By Rashmi Goel
This article is intended for those who have seen the term 'Hybrid Working' bandied about and are unfamiliar with its meaning. In order to ensure that senior employees are able to cope with the changes in working practices that the global pandemic has accelerated, we should explain that it is a marketing term. Prior to now, only senior executives had the option of working from home, and now companies must devise alternative methods of making them feel appreciated. Working from home can offer a better balance between work and life, but it is not without a few technical considerations. Jabra, a Danish audio specialist, has designed some equipment specifically to address these issues.
According to its description, Hybrid Working in a Box is a simple to send and deploy kit that enables someone working from home to stay in touch with colleagues and clients. With its Hybrid Working in a Box, Jabra combines two of its most popular products. The Jabra PanaCast 20, an intelligent AI-enabled webcam, and the Jabra Speak 750 speakerphone are both impressive devices.
Jabra PanaCast 20
When the pandemic was at its peak, webcam prices soared as brands which made them unable to meet the demand. It is fortunate that those days are gone, but there is still a strong demand for cameras that do not overly blur the user or make them look odd. The PanaCast 20 looks like a substantial piece of equipment made of solid aluminum that can withstand a few knocks.
There is a folding foot on the underside of the lozenge shape that allows it to be placed on a desktop or hung over the monitor. There is a threaded hole (3/8-16 UNC spec) on the underside of this foot to make it easy to mount it on a tripod, even if one is included in the box. This device is equipped with a USB-C port for connecting to a computer, as well as a USB-A to USB-C cable. PanaCast 20's only issue is that the camera's port is on the underside, and the included cable does not have sufficient length to bend when used on a desk. To facilitate the cable clearance, you will need a small tripod if you plan to use it on a desktop.
A privacy cover can be easily slid from the left to completely cover the lens. As well as being easy to operate, the cover is thick enough that light cannot pass through it. A small, bright LED appears above the lens when the unit is active in order to prevent you from forgetting to activate this feature. An image sensor of 13 MP and a lens with an aperture of f/2.25 provide a field of view of 117 degrees with the camera. Depending on the conferencing software used, you may get less than that amount of sensor pixels for 4K.
Using Jabra Direct, users can keep their devices updated with the latest firmware and software, and pair any Bluetooth devices they own. On this camera, the software is worth downloading as it allows you to tweak the brightness, contrast, field of view, saturation, sharpness and the use of HDR. A toggle switch is also available for the AI model.
It is important to have the ability to disable that last feature depending on what you are trying to accomplish, and it could be either a blessing or an annoyance, depending on what you are trying to accomplish. When the speaker changes or physically moves, the camera moves smoothly to a different shot using the image and sound analysis. If two individuals are speaking at opposite ends of the table, this can appear to be similar to watching a tennis match. Additionally, when a person is zoomed into, the 4K image is selectively cropped. The resolution of the image may be reduced depending on the number of people in the shot.
In terms of AI implementation, Jabra's is better than most, but even the best AI can be confused by humans and their unpredictable actions, and the transition between shots isn't always smooth. Undoubtedly, the microphone on this device tends to blur the audio and pick up background noises. It is fortunate that if you have the second item in the box (the one you cannot purchase), you need not worry about this, since it will handle the sound component of the setup.
Jabra Speak 750
Designed to fit either in the middle of a conference table or on the user's desk using the kickstand on its underside, the Speak 750 measures approximately 13cm across. Under the speaker is a recess where a Jabra Link 370 Bluetooth dongle is recessed and wrapped snake-like around the speaker for connection and charging. Utilizing either technology or both for both the cable and dongle covers. Furthermore, the USB connection serves as a charging port for the device, since it can operate for up to 11 hours on internal battery power. There is only one reservation we have regarding the cabling.
As It is not possible to replace the USB cable that is hard-wired to the Speak 750 in the event that it is damaged. In spite of the fact that the cable cannot be misplaced, it seems absurd that such an expensive item should become obsolete because a $0.50 component breaks. Moreover, it does not consider a future in which USB-A will be in decline and USB-C will become the norm. An attractive design feature is the ring of LEDs encircling the speaker. These LEDs are versatile and can be used in a variety of ways. Touching the battery symbol indicates the battery level, but these are cleverly used for the volume level as well. One problem with these control buttons and feedback LEDs is that they are only fully visible when looking directly at the speaker and are more difficult to observe from the side.
A feature of this device that demonstrates cleaner thinking is the clarity of the microphones and how the output of the speaker is protected from cross-talk. As well as picking up voices at a reasonable range, the Speak 750 effectively transmits those voices to the other end of the conference call. As with the Jabra PanaCast 20, the Speak 750 is UC compatible, making it compatible with all Unified Communications platforms around the world. Alternatively, you can program the speaker's custom button to activate Google Assistant, Siri, or speed-dial a phone number. This unit is equipped with softphone capability that allows Microsoft Teams or Zoom to be configured as the preferred method of communication. It is designed so that the Speak 750 can be set up quickly and is ready to use in the shortest time possible, as is the case with so many other features on this device. This is compatible with the battery power option, making it ideal for salespeople who are traveling or working in remote locations.
Jabra's Hybrid Working in a Box appears to fall into that category, as it is not often that we have the opportunity to review a product that can't be purchased regardless of how much money you have. In particular, I find it peculiar that when the box is opened, video is displayed on the lid of the box via a small tablet computer, resulting in an annoying blipvert each time you access the contents. It is unclear who comes up with things like this, but there appears to be substantial confusion surrounding the message communicated. In terms of the two components that make up the fantasy combo, we are more optimistic about them, whether they are purchased individually or together, as they both offer reasonable value.
Both are not cheap, and there are more affordable alternatives available, but they are both well-made and well-constructed. In the event that you have a budget to support home working and daily video meetings are part of that scheme, then these are precisely the types of equipment that need to be considered. If you are interested in Jabra's Hybrid Working in a Box option, you should not ask for it, since it appears that this option is only available to reviewers.