Polycom VVX 201

Read our in-depth review of the Polycom VVX 201, a stellar entry-level phone with great voice quality.
Last updated: November 24, 2015

VoIP Resources VoIP Reviews Desk Phones

Summary

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OnSIP Testing:star_orange_24star_orange_24star_orange_24star_orange_24star_orange_24
Voice Quality:star_orange_24star_orange_24star_orange_24star_orange_24star_orange_24
Ease of Use:star_orange_24star_orange_24star_orange_24star_gray_24star_gray_24

Quick Specs

  • 2 SIP accounts
  • 132x64 monochrome backlit LCD screen
  • Polycom HD Voice
  • 4 way navigation cluster

Pros

  • Awesome voice quality
  • Fine craftsmanship
  • Durable and sturdy

Cons

  • Lack of buttoned features (including BLF)
  • Primitive interface

The following review was conducted in November 2015.

The Polycom VVX 201 is a low-cost entry-level business media phone suitable for common areas and cubicle workers. Similar to the Polycom VVX 101 in design and execution, the device is ultimately a mid-range baseline phone that brings Polycom's high standards to a basic option.

The VVX 201 comes with two lines and a 132 x 64 monochrome backlit LCD screen. It offers Polycom HD Voice on all audio paths, along with two 10/100 Ethernet ports. The face buttons provide a 12-key dial pad in addition to home, speaker, mute, headset, and volume selections. There is a four-way navigation cluster that brings users through the menu system.

Does the VVX 201 live up to its name as a premier entry-level device? And what ways does it differ from the VVX 101? We put the phone to the test to find out.

First Impressions

Unboxing the Polycom VVX 201.

On the outside, there is little difference between the Polycom VVX 201 and the VVX 101. They boast the same matte black surface that runs smoothly across the phone entirety. The frame itself is perhaps denser than the average desk phone, not so hollow to the touch as other entry-level devices, such as the Cortelco C56. The buttons are apportioned reasonably across the front of the VVX 201. Just about the only physical difference between the VVX 201 and the VVX 101 is the silver band running along the top of the phone.

The VVX 201 is much smaller than other phones in the Polycom VVX line (excluding the 101). The entire setup has more in common with the SPIP 335 than anything else. The face buttons are limited in number—in fact, the only ones remaining include the Headset, Speakerphone, and Mute buttons. With this pared-down offering, the VVX 201 stretches no more than half a foot in either direction. It will take up only a little amount of space on the average-sized desk.

The user interface is purposely primitive and unvarnished. The characters display across the screen like figures on an old calculator, but the stripped-down UI offers an interesting contrast to the behemoth Android SIP phones that have popped up as of late. All functionality on the phone is relegated to the small LCD screen. But thankfully, the phone can be configured through an online web portal, allowing you to skip the pecking of each individual letter on the navigation buttons.

Features

Polycom VVX 201 interface
The Polycom VVX 201 displays on a backlit LCD screen.

The Polycom VVX 201 is a bare bones phone, perhaps one of the barest on the market, but it remains a few pegs up features-wise from the VVX 101. The VVX 201 comes with support for two SIP accounts, which allows you to jostle between lines, unlike the 101. With this increased functionality, the device might actually be able to serve as somebody's dedicated desk phone. A dual support/sales employee could get some mileage off the VVX 201 if they're not dealing with heavy transferring.

There are three buttoned features on the VVX 201: Handset, Speakerphone, and Mute. The menu in the UI offers some other features as well: do not disturb, call forward, redial, contact directory, and recent calls. The VVX 201 does not offer any busy lamp field buttons, so saved numbers must be accessed from the UI menu, which is somewhat cumbersome and unwelcome.

Other options in the menu section allow users to fiddle with the VVX 201’s network configuration. Users can modify the platform, network, lines, diagnostics, licenses, and phone location. But as mentioned, it's probably best to avoid jiggering with the phone via the primitive UI. The VVX 201 ultimately subscribes to the same school of minimalism that the VVX 101 follows, and both phones achieve a certain less-is-more aesthetic that jives well with the overall ethos of an entry-level phone.

Voice Quality

The voice quality for the VVX 201 is, like with all Polycom phones, the best on the market. The VVX 201 may lack some of the features that entry-level Grandstream and Cortelco phones have, but the sound quality alone makes it a contender for the top spot in that subsection of the marketplace. SIP to SIP calling sounds incredible, and the speakerphone achieves a richness that even mid-range phones fail to capture. Poor sound quality over the PSTN or cell networks always exposes how poorly that infrastructure has aged rather than limitations of the phone.

If voice quality is a major point for you, the Polycom VVX 201 will fill your needs. Granted, it is some $20 dollars higher than the average entry-level phone, but you get what you pay for. We did not break open the phone for this review, but looking through the datasheets, it seems the speakerphone and handset are the same amongst the line. That means you’ll get the same sound quality from the VVX 201 as you will from the executive-level VVX 600.

Testing

At OnSIP, we put each of the phones we use through a multi-step interoperability test in which we apply ~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 did not experience any issues during our tests with the Polycom VVX 201.

Phone Configuration

Step 1: Gather information for each user.

Each user has a set of credentials that will be needed to configure each phone. For each phone that you are configuring, obtain the following credentials. You can find this information in the user detail pages under the Users tab in the Phone Configuration section.

Sample SIP user credentials

Step 2: Log into your Polycom phone through a web browser.

When your phone is powered on and connected to your LAN, use a browser to navigate to the IP address of your phone.

Step 3. Enter your user information from Step 1.

For most setups, you will need to configure "Simple Setup." If you are trying to configure multiple users or multiple line appearances, you can repeat the steps below for each of the identities you are configuring. You can insert boot.onsip.com as the provisioning server to save time on provisioning.

  • Server Address: Domain
  • Authentication User: Auth Username
  • Authentication Password: SIP Password
  • SIP Address: Username
  • Display Name: Whatever You Like
  • Proxy Server Address: sip.onsip.com
Polycom Phone Setup

Step 4. Confirm that your phone is registered.

In the Admin Portal, click on the "Users" tab. You will see a green "online" notation next to each user with a registered phone.

Final Thoughts

The Polycom VVX 201 is slightly more feature rich than the VVX 101, but it's nevertheless one of the barest phones we've ever reviewed. As with the VVX 101, the VVX 201 does not feel like an entry-level device. From the fine craftsmanship, to the superb voice quality, to the sturdiness of the frame, the VVX 201 offers a sense of solidity and capability despite the lack of buttons, busy lamp field, and other features. You can tell as soon as you unpackage the device that the VVX 201 is a head above the other entry-level devices on the market.

Despite this successful attempt at minimalism, one should be cautious when purchasing the VVX 201. The price hovers around $115. With just two SIP lines and a lack of buttoned features, the VVX 201 has limitations at this price range. There are several mid-range phones in the same price bracket that are twice as capable features-wise as the VVX 201. But many of these phones lack the voice quality and sturdiness that the VVX 201 offers. At the end of the day, it's up to you to decide if you're willing to spend the money to buy a premier entry-level device, or take the step up and buy a middling mid-range phone.