Scouting Report: This 21-inch monitor eliminates the need for a webcam or external microphones and lighting.
I’ve been working from home for over a decade, but I do understand that the transition from working in an office to your kitchen table during the pandemic was a challenge. Whether you’re working at home by choice or it was a pandemic gift (or curse, depending on how you look at it), you still need to meet with colleagues, direct reports, clients, and colleagues on a daily basis. Webcams have definitely made virtual meetings more convenient, but with such a limited viewing area, it’s nearly impossible to look and sound as clear as you would in person.
Upgrading to a better webcam, purchasing an external speaker and mic, and using a lighting ring can make you look and sound exponentially better. But who wants to buy all of those individual items? Well, that’s the thinking behind the Poly Studio P21, a 21-inch personal meeting display monitor that includes a built-in webcam with 1080p HD-quality video.
Full disclosure: I’ve tested and written about over a dozen webcams and assorted video conferencing equipment—including two Poly webcams— and I thought I was past the point of being impressed. But when the company offered to let me test the Poly Studio P21, I must admit that my interest was piqued.
Poly Studio Personal Meeting Display
My work setup already includes two external monitors, so I tested this at another desk. Poly is known for its enterprise-grade products, so I wasn’t surprised at the 1080p HD quality. The image is sharp and the colors are vivid and lifelike. And, there’s even a privacy shutter on top that you can slide left or right to open or close… but that’s not the only handy feature built into this monitor. Webcam speakers and microphones are notorious for sounding terrible, but this monitor is also equipped with integrated stereo speakers and a built-in microphone, which made it easy to hear and be heard clearly.
Another one of my favorite features is that the monitor has built-in lighting. I took an image of the monitor at night (with all of the lights off) to show how much light it outputs on either side. The ambient lighting sensor on the top detects the lighting level and automatically makes adjustments. You can also manually control the lighting on the left and right sides of the monitor.
The other manual controls at the bottom (above the poly logo), include the rocket button to play or pause media, the app button (for Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other meeting platforms.), as well as the buttons for volume, mute, and headset.
At first glance, the circle in the middle of the base might look like a speaker. However, you can’t really see the speakers because they’re underneath the monitor. That circle is the wireless charger, and it can be used to charge smartphones and headsets.
In the back (underneath the monitor) you’ll find inputs for a 3.5mm headset, power cord, USB-A port, USB-C port, and a security lock.
However, it’s not a plug-and-play monitor. You’ll need to download the Poly Lens software to use it. But that’s not a big thing, since the software also increases functionality. For example, it’s much easier to control everything via the Poly Lens App than to fumble around with them on the actual monitor. I can also change various settings in the app.
But perhaps the coolest feature is the ability to use the display as a regular external monitor when not on a video call. I will admit that the Poly Studio P21 isn’t cheap. But, considering what it includes (a monitor, webcam, microphone, speaker, lighting) it’s a worthwhile investment if you want to look and sound professional on video calls.
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