The Plantronics .Audio 1100M is a simple USB VoIP telephone handset optimised for use with Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 and Lync 2010, though it will also work with Skype and other softphone applications. Habitual users of these systems will recognise the benefit of having a dedicated handset rather than relying on speakers or built-in microphones.
As you’ll see from the photos, it’s functional rather than aesthetically pleasing, with just a numeric keypad plus buttons for mute, speakerphone, call and hang-up. There are also volume and ringer controls on the left and right sides respectively.
The handset has a good weight to it – not so heavy as your hand gets tired, but it feels like a solid product that isn’t going to break the first time it hits the floor. The back of the phone is curved and fits nicely into the palm of your hand.
Also in the box is a cradle which can be attached to your monitor or other vertical edge. This keeps the handset handy for when a call comes in without cluttering up your desk. The picture on the right shows the handset in the cradle.
On both Windows 7 and Ubuntu 10.10, the .Audio 1100M was instantly recognised and the drivers loaded.
The 1100M has been optimised for Microsoft Communicator 2007 or Lync 2010, as it’s now called. This means that when used with either of the two Microsoft products, all the buttons work as expected and allow you to dial numbers, pickup and reject calls and so on. Call quality was good and the person on the other end of my call could hear me well. I’d definitely rate it as one of the better handsets I’ve used for call clarity.
When used with Skype, the 1100M works as a basic USB audio device in that you can have a conversation but the numeric keypad and the accept / reject buttons don’t work. Call quality was still high.
A few colleagues suggested that an LCD screen would be useful to see the number being dialled but I’m not sure that it’s essential. When used with Communicator and Lync, you can see the number displayed on the PC screen so I think you’ll be more likely to look at that to check the phone number.
The online price is just under £60 or $70 going by Amazon. Clearly, there are cheaper handsets on the market, but this device is not aimed at the individual consumer. The .Audio 1100M is for businesses implementing unified communications where a lower cost device is needed for basic phone calls. One scenario I can imagine is someone who works from home occasionally but connects to the work network via a VPN. This handset would suit them.
If there were a couple of things to improve…first I’d make drivers available so that all the functions work with Skype or similar softphones. To be fair, the .Audio 1100M is designed for Microsoft Communicator / Lync and it doesn’t try hide this. Second, I’d make a curly USB lead available to make the device more phone-like. And finally, I hope the next version of the handset is a little bit more attractive.
Other than that, the .Audio 1100M is a good solid device with better-than-average call quality.
Thanks to Plantronics UK for the device.