Poly Studio P21 review: Lights, camera, action

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Working from home will be with us for some time to come – indeed, many workers never plan to return to the office, meaning personal video conferencing is now a common occurrence. It’s time to replace those clip-on cameras and tiny speakers with a proper solution, and Poly has an ideal alternative in the Studio P21, a conveniently-sized desktop monitor that packs everything you need for video calls from high quality.

At first glance, the P21 looks like a fairly ordinary 21.5-inch LCD monitor. It has a standard 1080p resolution and a fabric grille on the bottom, which hides a 10W speaker on each side. The first visible clue that this is more than an ordinary display is the camera placed discreetly in the top bezel; look closely and you’ll also spot programmable buttons below the screen that not only control volume, but can also mute the microphone and trigger a range of custom actions on the host PC, including opening your video conferencing application by fault. The LED light strips on either side of the screen also have a role to play: they help balance the lighting on your face, so you don’t get a blue cast from the screen. The touch sensors on the back of the display allow you to control their brightness by stroking your fingers up and down.

Finally, while most monitors use HDMI or DisplayPort connections, the P21 connects to the host PC or laptop via USB-C; this allows video, camera, microphone and speakers to run over a single cable. These devices all appear as standard local devices, so they can be used by any UVC-capable VC application with no special configuration required. Two additional USB-A ports are provided on the back of the display, which can be used to connect headsets or other devices. They can also deliver 5W of power to charge phones and tablets, and the monitor stand also has a built-in wireless charging pad, although this only works when the P21 is connected to a host PC.

We had no problem setting up the monitor on a Windows 10 system. After downloading the DisplayLink driver from Poly’s support site, we were able to use Microsoft’s DisplayLink Manager app to switch between a display local laptop and the P21, or use the dual display feature to mirror our desktop on both panels.

You’ll also want to install Poly’s free Lens Desktop app, as it provides controls for adjusting camera zoom settings, controlling screen brightness, setting up the programmable “rocket” button, and adjusting the lens button. application to load Microsoft Teams or Zoom. It can also connect to the Poly Lens cloud service for remote management and inventory.

To test the P21’s camera, we set up a remote user with the display and then started a Teams meeting with them. We liked what we saw: the 1080p camera delivered a very sharp image with excellent color balance. The vanity lights no doubt helped here, but if you’re talking to someone who wears glasses, you may find their reflections a little disconcerting.

We also tried positioning the P21 facing a pair of glass doors to see how it coped with glare. We had to use the Lens app to increase the backlight compensation, but with that the results were very satisfactory. Both speakers also delivered clean, solid sound, and everyone we called from the P21 said they could hear us clearly.

There are a few features you won’t find on the P21: Poly’s NoiseBlockAI and Acoustic Fence technologies for suppressing background noise aren’t available here, and there’s no speaker tracking or automatic framing. It’s a slight disappointment considering the price, but that shouldn’t be a problem, as the P21 is designed for personal use rather than meeting rooms.

Poly’s Studio P21 is a tempting proposition for home workers who want to look their best in video meetings. Yes, for the same price you can buy a bigger screen with a standalone webcam – but the P21 offers easy setup, convenient meeting features and excellent video quality, without the hassle of separate components.

Poly Studio P21 Specifications

Screen size

21.5 inches

Screen resolution

1080p

Camera

1080p camera, 80º field of view, 4x digital zoom

Microphones

Unidirectional MEMS microphone

Video inputs

USB-C 3

Speakers

Two 10W stereo speakers

Ports

2 USB-A 3 ports

Dimensions

575x188x478mm

Weight

6.8kg

guarantee

2 year limited warranty

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