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Polycom's VSX 5000

The VSX 5000 can connect to an Ethernet network or as many as four ISDN BRI links. I connected one of the units to a fast Ethernet switch. Stereo RCA jacks supply the audio output, and an S-video jack brings video signal. If your conference-room TV doesn't have an S-video input jack, a $25 S-video-to-RCA adapter will do the trick. You also can mirror content through a second S-video port, or output video via a VGA port to a standard computer monitor, but only 800x600 and 1024x768 resolutions are supported for VGA output.

The built-in camera was reasonably good: Images were sharp and clear, and the color was nearly accurate. Although you can't make the camera head swivel by remote control as you can with the higher-end Polycom VSX units, you can move it left or right manually. Digital pan and tilt can be accomplished using the remote. Although the zoom isn't optical--there are no moving parts, it's all done by digital manipulation--the image is relatively clear at maximum zoom.

Polycom VSX 5000

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A second set of jacks let me connect an additional video input signal, such as a VCR or DVD player. My PowerBook has an S-video-out jack, and I used a miniplug-to-RCA converter to connect audio. The VSX 5000 doesn't come with a VGA input jack, though an add-on is available. I loaded up a PowerPoint presentation with background music and configured the Mac to appear as Camera 2. Finally, I plugged in the triangular Polycom stereo microphone.

I connected the second VSX 5000 unit to a TV in another room, connected it to a pair of stereo speakers and ran an Ethernet line to it. My first goal was to see if the units could communicate on the same switch before testing over the Internet.

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