The following review was conducted in November 2009.
One of the first phones we reviewed as part of our OnSIP team reviews series was the Polycom Soundpoint IP 331, the direct successor to Polycom’s 330 model. At the time, one of the few complaints we had about the Polycom 331 was that the phone did not support wideband audio--but then again, the 331 was an entry-level phone, and few if any entry-level-priced IP phones featured HD voice.
Now, only a couple of months later, we have a brand new Polycom Soundpoint IP 335 sitting in front of us. The 335 is Polycom’s newest entry-level phone, and the latest addition to the brand’s line of IP phones which offer HD voice. Wait a minute. Did I just see “entry-level” and “HD voice” in the same sentence? I don’t mean to sound like a Windows 7 commercial, but it seems to me like the Polycom 335 was our idea.
The Polycom 335 looks and feels almost exactly like the 331, but there are a few differences and upgrades here and there that we will get to in this review. The most significant improvement over the 331 is obviously the new “HD voice” label on the handset.
The look and feel of the Polycom 335 is more or less identical to that of the 331. The coloring is exactly the same—silver on black. The 335 also has the same hard and soft keys setup as the 331. You will not find as many dedicated hard keys on the 335 as you would on some of Polycom’s more expensive models because there’s much less room to work with. However, Polycom covers most of the bases pretty well with the space they have and the use of context sensitive keys.
There were times when it was difficult to make out what was on the display of our 331 when the office ceiling lights happened to hit the screen in a certain way. The Polycom 335 now has a backlit LCD display that remedies the problem entirely.
The dedicated 2.5 mm headset port has been replaced with a dedicated RJ-9 headset port. This means better headset quality but also more expensive headsets, so this change may or may not be a good thing for customers.
Naturally, we’re most excited about the introduction of another entry-level phone with wideband audio support. With affordable IP phones that support wideband, more and more people will be able to experience first-hand just how good their calls can really sound. Hopefully products like the 335 will shift HD voice from a perceived luxury to the industry standard.
Polycom’s Web UI makes configuring/provisioning the 335 very easy. You can find instructions on how to set up Polycom phones to work with OnSIP's service here. The process is pretty much uniform across the different Polycom models. One minor annoyance is that the phone will restart each time you press the ‘submit’ button. This can take several minutes each time, and no changes can be made to your phone while it is in the reboot process. We would highly recommend inputting all the settings you need on one page at once so you can be done with it in one fell swoop.
I actually set up my 335 using our new Polycom Boot server. If you’re an OnSIP customer, instructions on how to use this new feature can be found here. You’ll have to actually add the boot server to your phone, which involves changing your server type to 'HTTP' and your server address to 'boot.onsip.com'. A step-by-step walk-through of how to add the OnSIP boot server to your phone can be found here. The boot server’s actually more useful if you’re provisioning many phones at once, but I wanted to test out my 335 for myself to see if I ran into any problems. Luckily, everything just worked and I was up and running in minutes.
Junction Networks Interoperability Test
At Junction Networks, we put each of the phones we use through a multi-step interoperability test in which we put the phones through 30 test cases. An example of a test case would be the following:
“Test phone calls phone B
B picks up
B puts Test phone on hold
B calls phone C
C picks up
B transfers test phone to C
Call must be transferred correctly to C. B must be released correctly after the transfer. When C picks up, audio must work in both ways between test phone and C. When test phone is on hold, there is no audio between it and phone B.”
We are very happy to say that the Polycom 335 passed each test.
In an HD voice call, the voice quality with the Polycom 335 is superb. The 335 uses the same technology found in Polycom’s executive class phones. This includes the incorporation of wideband audio and the brand’s patented Polycom Acoustic Clarity Technology 2, meaning that the 335 sounds just as good as the Polycom 550 or 650. To give you an idea of what the difference is, this is what an HD call with a Polycom 650 sounds like, and this is what the standard phone call sounds like. I would say that Polycom HD sounds even better when you’re using it first-hand, and the 335 is no exception.
Of course wideband audio only fully works when both devices on the ends of a call support the same wideband codec, and when the call is handled by IP from end to end. On other calls with the Polycom 335, there may be a perceived improvement in voice quality but it is certainly not as noticeable.
The speakerphone on the Polycom 335 sounds very good on both ends during calls that take advantage of wideband audio. You will not get the same voice quality on regular calls, but the speakerphone is still very usable, which is more than we can say for a lot of the speakerphones on other VoIP phones we’ve tested. Overall, we were very impressed with this feature.
Ease of Use
We found the Polycom 335 very user-friendly. As we mentioned earlier, this phone has less dedicated hard keys than the more expensive Polycom models, but it has clever controls to making getting to what you want feel just as easy nonetheless. For example, you won’t find a 'redial' button, but punching the 'down' arrow on the navigation wheel takes you to a list of recently received calls and punching the 'right' arrow gives you a list of recently placed calls. From there, you can select a number and punch the dial button to make the call you want.
The navigation buttons are also used for selecting options and backtracking when going through the phone’s menu of options. The phone uses all of its limited display space to show you menu options (2 at a time), so your context sensitive soft keys won’t correspond to any action. You select an option by either pressing the 'check' button in the middle of the navigation wheel or by pressing the 'right' arrow. If you need to backtrack to the previous menu selections, simply tap the 'left' arrow. These controls are actually much more intuitive than we thought before we used the phone.
Most of the basic business calling features can be accessed using the soft keys. When the phone is idle, you can access your list of callers and your company directory by using the context sensitive keys. If you have any new messages, one of the buttons will change to correspond to the message center. Finally, the key options will change to 'transfer' and 'conferencing' when a call is in session.
Like other Polycom models, the 335 has dedicated hard keys for speakerphone and headset, which allow you to set separate preferred volumes for each feature. The other two dedicated buttons, 'hold' and 'mute', are pretty standard on most VoIP phones on the market today. Rounding out the feature set is an LED indicator that blinks red when you receive new messages.
One final thing we think is pretty cool is that the phone icon on the display screen turns into an 'HD' icon during G.722 calls to notify you when your calls are in high definition.
The Polycom 335 is a very good entry-level VoIP phone that delivers the same fantastic voice quality that Polycom’s executive class phones are known for. This phone is perfect for businesses that are on a budget but still want to take advantage of the HD wave sweeping the VoIP industry.