Design Info and In Use
Opening up the Communicator shows the experience that Polycom brings to the high-quality speakerphone table (Figure 3). The speaker is surrounded by a ring of sound-dampening felt-like material and the two microphones are suspended in soft rubber-like plastic holders that are part of the seal that runs around the case perimeter.
Figure 3: Communicator internal view (click image to enlarge)
The larger IC to the right of the photo is a TI TAS1020B Stereo USB Audio Interface. According to its data manual, the chip is designed specifically for applications that require isochronous data streaming. The TAS1020B uses a standard 8052 microcontroller unit (MCU) core with on-chip memory including 8K bytes of program memory ROM with boot loader and a 6,016-byte RAM that is loaded from the ROM. I didn't remove the board, so it's possible that there are more components on the other side.
You can see that the USB cable is soldered to the board, which means that once it breaks or develops a dreaded intermittent connection, and the 12 month warranty period has expired, the Communicator is probably toast. I asked Polycom about this and received the following reply:
... within warranty if there is an issue we would simply replace the unit, and for out of warranty there is not a repair plan available because it is such as low-cost item. Out of warranty, we will work with customers who have issues to determine replacement details.
Using the Communicator is very straightforward. The user interface consists of five buttons and a ring around them that can be lit red or green (Figure 4). The purpose of each button is clear from its icon and the indicator ring blinks while placing or receiving a call and glows a steady green while a call is in progress. Pressing the mute button will cause the ring to turn a steady red and it will blink red if the calling party puts the call on hold. Note that there is no way for you to put a call on hold using the Communicator's controls. For that, you'll need to futz with the Skype GUI itself.
Figure 4: User interface buttons and lighted ring
Call quality is excellent, with no feedback or echo and the full fidelity you get from using a headset/mic combo. You can listen to this short clip of my call to the Skype Test 'bot (MP3, 200 kB) or use the Interactive Demo on Polycom's site to judge for yourself. In my test clip, you'll hear my voice twice - first while being recorded, then while played back by the Skype 'bot. (I used HotRecorder to record the test and its bundled AudioConverter app to convert the file from Hotrecorder's proprietary format to MP3.)