A Closer Look at the HP Poly R30 Plus Bundle

by David Danto

HP/Poly has recently released a new version of its small room system, USB only videobar – the R30.  This newer release is known as the “R30 Plus.  The “plus” is the addition of an in-room docking device (HP’s USB-C Dock G5) and a remote control.While these products are bundled for convenience, we need to first look at them separately to understand their true value and offerings, then we can look at the combined value.

Background

Before the emergence of enterprise “huddle rooms,” collaboration in office settings typically occurred in large conference rooms or through scheduled meetings in individual offices. These spaces often came with cumbersome equipment, including large screens, complicated audio systems, custom-programmed control panels, and fixed furniture layouts. This setup made spontaneous meetings or quick discussions with a small number of people challenging, leading to inefficiencies in communication and collaboration.  There were also instances where small groups simply avoided empty large “executive” conference rooms when they only had a few attendees, and as a result had nowhere to meet.

In 2013, a number of companies (including one of Poly’s precursors, Polycom) introduced the concept of the huddle room, marking a shift towards more flexible and spontaneous collaboration spaces, and more locations where small groups could meet. The offerings were generally more compact and affordable than prior solutions, tailored for small group meetings. They enabled individuals to quickly set up ad-hoc meetings, share content, and collaborate effectively without the need for dedicated IT support.

Users generally found the huddle room experience to be more dynamic and user-friendly compared to traditional, larger and more complex meeting spaces.  In addition, the flexibility of these spaces encouraged spontaneous discussions, enhanced teamwork, and ultimately boosted productivity in the modern workplace.

Origin

Poly’s first dedicated entrant meant solely for the huddle room space was its Studio X30, released in 2019.  This was one of the first all-in-one videobar devices (with an Android codec built-in) the market had ever seen.  It was a new form factor meant to be ‘soft, warm and fuzzy’ like a kitten (which was Poly’s internal code name for the unit.)  The small size, sleek lines and soft, cloth front were intended to be a very welcome aesthetic addition to any environment.  The X30 was developed to be natively compatible with a wide variety of conferencing platforms, including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Poly’s own OS, and many others (while actual compatibility certifications came a bit later on.)

After creating that form factor, the team at Poly essentially repurposed it in more products.  It was used for their P15 in 2021 and then that unit’s proverbially slightly bigger sister, the R30, which was introduced in 2022.

These are all devices that use essentially the same overall shape and style but have different features.

Form Factor In Detail

The R30 is about seventeen and a half inches wide, about three and a half inches high and a little over three inches deep, weighing a bit under two pounds.  It sports an off-white, solid body (that doubles as a sound-enhancing passive radiator) and a dark gray, removable cloth cover / grille.  Poly’s published technical specifications include the following:

  • A  4K, 120 degree field of view (FOV) camera
  • An Integrated 3 microphone array optimized for 15 foot pick-up
  • 1 USB-C and 2 USB-A ports and a Kensington Lock slot
  • WiFi for IP management and Bluetooth for local control via an optional handheld remote

It comes with an external power supply, a lens cap for privacy and a removable monitor clamp that screws into its integrated standard tripod thread.  It also includes some of Poly’s best AI / machine learning features, such as

  • True color and low light compensation
  • Automatic meeting experiences powered by Poly DirectorAI including group framing, speaker framing, presenter tracking, and conversation mode on the video portion, and Acoustic Fence and Noiseblock AI on the audio portion
  • An EPTZ (electronic Pan/Tilt/Zoom) camera with electronic zoom up to 5x
  • Manual shot framing control via Poly Lens desktop or a remote control

From a compatibility perspective, the device is certified for Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Meet, but it essentially functions as a standard USB camera device on any PC, so it likely works with any software that needs a USB camera and audio device.

 

While they are extremely similar, you can always tell the P15 and R30 apart, as the P15 has a circular lens assembly, and the R30 lens is set in an extended ova onel.  The P15 audio and video is optimized for a 5-10 foot pick-up (with a 90 degree FOV) and the R30 is geared more toward about a 15-20 foot pick-up (with its 120 degree FOV.)   

That extra wide FOV is very valuable as you can see in the picture below where we installed it in a very narrow studio set-up at ISE 2023.

 

The wider view allowed both of the participants to be seen in a very short throw situation, making it the perfect choice for an all-in one videobar in very small rooms.  The two embedded USB ports help make it easy to plug additional USB peripherals into the compute device through the camera – like headsets or wireless microphones – making it even more versatile in such circumstances.

Device Management

All of the modern HP / Poly endpoints and cameras (including the R30) can be managed by their free Poly Lens desktop software.  This platform not only lets the user keep the unit up-to-date with the latest firmware, but it also allows users to adjust the framing on the camera and/or switch between the various video and audio modes embedded within it.  Do you want it to always show a shot of the active speaker, or do you want to give each person their own video tile?  These are choices you can experience and set in the lens software.  The (paid) cloud version of the Lens software along with the device’s connection to WiFi means it can also be centrally managed by an IT team.

