More than writing, these days I spend a lot of time attending calls and virtual press briefings. By afternoon, I sometimes feel like switching off the phone and taking a nap to re-energise myself. And that’s fine. After all, a work-from-home arrangement is about giving employees flexibility. On the flip side, it is also the reason for ‘Zoom fatigue’ and all the mental stress that these video conferencing platforms come with. I cannot think of any tech solution that replaces Zoom and Teams, but I do know that a little underrated device from Poly (formerly known as Plantronics) has helped me cope with mental stress by simplifying my work environment. Although the Sync 20 is a smart speakerphone for executives, any remote worker can use this conference-style device for improved audio quality.
Here’s my review of the Poly Sync 20 after using the speakerphone for two weeks.
What made me use the Poly Sync 20?
Attending product launch events and taking interviews in person is a big part of my work. But in the pandemic era, like many, I started working remotely and things haven’t changed much even though offices have started to reopen in a phased manner. Initially, attending video calls and virtual press briefings was fun but soon they started to exhaust my body and mind. Constantly sitting in front of a screen and maintaining the same body posture all day long started giving me anxiety and stress. But when I started to use the Poly Sync 20, things started to change for the good.
Although this is a speakerphone, I didn’t know how useful this portable device would be in making communication a little easier while working from home. There are times when you have to log in to a Zoom call to attend a seminar or briefing where you just have to show up – no inputs are required from your side. Instead of sitting in front of a screen, why not listen to the speaker on the other side while lying down on a bed or lounge. You are still very much into the seminar your manager has asked you to sign up for – it’s just that you are not in front of a laptop. Anything is better than sitting on a stiff, non-ergonomic dining-table chair. Yes, I have the option to use a smartphone but the speaker quality isn’t high enough as compared to a standalone speaker.
For instance, last week, I had to attend an important briefing but I was having a bad headache. I had no energy left to sit, get dressed and be in front of the camera. I still attended the briefing, though taking it easy on my bed. The Poly Sync 20 picked up my voice from a distance (my room is quite big in size) without me being in front of a phone or laptop. That was when I acknowledged the usefulness of Sync 20 in day-to-day life.
Compact and easy to travel with
The Poly Sync 20 is a simple looking device with a silver bezel and a fabric mesh speaker cover. I’d imagine a senior marketing executive would want to carry a device like this. It’s easy to carry and does not take up space in a backpack or briefcase. The Sync 20 is meant to be portable – after all, it is targeted at those users who are constantly on the move. It is water-and-dust resistant and comes with a case of its own. A little wristband pops in and out of the speaker’s body. The device feels well-built and sturdy.
On the front of the device, you will find a row of buttons for attending calls, a mute button, volume control as well as a customised button that can be used to open a voice assistant. On the side, there is a power button and a USB port. That USB port can charge your smartphone – and turns the speakerphone into a sort of power bank. Once you get a call, or you are in a call- a light bar turns green. Poly sells quite a few versions of the Sync 20 in the market including a model that has a dedicated Teams button on the device for instant access to the Microsoft Teams app.
Easy to use and setup
The device connects wirelessly through Bluetooth to both smartphones and PC/Mac or it can connect through the attached USB-A port. Poly loaned me a Sync 20 with a USB-A model for review but a variant with USB-C is also available in the market. I was able to connect the Sync 20 to my iPhone 13 mini through Bluetooth and Surface Pro through an attached cable. Pairing the speaker with the iPhone was a simple, quick process. If you want to connect the device to your smartphone, I’d encourage you to download the Poly Software Link app from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store. Not only does the app let you tweak settings and update the firmware but it also tells you how much battery is still left. Poly rates the Sync 20’s battery life at about 20 hours on a full charge, but your results will vary depending on how loudly you listen to music and attend calls. But I must say it took me between 3 and 4 hours to charge the device fully. The speakerphone can be charged through a USB-A cable that can be found on the bottom of the device and easily wrapped up when not in use.
A great speakerphone that’s also a Bluetooth speaker
The Sync 20 makes for an excellent speakerphone. Every time I joined a call, the device would automatically get connected to my iPhone, whether in Teams, Zoom or attending regular calls. Sometimes it gets so frustrating to find the mute option when attending a Zoom call (I have faced this multiple times leading to embarrassment) but having a dedicated mute button on the device itself is super convenient. Thanks to multiple microphone arrays and built-in echo and noise-cancelling technology, my experience of attending calls were smooth. The audio was clean, crisp and loud to me whenever I attended a call. On the other side too, I was told the audio quality was clear even if I was not sitting close to the speakerphone. According to Poly, the device picks up the audio at a distance of 7 feet away.
Not just that, the Poly Sync 20 is also a portable, Bluetooth-enabled speaker. It’s not fair on my part to compare the Sync 20 to a HomePod mini or Amazon Echo, partly because it’s not marketed that way. The audio is well balanced, something I was not expecting from a speaker this size. The Sync 20 shines when listening to classical tracks and country music — the mids and highs are crisp and clean. There is a noticeable level of bass. Overall, the Sync 20 sounds better than your average smartphone speakers and is good enough for casual music listening when working.
Poly Sync 20 review: Should you buy or skip it?
Well, it depends. The Sync 20 is part high-quality portable speakerphone, part Bluetooth speaker, and part external battery charger. But primarily, it is a speakerphone for conference calls. That’s its USP. Poly is targeting the Sync 20 to enterprise customers and senior executives who are comfortable shelling out Rs 15,000 (the model that comes with Teams certification and USB-C costs Rs18,979) for a speakerphone accessory. On the surface, that price seems a lot. But, if the price is not a barrier, the Poly Sync 20 is a useful product for those who don’t want to compromise on the audio quality while moving around the calls.