A Closer Look At The Barco Click Share Bar

by David Danto

A lot of stuff packed into one package

Next up on the TalkingPointz Tech Bench is the new Barco ClickShare Bar Pro.

This is a bigger device than most USB only videobars, but it packs a lot into one package. The device has no internal codec, so it requires an external compute device to perform video calls. What’s unique about it is that the connection from your computer to the bar is a single ClickShare button. That’s it. It not only wirelessly allows you to share your computer screen to an in-room display (or far-end of a call), it transports all of the videoconferencing audio and video using the button as well.  That’s a mighty powerful button handling two-way video, two-way audio and screen sharing all at the same time.

There are two versions of this device made by Barco. This review is of the “Pro” top-of-the-line unit, but they also make a “Core” version with one less button and supporting only one in-room display in-comparison to the Pro’s support for two.

Form Factor In Detail

The Click share bar’s dimensions are (HxWxD) 98 mm (~4”) x 640 mm (~25”) x 101 mm (~4”.) The weight: 2500 gr (~5.5 Lbs.)  The unit’s detailed specifications are as follows:

  • Video outputs: 4K UHD (3840*2160) @ 30Hz. or 2x 1080p @ 30Hz. HDMI™ 1.4b or 1.4b or USB-C DP ALT mode (DisplayPort 1.2) (Dual screen available mid 2024)
  • Video inputs: 4k UHD (3840*2160) @30Hz.USB-C DP ALT mode (DisplayPort 1.2)
  • Camera: 4K, 1080p, 720p at 30fps, 3x zoom/ePTZ, 120˚FOV
  • Camera AI: Group framing, speaker framing and tracking and composition mode with up to 4 people
  • Audio output: 2x 10W full duplex and stereo speakers with a range of 80hz to 20Khz, 8 Ohms impedance (available mid 2024)
  • Audio pickup: 6 beamforming MEMS microphones with echo and background noise cancellation. Pickup range up to 15 feet / 4.5 meters
  • ClickShare Buttons: 2
  • ClickShare App: Desktop & Mobile
  • Authentication protocol: WPA2-PSK in stand-alone mode WPA2-PSK or IEEE 802.1X using the ClickShare Button in network integration mode
  • Wireless transmission protocol: IEEE 802.11 a/g/n/ac and IEEE 802.15.1
  • Reach: Max. 30m (100 ft) between ClickShare Button and ClickShare Bar
  • Frequency band: 2.4 GHZ and 5 GHz (DFS channels supported in select number of countries in network integration mode)
  • Connections: 1x USB-C 3.1 (DP) to screen,1x USB-C 3.1 (DP) video input, 1x USB-A 2.0, 1x Ethernet LAN 1Gbit, 1x USB-C 2.0 (side)
  • Anti-theft system: Kensington lock (back and bottom)
  • Network connection: LAN & WiFi
  • Warranty: 1 year standard. 5 years coverage upon registering via SmartCare
  • Power consumption: Operational: 5-20W, 65W Max
  • Power supply: Standard 110/220 V AC plug or USB-C (back)

First Impressions

When you first unpack the bar you see a number of notices in the box. One prompts you to register to increase the warranty support from 1 year to 5 years, another tells the story that this is a 100% carbon neutral device, both in manufacture and packaging.

My first reaction to the bar itself was that at five and a half pounds, it’s heavier than most USB videobars. This is not a lightweight device designed to carry easily from room to room. Instead, this is intended

to become a permanent part of an enterprise meeting room. All of the connections are behind a cover in the rear that is honestly too hard to pull off than it should be. Once you get a feel for how much effort is needed to remove it, and feel confident that you’re not breaking it, it’s not a problem. Honestly though, I have a hard time thinking that any user will be putting the cover back on once the device is installed.

The User Experience

When I first tried to set-up the bar for use, I was incredibly impressed with how easy the process was…then negatively impressed by how bad it looked – until I realized and resolved my mistake to vastly improve the quality.

The bar connected to my in-room display via a single HDMI cable, and then it connected to my Windows 11 PC via the ClickShare button. Finally, I connected the bar’s power supply. That’s it…that was the entire set-up. The button and the bar automatically paired, the button installed the needed software on my PC and it was immediately available to my Zoom and Teams clients as a camera and audio device.

The picture, however, as you can see, was awful. (Keep reading because that was my fault, not Barco’s.)

At that point, I hadn’t read the instructions or spoken with anyone from Barco – it was all incredibly easy and intuitive. I stopped testing the unit and reached-out to the Barco team to see if anyone was around to give me some advice. They were quick to respond and set up a meeting when free – about an hour later.

While I waited, I tried to figure out how to tell the team how bad the video was without offending them…I mean, it looked like it was shooting through a cellophane bag…a thought that then manifested a visible light bulb above my head. I then grabbed a flashlight and examined the ClickShare Bar lens. Sure enough, there was an extremely difficult to see sheet of clear plastic protecting it from scratches that had to be removed. I had no idea it was there because it was clear, and because it was under the lens cap when packed in its box.

Barco clearly needs to do a better job making that plastic more visible (perhaps making it a color and not clear, or extending it well past the edges of the lens) and adding a note to the device when packed to remind users to make sure they remove it before use. (Editor’s note: Barco has already responded to this feedback and shared that the product will now have a bright label indicating the protective cover needs to be removed before use.)

Now it looked great.

The videobar’s camera wakes-up in automatic, AI based Group Framing mode, but because I was the only person in the room it still centered me in the frame. The bar is also capable of being set to Speaker Framing, Composition View or manual framing.

Device Management

All of the ClickShare Bar’s settings can be controlled – and the unit managed – either from a web UI (by connecting to the unit’s built-in access point) or from a free, cloud based, central management interface that Barco provides called XMS.  It can connect via WiFi or wired network connection.

