LifeSize Passport review

Price when reviewed

LifeSize states the connection requires 1Mbit/sec of bandwidth; we tested it on an ADSL running at 768Kbits/sec uplink maximum and couldn’t detect any degrading of video. Audio degrades as latency changes, not bandwidth. But it’s difficult to spot this, because silences in conversation tend to mask changes in latency.

The initial setup is done from a TV-style infrared remote control, but confusingly, the receiver for this is integrated into the FireWire-connected, HD-capable camera, supplied as part of the Passport’s boxed set of bits. Pointing the remote at the base unit had us checking the batteries and flipping the unit over to try to find the IR receiver. Eventually we found our way through the configuration menus, which are a bizarre mixture of corporate intranet, hotel Pay-TV system, home entertainment console, and intimidatingly complicated low-level networking device.

Most of the guys who will be setting up a pool of these units to send home with teleworkers will be getting the IP address from the main menu, then diving into the embedded web server in the unit to do the rest of the work. This currently requires Adobe Flash, so you’re limited to 32-bit browsers and iPads needn’t apply.

LifeSize Passport

The interface is definitely aimed more at business than consumers and allows the Passport to be run from the connected browser, or via the LifeSize VirtualLink application for Mac or PC. Highlights include an embedded Skype client (audio-only for the moment, but video is planned) for talking at the bottom end; and there’s also specific inclusion of the sub-variants of VC-over-IP that Polycom uses.

Setting up the Passport is relatively straightforward; however, the unit doesn’t sign in to a central service hub. Instead, you’re expected to make a call to an IP address, and consequently your IP address needs to be publicly reachable too. Support for IPv6 is included and will make this particular requirement easier in the future. In the meantime, if you’re going to do genuine point-to-point VC then you’ll need a clean, statically addressed internet connection that ships at least 1Mbit/sec without shaping.

LifeSize Passport buyers will be people who have become disenchanted with Skype, and who want more shared workspace and document-transfer capabilities than are found in the comparable bottom-of-range Polycom-dedicated VC devices. There’s not much in it between Polycom and LifeSize when it comes to system setup and surrounding LAN requirements, but LifeSize pulls ahead on collaboration.

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