 

 Experience

When you use the R30 with the Poly Lens desktop software it is an extremely powerful huddle room solution.  It is intended for the fixed huddle room as mentioned above, but we’ve used it on the exhibits floor at conferences and in ad-hoc studios.  It sets-up very quickly with just two cables (power and data) and can easily be changed to the camera framing and/or tracking solution that is optimized for the situation.  It can be mounted on top of a display or attached to a portable tripod.  

As an example, click the picture below to see the R30 in action at Enterprise Connect 2024.  

We shot this video of eight analysts sitting at a round table entirely with the R30 in Speaker Tracking mode while it was attached to a free-standing tripod.  It required no additional specialized lighting or cables.  However, in loud, open environments like this industry conference, users might opt to use an external microphone system as we did there.  In closed rooms, the internal mic-array works very well to pick-up any needed voices.   At about a $700 price it is a very powerful and versatile videobar and highly recommended.

The “Plus” Bundle

So, what then is the “plus?”  As HP purchased and absorbed the Poly brand, team and devices, a lot of their focus has been on creating and introducing bundles that combine the best of both legacies.  The R30 Plus is one of those bundles.  They combine a Studio R30 USB video bar with both its optional Bluetooth handheld remote control and an HP docking device.  (See HP/Poly’s video explaining it here.)  The logic behind this bundle is meant for BYOD environments, as it provides the R30 with a single USB-C connection to a user’s BYOD PC or Mac (that is not necessarily running the Poly Lens software.)  It enables the user to aim the camera, adjust the volume, mute the audio, etc. from the handheld remote control instead of the PC or Mac.   The dock also eliminates the need to make the additional HDMI connection from that BYOD device to the display.

 The bundle clearly makes connecting the R30 and room display to multiple different BYOD devices during the course of a day a lot easier.   One USB-C cable from the dock can connect to a user’s PC or Mac. The display’s HDMI and videobar’s USB cables are pre-connected to the dock, so users can walk into a room, make one connection to their PC or Mac, and the system can be in-use.  In addition, for many computers, the single USB-C connection can also power and charge the device while it sends the audio and video to the system.

According to HP’s specifications, the USB C Doc G5 includes:

  • 1 SuperSpeed USB Type-C®️ 5Gbps signaling rate (up to 15 W USB Power Delivery)
  • 1 front USB Type-C® cable to connect to host system (up to 65 W USB Power Delivery)
  •  2 SuperSpeed USB Type-A 5Gbps signaling rate (charging); 1 combo audio jack
  • 2 DisplayPort™ 1.4; 1 HDMI 2.0; 1 RJ-45; 2 SuperSpeed USB Type-A 5Gbps signaling rate (charging)

The other part of the R30 Plus bundle is a handheld remote control that allows you to use the videobar as a traditional, in-room video device.  You can use it to turn the pre-set tracking mode on or off,  zoom the camera into a specific area of interest, mute the audio or adjust the volume.

 The Pluses and Minuses of BYOD and the R30 Plus

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 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.  Clearly the R30 Plus helps minimize those two drawbacks as the USB videobar at least is manageable by enterprise IT teams, and the connection to a user’s device is now just one cable.  (Unfortunately, as mentioned above, the ability of any individual’s PC or Mac to make a call can not be continuously, centrally monitored.)

Using the R30 Plus also eliminates the need for the user to set-up and control the R30 from their PC using Poly Lens Desktop.  While that’s simpler, it also limits the users’ ability to switch between tracking modes.  The handheld remote can only turn the pre-selected tracking mode on and off.  One of the modes like those below needs to be selected when the unit is installed or reset by system administrators.

In addition to being limiting, having the user interface be a handheld remote control is somewhat of a throwback to pre-pandemic videoconferencing.  Our industry, with Poly being a pioneer within it, has all but eliminated handheld remote controls, in favor of smarter cameras that can aim and focus themselves without user intervention.  I understand the value of the remote’s use here, but with its backwards approach connotation, it doesn’t make me very happy.

If you look here at HP/Poly’s own video explaining The R30’s free, embedded Director AI, you can hear them give their own reasons for not wanting a handheld remote control in this environment: “Modern meetings require a modern automatic framing experience.  That means responsive, non-distracting transitions, flexibility to address all types of meetings and a seamless user experience.”  All the things a user doesn’t get by having to manually aim the camera or adjust the system with a handheld remote control.

The Pros and Cons

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, if you are using a number of different BYOD compute devices from a number of different users in a small huddle room, and you can trust your people to always return the remote to the same place, learn how to use it, and keep its batteries replaced regularly, then the R30 Plus bundle is a great choice for you.  As stated above it is an awesome camera in many different circumstances and the new, easier connection enabled by the USB C Doc G5 makes it that much better. 

If however, your huddle room is usually connected to only one in-room PC, the R30 without the plus is probably a better way for you to go.  The remote probably creates more confusion than it resolves, and making multiple daily connections easier isn’t necessary when BYOD is not your preferred strategy.

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For a walk through of the HP/Poly R30 on the TalkingPointz Test Bench, click here.