Despite USB video bars and Microsoft Teams Rooms (MTR) devices looking deceivingly similar they are been designed with vastly different purposes in mind.

USB video bar or MTR device?

Article 3/2023, 5 min read

Despite USB video bars and Microsoft Teams Rooms (MTR) devices looking deceivingly similar they have been designed with vastly different purposes in mind. They both have the same size and weight, and both share the same main camera and audio features - and still - the optimal use cases for each device are very different. Get our insights from the article to understand the main differences between USB video bars and MTR devices.

Planning and deploying visual communications solutions is not easy and we understand why many IT leaders are tempted to implement shortcuts and simply install an LCD screen and a USB camera to be used for Microsoft Teams meetings. However, we believe this approach would defeat the original purpose of having always-on, bookable meeting spaces from which usage data can also be extracted. To make the most of any Microsoft Teams meeting experience, we strongly recommend using well-proven and certified Microsoft Teams Rooms devices as these will provide the end users with the optimal Microsoft Teams experience.

But there are more things setting USB video bars and MTR devices apart. In addition to end-user experience, some other aspect to consider is to ensure that these devices are available and easy to use, the need to manage, monitor, and support the devices professionally. The main drawback with deploying USB cameras is that they are not managed devices, meaning that a hardware failure – or even a small thing like a missing cable – will not be detected by IT, and a non-functioning device can go unnoticed for a significant period of time before being replaced. And finally, with more than one person joining the meeting in person, the meeting experience is relying on the person sharing their laptop. Email notifications, private instant messages etc. could be visible to other meeting participants in the room and in most organisations this would be in breach of IT security policy.

Even though the looks of the USB and MTR devices might be deceivingly similar that’s only half the story. To explore the differences let’s compare two Poly products - both with superb audio and video capability - Poly Studio X30 and Poly Studio R30.

Poly Studio X30 - a fully-fledged Microsoft Teams Room endpoint

Since Poly Studio X30 is a fully-fledged Microsoft Teams Room endpoint, your Microsoft Teams meeting is running on the video bar and not on your laptop. You have exactly the same video and audio capabilities as with the R30, but your laptop is not connected to the video bar using a USB cable. 

This adds a ton of flexibility to the meeting experience, anyone can join the meeting either by simply pressing one button or through something called proximity join - you can step out from the call and the call is not interrupted.  

Ideal use case for Poly Studio X30

For those who are trying to keep their laptop support cost down or enforce stricter IT security policies, a centrally managed, Microsoft Teams Room device like the Poly Studio X30 is much better long-term solution. Slightly higher upfront cost but loads of additional benefits to improve the effectiveness of the meeting.

Admin Capabilities for Poly Studio X30

When it comes to admin capabilities, the Poly Studio X30 device is in a league of its own. It’s managed fully remotely and can be installed remotely by trained professionals. 

Let’s start with the biggest benefit. Poly Studio X30 can be deployed as a Microsoft Teams Room but it can equally well be deployed for example as a Zoom Rooms device. Poly Studio X30 gives you the freedom of not being stuck with a particular collaboration platform vendor.

Most backend management platforms such as Microsoft Teams Admin center, Zoom Device Management, Elisa Hummingbird and others give you the full set of tools to manage the devices, monitor usage and use advanced analytics to understand, for example, usage patterns that you might need when working on your Hybrid Work strategy.

Software upgrades and RMAs are of course available with Poly’s Plus Support service which you can buy for 430€ for a 3-year service.

Envisioning Lab Product Demonstration: Poly Studio R30 vs. Poly Studio X30

How to know if a stand-alone USB video bar or a fully-fledged Microsoft Teams Room device would serve your organisation the best?

In the video Rasmus Almqvist from Elisa Videra compares Poly Studio R30 and Poly Studio X30 and goes through the ideal use cases for both devices.

Poly Studio R30 - USB device

Poly Studio R30 is a high-quality, stand-alone USB-video bar. This means, that anyone wanting to use the device for a Microsoft Teams call can do so. You just need to connect to the device using the USB cable that is shipped with the unit. 

What the USB bar does is that the video bar takes over the camera feature of your Microsoft Teams Call, the microphone feature and the speaker feature of your Microsoft Teams call. From an end-user point-of-view, this means that everyone in the room can be seen on video, and they can both hear and be heard by the remote participants. This is an enormous improvement compared to using the built-in camera, speakers and microphones on your laptop.

Ideal user scenario for Poly Studio R30

For those who are looking to equip a small meeting room with great video capability at a low upfront cost, the R30 will meet the requirements extremely well. But as it is a USB video bar and you are in fact running the meeting from your laptop, there are some restrictions you must be aware of.

The meeting will only start when the person who is either the host or someone who has been invited to the call starts the call on his or her laptop. If that person needs to step out from the room during the call, that person will either have to keep the laptop open - which may be in breach of company security policy – or have someone else in the room join the call and plug in the R30 to their laptop.

With a USB video bar you are also, naturally, using your USB port on your laptop which is a component that easily wears out and can result in the laptop having to be sent for repair - which is not cheap.

Admin capabilities for Poly Studio R30

Although the R30 is a standalone USB-devices it can be managed centrally through WiFi. But to be clear, you can only use WiFi to manage the device. Not use it for your video calls. And for managing the device, you use Poly Lens, which is free of charge. 

24/7 Support and RMAs are available through Poly’s Plus Support service which retails at just north of 200€ for a 3-year subscription. By attaching Poly Plus Support to the R30, you are also unlocking some of the premium features of Poly Plus, the most useful one being usage insight with details such as counting the number of people attending the meeting from the same location. Which is really useful information if you’re looking to optimize your workspaces.

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