I was very fortunate to test drive a beta version of the new Polycom Soundpoint IP450. I’ve been using it since October 27th and have been under NDA until now. So now that Polycom has formally released it, here are my thoughts:

Let’s start with how I hooked it up: I didn’t bother using the included power supply, it looked a little bigger than the normal 24V power supplies that come with the Polycom Soundpoint handsets. But that may have been because of the Beta version. Instead I connected it via PoE to my Netgear FS108P switch. I had no problems connecting to my Switchvox Free Edition 1.0 asterisk server which is hosted remotely by a colleague. The phone booted up with Polycom’s new 3.1 firmware (3.1.0.0017 to be precise) that was recently announced. The phone that was shipped to me was missing the handset cable so I poached one from my spare Linksys SPA942.

I also connected my Jabra GN9350e headset including electronic hookswitch. Again, I did not encounter any initial issues connecting everything up and establishing a connection to the phone.

Outbound test calls were made via SIP through three different providers: BroadVoiceCommPartners, and Junction Networks with no difference in sound quality on either end of the call. I was only able to connect to the outside world via VoIP as I have no TDM access on this particular test server. I was not able to test the HDvoice (G.722 codec) on this server as digium has not added compatibility yet to its Switchvox lineup. Get with it digium!

Here are the highlights: #1 Screen size and contrast are phenomenal. Polycom has really hit the mark with the IP450. The phone comes with a 256×116-pixel backlit, grayscale graphical LCD. For the past year or so I’ve been using a Polycom IP550, so I’ve been rather spoiled with its large 320×160-pixel display. I actually prefer the display on the 450. I have my IP550 and the test unit sitting next to each other on my desk as I write this. The IP450 seems to be easier to read, with what can only be described as a bolder choice in fonts. (Incidentally, I hope the new 3.1 firmware remedies this on my IP550.) It’s not that there is a problem with the old, but there is a noticeable difference when placing the two units side by side.

#2 Physical size is perfect. This telephone does not take up the real estate on your desk that the IP501(which this phone is intended to replace) or and IP550 or IP650 does. It is similar to the size of my LinksysSPA942.

IP450 vs. IP550 vs. Linksys SPA942 size comparison.

#3 Price point. MSRP is $309 without a power supply, which means that the street price should come in somewhere $200-$225 range. This is a perfect place in the Soundpoint lineup.

Here were the problems that I did have with the demo unit. I point these issues at the Beta version that was shipped to me and nothing more. #1: Intermittent EHS capabilities with my GN headset. The headset button would establish the call but would not pass through the audio after a while. A simple reboot of the phone fixed the issue but definitely something that I’d want to deal with everyday. Especially as it took about five minutes for the beta firmware to boot. I should say that I’ve been using the EHS with my Polycom IP550 without any problems for a couple of months now. #2: No icons to show me registration status, VM indicator, etc. Normally on a Polycom phone, if all is well I would see a solid telephone icon, if lost my network connection I would see a hollow telephone icon, if I received a voicemail I would see an envelope icon. On the version I was testing there were no icons at all.

Polycom IP450

(EDITORS NOTE: After publishing this post, the product manager from Polycom informed me that these were both known issues with this firmware release. They have resolved both the EHS and icon issues in the production version.)

So to sum it all up, while I did run into some problems because of the beta nature of the product I was given, this is a terrific phone and I didn’t want to give it back. With its gorgeous display, thoughtful button layout, HDVoice capabilities, and spot on price point, Polycom has created a winner. I may even get rid of my IP550 and replace it to save some precious real estate on my desk…