The Plantronics Calisto 620 ($149.95 direct) is a combination Bluetooth wireless and PC speakerphone. Essentially, it turns your computer and phone into a call conferencing system for office or home use. It also has a rechargeable battery; combine that with the Calisto 620′s light weight, and you also have a system that travels easily for use in hotel rooms or satellite offices. Unfortunately, while callers sound nice and loud through the Calisto 620′s speaker, they can easily tell you’re on a speakerphone—and not a very good one at that.
Design, USB Receiver, and Compatibility
The Calisto 620 is made entirely of black plastic. It measures 4.33 by 4.33 by 1.26 inches (HWD) and weighs 7.2 ounces, or slightly more than the average smartphone. On top, oversized plastic buttons handle Mute, Answer/Reject, and Volume adjustments. On the side of the unit below the Plantronics logo is a sliding switch that handles Power and Bluetooth pairing, plus a micro USB port for charging the device or plugging it into your PC.
The package contains the Calisto 620, a zippered cloth carrying pouch, a USB-compatible AC adapter, and a USB-to-microUSB cable. Underneath the 620 is a compartment containing a tiny USB receiver, which you can plug into a PC or Mac for making wireless VoIP calls with Skype and other clients.
For this review, I tested the Calisto 620 with an Apple iPhone 5 and Skype on a dual-core Thinkpad laptop running Windows 7. One note: I’m reviewing the standard Calisto 620 (P620), which is a UC standard model that works with Avaya, Cisco, IBM, Skype, and other clients. There’s also a separate P620-M version that’s specifically Microsoft-certified and optimized for use with Microsoft Lync 2010 and Microsoft OCS 2007 only. Either way, it’s a fully A2DP-compliant device for streaming audio, so you could use it as a mono source for playing background music or listening to podcasts.
Performance and Conclusions
The Calisto 620 includes bi-directional microphones that only activate in the direction of a person’s voice, to lower the possibility of extra background noise creeping into the signal on the other end. The Calisto 620 also has what Plantronics calls 360-degree full duplex audio, meaning that it projects sound from callers out into your room, as well as transmitting voices on your side of the call. Finally, Plantronics includes DSP circuitry to smooth over audio dropouts and reduce noise.
The 360-degree speakers work fine in practice; it’s easy to hear callers even in noisy rooms, and they sound surprisingly loud and full. Here’s the problem: Everyone on the other end will be able to tell you’re on a speakerphone. My voice came through reasonably clear and intelligibly, but it sounded computerized and oddly distant, more so even than it does through many cell phone speakerphones.
The built-in battery offers seven hours of continuous talk time, or up to five days of standby, on a single charge. On Plantronics’ website, you can download Spokes, a free program that makes controlling calls from multiple sources easier. It also installs a battery meter for the Calisto 620 in your PC’s icon tray, and updates your UC presence status whether you’re on a mobile call or a PC call.
Overall, the Calisto 620 does what it’s supposed to do, but I wish it offered better microphone transmission quality. If you need a portable speaker that works in a conference room, a hotel room, and on your desk, the Calisto 620 is tempting and fine for casual use, but I wouldn’t make critical business calls from it.
There’s a hole in the market for this sort of product too. There are numerous other battery-powered speakerphones on the market, like the Motorola Roadster 2 or SuperTooth HD, but most of these are designed to be clipped onto a sun visor inside your car, and only work on a desktop or table in a pinch—and none of these models have the 360-degree speakers and microphones the Calisto 620 has. But those are good options for hands-free Bluetooth calls while driving.
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