeSize units reporting slightly higher usage during my test calls. For instance, I frequently found 720p30 calls hovering at about 1,050K-bps usage.

Like the Polycom QDX 6000 I reviewed alongside the LifeSize unit, the Room 200 also delivers wideband HD-quality sound; the Room 200 supports wideband codecs such as AAC-LC, Siren 14 (at three bit rates) and G.722.1C, as well as narrowband codecs like G.711, G.729 and G.728.

Instead of microphone pods, the Room 200 comes with an integrated HD audio conference phone that acts as a microphone during video calls; the phone includes 16 directional microphones in an array.

Because the Room 200 supports both SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) and H.323 signaling, I could also use the conference phone as a VOIP (voice over IP) phone tied into an IP PBX.

To test the quality of the HD connection, I connected a laptop via an HDMI cable and played a few of Microsoft's reference HD-quality Windows Media video clips over the connection (a 720p30 call by default). I found that, with the incoming and outgoing controls set to Auto on both codecs, the video was not jerky but was frequently pixelated. However, by setting both codecs to the maximum bit rate of 6,000K bps, the transmitted video quality was outstanding. Although many customers may face bandwidth constraints that keep this setting from being feasible, it is good to know that the units can handle such traffic.

My favorite thing about the Room 200 unit is the integrated MCU (Multipoint Control Unit). Unlike Polycom's QDX 6000, which supports only a single point-to-point call without an external MCU transcoding the call, the Room 200 supports up to six endpoints in a single call (although only four can be displayed on-screen at one time).

During the interoperability testing I conducted between the Room 200 and QDX unit, I was able to easily get four endpoints talking together simultaneously via the Room 200's MCU leveraging both SIP and H.323 for signaling to various endpoints.

Senior Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at [email protected].