Corona sent most us home to work remotely. And afterwards the way we work will be changed forever. So in the future there is a high probability that you will conduct digital meetings with a laptop, with a built-in webcam in the screen. It’s not perfect, but it works. If you are going to upgrade, you can advantageously buy a proper headset, so that you and other meeting participants hear each other better. Then you are at the finish line.
But even after corona, the general manager has probably noticed that the employees are just as productive from the home office as in the workplace, and many companies will facilitate extended flexibility with a home office even after the corona. Then meeting equipment is needed that works. In other words, a meeting room where many can participate physically, while at the same time being able to communicate effectively with remote participants on screen.
Easy connection is required
The last number I saw for video meetings was that it takes about 8 minutes to get started properly with the meeting, due to technical challenges with connection, control of microphone, screen and speaker. When you then see that the average length of video meetings is 31-60 minutes, a large part of the meeting goes to technical challenges at start-up. And at work, time is literally money!
Rally Bar: Advanced soundbar
This is where the Logitech Rally Bar comes in. Basically a very advanced soundbar with a camera in the centre, and built-in microphones. It is a complete solution for video conferencing, capturing the entire room with a 4K camera that automatically pans and zooms in and out, depending on how many people are physically participating in the meeting room – and where they are sitting. And with a built-in microphone system that captures the voices in the room and carries them as clearly as possible to those who participate digitally.
Complete PC-free solution
The Rally Bar can be connected to a PC or Mac with a USB cable (both USB A and USB C work), and the meeting chair can open their preferred meeting program – be it Zoom, Teams or something else. But the magic really starts when you pair the Rally Bar with the external touch controller Tap. This is optional and costs about GBP 1000 in addition. Yes, it’s a lot of money, but here we are in the high-end territory, and if you are first investing in the best for the office, you can just as easily speculate with the little extra that lifts the experience even further. And that can save you even more time, than when connecting to a PC.
Tap has a 10.1-inch touch screen that can be placed on a table or mounted on a wall, and with this you do not need a PC. This is where Logitech’s built-in interface for meetings is located, and with Rally Bar connected to the internet, you can use your smartphone to directly link the product to your account on Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet. This is done once, then the product is forever connected. In this test we have used Zoom Rooms.
Tap shows a list of all your contacts, and here you can easily start meeting and invite people from the list.
All cables between Tap and Rally Bar are held and hidden elegantly on the back under a lid. This is how you prevent a cable from being accidentally pulled out, so that the next person to connect does not understand the carrier.
Rally Bar can be connected to two 4K screens, to get the best possible overview of digital participants. I would actually recommend two screens, if you plan to view presentations and statistics visually during the meeting. If you have a Zoom Rooms account, you can open a spreadsheet or Powerpoint presentation on your PC and project wirelessly. Rally Bar has a built-in proximity sensor, which will detect when a nearby PC opens certain programs such as Microsoft Excel or PowerPoint (yes, you have to confirm that the content is to be projected). If the proximity sensor does not work, meeting participants can activate direct sharing by entering a code.
I never got accustomed to the proximity sensor in the short period we had Rally Bar, but it also has an HDMI input that is completely perfect for sharing content from a PC.
We have tried Rally Bar in our own office, but due to infection control we have limited the number of participants in the meeting room to two. We also called two colleagues for a video meeting. The camera zoomed in and panned to a perfect view of us, so that those who participated digitally got an optimal view of the meeting room.
If I got up and went to the blackboard to write, the camera would follow me and zoom in. Everyone can thus see what I write on the board. It takes a few seconds for the camera to respond, this is because the camera should not react spontaneously to the slightest movement and make the other participants dizzy. The camera has 4K resolution when fully zoomed out, and keeps the resolution up to 5X optical zoom. A denser section than this results in digital cropping of the image and reduced resolution.
It should be mentioned that today the resolution on Zoom is limited to 720p anyway, so in practice this means that you can use the entire zoom range on the camera – including the digital – without compromising the image quality. Zoom has probably thought that it makes sense to limit the bandwidth now that “everyone” uses their platform, and that even those with a 4K screen will not use the entire screen area for the video meeting. Should they do so, much of the screen will go to show more thumbnails of other participants – rather than a giant picture of your meeting room.
Great sound quality
Our meeting room measures about 6 x 4 meters, and with a screen and Rally Bar at one card wall, I could stand away at the opposite card wall, and the other participants could easily hear everything I said. Even when there were two of us in the room chatting, the voices clearly came out on both of them. Logitech promises that even with many meeting participants, all voices will sound good, due to the microphones’ advanced beamforming.
In any case, the solution we usually use, the Logitech Group, is nowhere near this speech quality. And that is even though we have expanded with two extra expansion microphones lying on the table in front of us.
The microphones in the Rally Bar are really impressive, especially considering that we have not made any acoustic treatment in the meeting room (something we probably should have done!). Admittedly, there is more echo when you are far from the bar, but digital participants still always hear what is being said. If you have a larger room, the Rally Bar can also be expanded with additional microphones.
Video conferencing is never sexy, and technology is best noticed when it does not work. In that sense, the expensive Logitech Rally Bar is perhaps one of the most elusive things there is – because it works, so to speak, perfectly! It costs a lot of money, much more than we had guessed, but for a medium-sized company, it can quickly make up for it with more efficient meetings.
The camera works brilliantly, it zooms and pans up to very good sections, and the meeting room comes through crystal clear to the other party. The built-in microphones also do a great job of being heard, and for larger meeting rooms it is possible to expand with additional microphones if the meeting room is large.
Rally Bar can work all alone, with included microphone. But it will be a better experience to connect to a PC. But the very best – and from us recommended – solution is to use the Touch controller Tap. Then you get a foolproof meeting experience, and you are up and running immediately! It can be precious minutes saved – and thus salary expenses that could have gone to completely different things.
Rally Bar also has a lot of advanced features that we did not get to check out during the test period. If you are in the target group, you probably do best in ordering a demo.