Back at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, there was a severe shortage of webcams and speakerphones as many of us scrambled to get hold of these items as soon as we knew we would have to work from home and use Zoom or Microsoft Teams for speaking to colleagues. At the time, the most basic webcams were selling for three times their normal price. Popular brands like Logitech were simply out of stock for months on end.

Fortunately, the supply situation with webcams and speakerphones has eased up a little. Now is a good time to think about upgrading to a better webcam and speakerphone now that so many of us look like moving to hybrid working for the foreseeable solution. With a better-quality webcam and speakerphone, you can enjoy more clarity and be able to hear and be heard better.

Recently, Danish headset manufacturer Jabra hit on the bright idea of bundling a webcam and speakerphone together in a box and calling it “Hybrid Working In A Box.” It’s a limited-edition product containing two high-performance tools that can boost homeworkers’ productivity. Both items are also available separately and are some of the best examples in their field.

The Hybrid Working In A Box contains the superb Jabra PanaCast 20, an intelligent AI-enabled webcam, and the Jabra Speak 750 speakerphone. Both items are plug-and-play so they can be up and working within minutes, producing clearer images and better-quality sound in moments, enabling the user to hold more productive meetings.

The Jabra PanaCast 20 webcam clips onto any monitor or laptop lid. It’s small but feels incredibly well-made thanks to its aluminum casing featuring heatsink ribs to keep it cool. Inside the PanaCast 20 is a premium 13-megapixel image sensor that can deliver 4K Ultra-HD images that are razor-sharp and superbly clear, displaying virtually no latency. And let me tell you, the image quality from this little webcam is nothing short of stunning. It really can perform up there with custom digital cameras designed for 4K video production. And even if most video conferencing software apps can’t yet handle 4K, the picture quality shines at lower resolutions thanks to its flicker-free images.

Using a powerful AI-driven intelligent zoom, the PanaCast 20 can automatically zoom and follow the user’s movements so that the image is always framed with the speaker at the center, allowing for more natural movement and making it feel as if everyone is in the same room. The PanaCast 20 can adapt well to lower lighting levels by using its Intelligent Lighting Optimization. It analyzes the environment and automatically adjusts the image to enhance video quality, including in situations where lighting is less than ideal.

The PanaCast 20 also has a Picture in Picture mode – a technology that uses powerful Edge AI processing to combine two real-time video streams into one. It displays the second stream in an integrated window with the main image. This mode works with any UC platform, even if dual-stream devices aren’t supported.

Remote working has produced some new security challenges with homeworkers potentially leaving their businesses open to cyber threats. The PanaCast 20 is engineered for data security because the onboard AI processor drives everything within. As a result, all actions take place on the device itself, significantly reducing the risk of a data breach. The PanaCast 20 also has a built-in privacy shutter that can be positioned over the camera lens, giving the user complete control over when they are seen.

The Jabra PanaCast 20 works with all leading UC platform forms and can be partnered with other Jabra products like the Jabra Evolve2 65 headset or the Speak 750 speaker which is bundled with the PanaCast 20 in the Hybrid Working In A Box.

The Jabra Speak750 is a full-featured speakerphone that can communicate wirelessly over Bluetooth, or by using the special Jabra Bluetooth dongle. It can also connect to a host device via a USB-C cable. The speakerphone can pick up sounds from all around a room and that enables everyone to be heard properly, even if everyone is socially distanced. The device is portable enough to go anywhere, enabling meetings to be held in almost any space in a matter of seconds.

Because the Jabra Speak750 is a full-duplex device, it enables conversations to happen bi-directionally at the same time. This ensures both sides of the conversation are being transmitted at the same time so that conversations can flow normally, even if people speak over each other, just as they would in a physical meeting room. This helps to improve the audio experience and wipes away any worries about missing vital information. It also makes for fewer interruptions and less need to ask people to repeat things, effectively boosting the productivity of online meetings.

Thanks to its plug-and-play capabilities, the Jabra Speak 750 can be connected instantly to a laptop, smartphone or tablet using USB and/or Bluetooth. The Speak 750 isn’t limited to just one device either, as it can remember up to eight paired devices and can even pair with two Bluetooth devices at the same time. This means a user can use the speakerphone for a video meeting as well as have it connected to their smartphone ready for taking voice calls.

There’s a Microsoft Teams variant of the Jabra Speak 750 which is certified for use with Microsoft Teams and includes a dedicated Microsoft Teams button that enables instant connection to colleagues. Notifications display on the device when it’s time to join a call or when someone is trying to call. Tapping the Teams button takes the user directly into an ongoing Microsoft Teams call so colleagues are just a click away. The Speak 750 UC variant is compatible with all leading Unified Communications platforms and features a Smart Button that can be programmed for use with Siri, Google Assistant or Speed dial.

The Speak 75’s built-in rechargeable battery is good for up to 11 hours of talk time on a single charge. The device also has illuminated touch controls spread around the Speak 750’s central speaker and these can be used to alter volume levels, end calls or mute the microphone when needed. The speakerphone itself can be used flat on a meeting table or stood vertically using the integrated A-stand built into the rear of the device.

Verdict: The sound quality of the Jabra Speak 75 is second to none. The included Bluetooth dongle, which stows neatly away in the base of the speaker, provides excellent low-latency audio transmission, especially with computers that don’t have a sophisticated Bluetooth receiver built-in. It’s certainly effective for meetings of up to eight people seated around a table. When used in conjunction with the PanaCast 20 webcam, you have everything necessary for a successful and productive video meeting or voice call when working from home. The kit is also ideal for round-table meetings with colleagues when in the office. The video quality from the PanaCast 20 is probably the best I’ve ever seen from a webcam, thanks to the 13-megapixel image sensor. It’s incredibly clear. Overall, the Jabra Hybrid Working In A Box whether bought as a set or assembled separately is a mighty tool for boosting productivity and is well worth the money.

Pricing & Availability: Jabra PanaCast 20 webcam cost $299 / £306 / €267 while the Jabra Speak 75 speakerphone sells for $362 / £337 / €391.

More info: Jabra.com

Jabra PanaCast 20 Webcam Features

  • AI-powered 4K Ultra-HD video quality.
  • 13-megapixel image sensor.
  • AI-driven Intelligent Zoom keeps you center stage.
  • Intelligent Lighting Optimization.
  • Picture-in-Picture.
  • On-board AI processor.
  • Integrated privacy cover
  • Clips to any monitor.
  • Plug-and-play with all leading UC platforms.

Jabra Speak 75 Speakerphone Features

  • Plug-and-play with PC Softphone/UC systems via USB cable or Bluetooth adaptor.
  • Full duplex audio.
  • Bluetooth connectivity to smartphones and tablets.
  • Wireless range of up to 30 meters.
  • Microsoft Teams variant has a dedicated Microsoft Teams button.
  • UC variant integrates with smartphone using, Siri or Google Assistant.
  • Hi-Fi grade speaker.
  • Up to 11 hours of battery life.
  • Wireless linking option to other Speak 750 devices.
  • Omni-directional microphone for 360⁰ pickup.
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