In-Meeting Experience

Upon its first use in a real meeting, the ClickShare Bar impressed me with its audio and video capabilities. The integrated camera produced good quality video images.  I wouldn’t call the image “great” yet, but the Barco team indicated that in-process software upgrades will enhance the video performance and sharpness, which is a promising aspect for potential buyers.

The audio performance is also very good. The built-in microphones are supplemented by internal noise suppression and acoustic echo cancellation, ensuring clear and uninterrupted communication. Participants on both ends of the call could be heard without issues.  The sound quality was generally crisp and natural, with perhaps only a touch of room reflections / echo in my empty room, making it almost feel as though the remote participants were in the same room.

The internal ClickShare device is what makes this video bar different from all the others.  The button firmware includes interactivity features such as touchback support, annotation, and blackboarding which further enhances the sharing experience. These tools enable users to interact directly with shared content, making brainstorming sessions and presentations more interactive and productive.

Most videobar designs start from the camera / audio and have content sharing as an afterthought. Clearly Barco started from their industry leading ClickShare, then added the camera and sound to this bundled device, making it somewhat unique in the space, and a valuable piece of in-room gear even when not in calls.

Leading With An Admirable Degree Of Sustainability

The Barco team has clearly heavily focused on the sustainability of the product. The ClickShare Bar arrives in eco-friendly packaging made from 100% recycled cardboard, which serves to emphasize sustainability right from the start. The box itself is well designed for easy unboxing. Inside, the video bar is securely nestled in molded pulp trays, ensuring it arrives in perfect condition. The device is made with “non-paint plastics and halogen-free PCB” and comes with a carbon neutral certification:

“The carbon-neutral label certifies that a company’s carbon footprint is calculated, reduced, and offset on a yearly basis. It is issued by the climate advisory organization CO2logic—a South Pole company, and validated by the accredited and independent certification body Vinçotte.”

The sustainable design and energy-efficient operation can contribute to a user organization’s long-term cost savings plan and can align with their corporate sustainability goals. Barco has been a leader in the sustainability category, so this admirable effort is no surprise.

The Pluses and Minuses

As I’ve mentioned in prior reviews, the key to having successful videoconferencing is making calling easier and more reliable, while remaining compatible with an organizations’ calling preferences and requirements.  BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is only one style of implementation that organizations can choose from.  At a very high level, the benefits of using a BYOD strategy allows organizations to have less equipment in each room and lets users make their calls on a familiar platform (their own device.)

The drawbacks of a BYOD strategy can include not being able to continuously, centrally monitor the status of in-room videoconferencing equipment, and the complexity of needing to connect different devices for almost every meeting.  (The use of BYOD vs. in-room appliance is a philosophical discussion, and there is no wrong answer. One group’s perceived disadvantage is another’s perceived advantage. I’m making no judgment here, just relating the facts.)

The ClickShare Bar provides the best of both worlds here again, being fully enterprise monitorable from a free dashboard. Only the user’s device being brought into the room is not being constantly monitored.

Connecting the Bar to that carried-in device could not be easier than it is, with the use of the ClickShare button, but there are potential difficulties with this style as well.

The first concern is always keeping the buttons in the room. Small devices – especially ones that attach to a BYOD computer – tend to walk away and get misplaced. Training users to always return the buttons to the same place in the room is a requirement. Barco makes a tabletop tray specifically to store the buttons in the room, and they say that users have a good track record of returning them there.

There is also the potential challenge – especially at large organizations – of IT security locking-out the USB ports of user devices. This can be a complete lock-down, or simply the prevention of loading software/firmware from a USB port – to prevent potential malware from entering the enterprise that way. In enterprises with such rules the ClickShare software has to be pushed to all the devices in-advance via a central process, so that it is always available when the button is attached. This is usually a one-time thing, but can be a daunting gauntlet to have to go through before the ClickShare device can be used.

With years of ClickShare experience under their belt, Barco are experts at helping enterprise users navigate the path to resolve such issues with multiple options, regardless of any policy restrictions, so I don’t want to make it sound like this can’t be resolved. I just want to point out that organizations may need to undergo that process before use.

The flip side of that concern of course is that visitors to an enterprise can share content super easily using the ClickShare button, with no need to be on an enterprise’s network to do so.

The Point Of The Device

It needs to be pointed out that for the cost of the ClickShare bar – a BYOD device that includes the ease-of-use of the ClickShare button – enterprises could easily buy an alternate product that has a codec in it and not need a BYOD strategy. As opposed to other USB videobars that are meant for BYOD environments, the purchase of the ClickShare bar is not a price-comparative-based decision.

The significant value of this device can be understood when looking at enterprises that already use the ClickShare products, but until now have had to buy third-party conferencing devices and use third party management tools. Now, enterprises that are committed to the ClickShare products due to their ease of use can finally get a videobar in the same family, and can have all of their room devices managed with a single (free) platform. That represents a tremendous advantage and a long-term cost savings for existing ClickShare users.

The Pros And Cons

The Bottom Line

The Barco ClickShare Video Bar Pro is a versatile and powerful USB based videobar meant for permanent installation in BYOD based meeting rooms. Its combination of good video quality, excellent audio performance, and user-friendly features makes it an ideal choice for organizations aiming to enhance their hybrid collaboration capabilities. With easy, automatic setup, intuitive operation, and robust and free management tools, the ClickShare Bar provides a seamless and effective solution for both users and IT managers. The commitment to sustainability and the promise of ongoing improvements through software upgrades further solidify its position as a smart investment for the future.

(Note: A video walkthrough of the ClickShare Bar Pro is posted here.)