Review: Plantronics Calisto 825: a speakerphone for Microsoft Lync, iPhone or other mobiles

When I was at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this month I came across the Plantronics Calisto 825, a speakerphone for Microsoft Lync (formerly known as Office Communications Server) or for any mobile over Bluetooth.

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The device is USB powered and seems particularly well designed and built. The sound quality is excellent, the touchscreen buttons clear and nicely spaced, and there are some neat extras.

But what does this thing do? When I received it I did not have Lync installed, so I tried it with an Apple iPhone. You pair the mobile with the Calisto, and once done, the device picks up the iPhone whenever it is within range.

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Answer yes, and calls to and from the mobile are routed through Calisto. I am a big fan of hands-free devices, and this one works really well.

If you get one of these, I recommend that you also get the optional PA50 wireless mic.

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This little guy docks and charges on the Calisto when not in use. When you are at your desk, you clip it to your collar. Speakerphones work better with an external mic, as otherwise the mic is in the same box as the speaker, making it hard to avoid feedback or echo. The PA50 has good audio quality. It also has a mute button on the sides – essentially you squeeze the unit to mute the mic – and a big button to answer or end the current call.

The PA50 has what Plantronics calls 360 degree sound. This means you can lay it on the middle of a table and use it as a mic for an entire meeting.

This is an effective iPhone speakerphone then; but it is also designed to work with Microsoft Lync Server, which I have just installed on my test network.

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Setting up Lync Server is not trivial, but that will be subject of a separate post. Once installed up though, integration with Calisto was simple: plug it in, and it works. I did have to set Calisto as the default audio and microphone for the Lync client:

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The beauty of this system is that now both your mobile and Lync calls arrive on the same device; and for dialling out you can choose between them. Note though that Calisto is not a full Lync client, in that it does not offer a pick-list of Lync contacts or show their availability: to get that, you have to use the client on the PC.

Some Calisto models can link to a landline as well, giving you three ways to connect.

I am impressed with Calisto, which is a nicely designed unit, particularly in conjunction with the PA50 wireless mic.

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