Today, Logitech launched the most ambitious group video conferencing system–and camera–in its catalog in an effort to impress consumers seeking a high-end, boardroom-quality video conferencing solution.
Rally is a 4K-capable PTZ camera that promises near production-studio-quality visuals and the most comprehensive suite of features the company has yet produced. It will launch as the centerpiece of an all-in-one modular conference room system that ties together Logitech’s RightSense range of smart technologies–including a new auto framing feature.
Rally is the latest in a series of increasingly high-grade Logitech video camera releases over the past two years, but marks the first time the Swiss giant has deliberately gone after the executive boardroom crowd usually catered for by the likes of Cisco and Polycom.
The camera ($1299) and system ($1999) are the most expensive Logitech has put to market, but they both immediately undercut the price point of those two competitors. Still, affordability isn’t the way you win over the C-suite. The Rally will have to outperform its newfound peers, and while we’re confident Logitech can produce high-end optics, it remains to be seen whether all of its features are ready for live action.
The Rally Group Video Conferencing System
The Rally kit consists of five major components:
- A 4K-capable, PTZ camera with optical lens
- Mountable speakers
- Multi-array beamforming mic pods with active-speaker focus
- Display hub
- Table hub
We were excited to hear that the base package combines the camera signal, two display signals, audio, and USB connections over a single cable, which potentially makes it one of the neatest (and least fussy to install) units available. Of course, we’ll have to see how all that burden performs in live action.
The key ingredient to the package is the camera. It appears the Rally will build on the 4K potential laid out in the recently released Brio (a review of which you’ll find here). The Rally’s peak performance is listed as 4K at 30fps or 1080p at 60fps. Both of those would be among the market leaders, although the smoother 1080p ride will probably prove more useful given the current limits of 4K video.
There’s reason to be optimistic about the build quality of the camera as well. Logitech has enabled it to be mounted upside down, which increases deployment options, and it has an RF remote which does away with the tedium of line-of-sight, point-and-shoot controls. It’s a fully automated PTZ camera, with a huge glass optical lens capable of 10x zoom (with an additional 5x zoom available digitally), that will eventually be paired with Logitech’s most advanced automated functions (more on that later).
The overall image quality of the Brio was its crowning element, and if the Rally can match that output, it’ll be a worthy purchase regardless of the package’s other features, which include:
Speakers: The accompanying speaker(s) are designed to sit beneath or be mounted along the edges of a display so that the audio sounds as though it originates from the other end of your call, and not the center of the room, like traditional conference rooms. Logitech touts this as the more natural-sounding setup, and we tend to agree.
Mic Pods: Each circular pod contains four beamforming elements that can focus on an active speaker while blocking reverberation, echo, and background noise. Up to seven can be networked together, but the basic Rally package ships with just one. You can upgrade to the Rally Plus, with an additional mic and speaker, for an extra $500.
Table Hub: The hub acts as a centralized remote point to control all aspects of the unit.
In addition to all this hardware, the Rally also comes with the debut of Logitech’s completed range of smart software, RightSense.
Logitech RightSense Technology
We caught a glimpse of one element of Logitech’s “smart” features during the recent Enterprise Connect Conference when the Microsoft Teams delegation gave a brief demonstration of auto-framing.
Called RightSight, the tech allows the camera to identify every person present in a meeting, regardless of whether their face can be seen, and automatically frame the room. At the moment it requires a tap of the remote control to activate if the makeup of the room changes after the meeting begins, but eventually the feature will automatically zoom in or out to accommodate movement during the meeting without any action on the part of the host. As this statement suggests, the tech is still in Beta testing at the moment. Logitech tells us it will be added to the camera in fall, but the fact that it’s not available on launch sets off a few warning bells for us.
RightSight is part of a three-pronged lineup of smart software, but it’s the only truly new entrant. Rounding out the triumvirate is the fourth version of the brand’s impressive RightLight lighting and color-balance software currently present in its most recent cameras, and RightSound, which is available in the MeetUp and GROUP packages. The Rally will eventually bring all three technologies together for Logitech’s most complete automated experience.
The question Logitech faces is whether or not all that automation and innovation will be enough to earn it a place within high-end video conferencing rooms.
Chasing Video Conferencing Dominance
Logitech has long been king of value-for-money video conferencing. It controls 73% of the webcam market, and its MeetUp and Brio cameras are among the highest quality offerings in the emerging field of small team, huddle room video conferencing–a segment it has aggressively targeted.
The Rally, however, is meant for bigger things. It’s a statement that Logitech wants to expand its base to the “serious,” corporate end of the video conferencing realm. From what we know of the new camera and kit, it looks like the company could pull off that expansion. The basic visuals at the heart of the system look promising and should comfortably stand alongside the best Cisco and Polycom are offering. The emphasis on automation and modular design is smart and fits with the current market mantra of keeping setup and meeting launch simple–it’s also certified with popular vendors Microsoft and Zoom.
It’s critical, however, that the product can deliver all it promises. The fact that the RightSight auto framing feature isn’t fully realized at the time of launch could be construed as a danger sign, and we hope it’s not a symptom that other features will be similarly undercooked. We’ll get all the definitive answers for you once we get to spend some quality time with the Rally, but from where we sit today, the Rally sounds like an exciting new contender that may be just what the high-end video conferencing market needs.