Your smartphone can serve as a speakerphone and you might even have a Bluetooth speaker with a call function. But neither of those will cut it for actual conference calling—grab one of these dedicated Bluetooth conference speakerphones instead.
Desktop conference speakerphones have been around for years, but they have also often required some expertise to install and use, needed a wired connection to your office or home telephone system, and/or been priced unattractively. If you need a higher quality speakerphone that resides on your desktop or conference table and has Bluetooth connectivity, there are now, thankfully, some really great options on the market.
The following devices are lightyears ahead of using your phone, a plain old Bluetooth speaker with a mic on it, or a webcam mic, thanks to features like echo cancellation, directional mics, and tuning for conference and video communications. Here are our top picks.
Best Overall: Jabra Speak 710 ($199)
The Jabra Speak 710 is a flexible option for wireless conference calling. You can either lay it flat on the table for a traditional round-table speakerphone experience or pop out the kickstand and prop it up. When in kickstand mode it definitely looks more like a Bluetooth speaker than a conference speakerphone—and, when not in service as a speakerphone, you can use the 710 as a speaker, either coupled via Bluetooth or plugged into a PC using the USB cable integrated into the base of the 710. If you want to use the speakerphone with a PC that doesn’t have Bluetooth, Jabra includes a small Bluetooth USB dongle.
Whether using the Speak 710 for calls or just for playing music, it has excellent immersive sound quality, up to 15 hours of battery life on a charge when used in Bluetooth mode, and can interact with voice assistants such as Microsoft Cortana, Siri, and Google Now with the touch of the Smart button. This and the other buttons are arrayed around the perimeter of the disc-shaped phone, though only the power button is visible when the unit is powered off.
Easily portable, the omnidirectional microphone provides 360-degree voice pickup and the Speak 710 is certified plug-and-play compatible with conferencing applications such as Avaya, Cisco and Skype for Business for a plug-and-play experience. If you are using the Speak 710 in a larger room and with more than about a half-dozen people, you can use a second Speak 710 for better coverage.
Best Budget-Friendly Pick: Logitech P710e Speakerphone ($120)
The least expensive of the models presented here, Logitech’s P710e Speakerphone has all the essential features that are needed for small group participation. Measuring a compact 4.75-inches square, the portable conferencing unit has up to 15 hours of battery life and can be connected to a smartphone by Bluetooth or NFC pairing if the smartphone supports it. There’s also a hardwired USB cable to connect the P710e to a PC or laptop for use with a conferencing system. The P710e is certified to work with Microsoft Lync 2015, Skype for Business, and WebEx.
The operating controls are easy to find and use, and the P710e’s cover slides open to provide a device stand when used with a smartphone or tablet. For excellent quality sound, the P710e has acoustic echo cancellation and an omnidirectional noise-canceling microphone. There’s even a headphone jack when you need additional privacy on the call.
Best for Large Groups: Plantronics (Poly) Calisto 7200 ($204)
The Plantronics Calisto 7200 may also be listed as the Poly, rather than Plantronics, a rebranding of the combination of Plantronics and Polycom. The Calisto 7200, while similar in form-factor to the other speakerphones here, also has some significant differences. Rather than a single omnidirectional microphone, the Calisto 7200 has four directional microphones for superior voice sensitivity and pickup with participants located up to 10 feet from the unit. Controls are located both on the top surface of the speakerphone in one corner, as well as having the power and Bluetooth pairing on one edge of the device.
The USB cord, used for both recharging the battery and connecting to a PC or Mac that doesn’t have Bluetooth, is a bit different as well. It attaches to a port on the side of the Calisto 7200 and is tightened using screws with an Allen Wrench head. This is done as the cable also serves as a security device, allowing the Calisto to be secured to a table. A small Allen Wrench is included so you can attach and disconnect the cable at will.
While the Calisto has slightly less battery run time than the other units detailed here, at 6.5 hours, it offers excellent connectivity and is certified for Skype for Business, and built for UC (Unified Communications) with software from Avaya, Cisco, Skype and others.