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Polycom SoundPoint IP 550 and 650

At a Glance
Product Polycom SoundPoint Desktop SIP Phones (IP550 / 650)
Summary High quality, full-featured SIP desktop phones
Pros • Excellent build quality
• Excellent audio quality
• Intuitive operation
• Best-of-class speakerphone
• Flexible provisioning
Cons • Web admin interface requires too many reboots
• Reboots are slow
• Supports only wired headsets
• Relatively expensive

When I was asked several months ago about reviewing a pair of new Polycom desk phones, I simply could not believe my good fortune. It was a little like being asked if I’d like to have a Tesla roadster for a few weeks. But of course my good man! Where do I sign?

Then reality dawned. How could I come up with a fair and balanced review of two Polycom flagship IP phones?  Not just a rave from a true believer but a real review? How much effort would be involved in fully exploring their potential? It might be a lot of work. Ah, but the process could be enjoyable, and I might learn something along the way.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am responsible for a small fleet of Polycom SoundPoint IP phones deployed across the US. And an IP 600 has occupied a position on my desk since my earliest involvement with VOIP back in 2003. I have also tried numerous makes and models of SIP hard phones over the years. Some were good, many not so good and a few were truly excellent. All the while, the IP600 has remained my primary desk phone. So I am a self-admitted proponent of Polycom and their products.

Product Tour

Polycom sent both a SoundPoint IP 650 and a SoundPoint IP 550. These were the two top models in the SoundPoint IP line, although the newly-introduced SoundPoint IP 670 is now the top of the line.  Both are multi-line SIP desktop phones (the 550 supports four lines, the 650 six) that support G.722 (wideband), G.711 µ/A, and G.729A (Annex B) codecs. Both also have a 320 x 160 backlit grayscale LCD with four "soft" and 24 or 26 dedicated "hard" keys.

Core telephony features are easily accessible, often by both dedicated buttons and soft keys around the LCD. Figure 1 shows the IP 650's controls; the IP 550 looks the same except it has four line / speed dial buttons (to the left of the LCD screen).

Phone controls and display

Figure 1: Phone controls and display

Dual 10/100 switched LAN ports with 802.3af PoE support let you add the phone and reconnect the computer that was probably using the single LAN drop (Figure 2). There is also an RJ11 jack for a wired headset.

Rear ports

Figure 2: Rear ports

While I was not able to measure the power drawn from each phone, a search online revealed that both phones draw just 6 W. The IP650 draws 12 W with three optional sidecar modules attached. Both draws are within the 802.3af spec of 14.5 W maximum per device, so standard PoE-equipped switches will handle them just fine.

It's also worth noting that the phones come with a small universal AC adapter. Since I administer phones both in the U.S. and U.K., this saves me the hassle of dealing with different power adapters, should I not be able to provide POE in a small U.K. office.

Both models offer a long list of call handling features, much more than I could possibly address here. But here are a few:

  • Shared call / bridged line appearance
  • Flexible line appearance (one or more line keys can be assigned for each line extension)
  • Busy Lamp Field (BLF)
  • Distinctive incoming call treatment / call waiting
  • Call timer
  • Call transfer, hold, divert (forward), pickup
  • Called, calling, connected party information
  • Local conferencing
  • One-touch speed dial, redial
  • Call waiting
  • Remote missed call notification
  • Intercom
  • Automatic off-hook call placement
  • Do not disturb function

For a more complete list of features, download the product data sheets: IP550, IP650.


The main difference between the phones is in line handling capability. The IP550 provides four call appearances, each of which can be a separate line, multiple instances of the same line, or speed-dials. With many PBX systems, the various line buttons can be set up to work like a “busy lamp field” (aka BLF) indicating when a line is in use, just like on an old-style small business key system.

The IP650 takes this a lot further supporting six lines directly on the phone. Adding an Expansion Module expands support up to 12 separate lines and 24 concurrent calls. Each Module provides 14 programmable keys, each with its own LCD label. These keys can be defined as a combination of additional lines, BLF, direct access to extensions or speed-dials. This expansion capability makes the IP650 ideally suited as a receptionist's phone.

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