ProShare Conferencing Video System 200
Pull from: The last time we reviewed the Intel ProShare Conferencing Video System 200, it wasn't quite ready for prime time. Rushed to market during Intel Corp.'s sudden shift to standards-based videoconferencing, it was a confusing mishmash of proprietary and H.320 modules that provided no document-conferencing capabilities for H.320 videoconferences.
The Intel ProShare Conferencing Video System 200 runs over both ISDN lines and LANs.
This year's version, however, boasts full H.320 support over ISDN, superb T.120 data-conferencing capabilities, and a smart new graphical front end. Furthermore, it's the only system in this roundup that, when installed in a PC configured with the proper network interface, also operates over NetWare and TCP/IP LANs.
The System 200's $1,499 list price is $500 lower than it was the last time we reviewed the product. But some users may find that the price has actually gone up, since Intel discontinued its agreements with ISDN service providers to sell ProShare systems for $999 when purchased with a new ISDN line.
The System 200 includes an ISA-bus ISDN board, an Intel Smart Video Recorder Pro motion-video card, a video camera with tilting stand, and an earpiece. There are no speakers or standalone microphones. Except for the nonadjustable earpiece, which some users will find uncomfortable, the System 200 has high-quality components.
We ran into a number of painfully familiar ISA plug-and-play problems during installation. Neither of our test units detected the System 200 hardware automatically, our BIOS reported plug-and-play configuration errors, and one system was unable to detect free interrupts on our test machine.
SUITABILITY TO TASK:
Intel ProShare Conferencing Video System 200
Power Ease Installation and configuration Good Good Video-
Good Excellent Document conferencing Excellent Excellent
Once we cleared up these problems by juggling some interrupts and disabling some motherboard functions, it took less than an hour to set up both systems. Documentation was excellent. Intel also provides useful diagnostics, an animated online tutorial, and a dial-up video site that lets you test your connections and register your system.
Although the System 200's video on our 100-MHz Pentium was grainier than that of the PictureTel or VTEL products, it's the best we've seen from a ProShare system. Frame rates hovered around 8 to 10 fps, and overall picture quality was acceptable. Unlike the other systems we tested, the System 200 does video decompression in software, so its performance depends in part on the power of your PC's microprocessor.
The System 200's greatest strength is its Intel ProShare Premiere 2.0 document-conferencing software. A major step beyond Version 1.9a, which is bundled with the CLI and VTEL systems, Version 2.0 boasts a spiffy, new graphical interface that lets you make calls by clicking objects in an office, meeting room, or auditorium. If incorporated into an infrastructure equipped with the correct combination of modems, NICs, servers, MCUs, and network management software, it also lets you conduct mixed ISDN/LAN/POTS multipoint videoconferences.
The System 200's other capabilities are just as impressive. It provides Intel's classic spiral-notebook paradigm for annotating documents and delivering presentations, flexible application-sharing features, and superior file-transfer and address book functions.
The System 200's biggest flaw is its lack of bidirectional support for 352-by-288 FCIF resolution video when connected to non-Intel H.320 systems. Although it can receive and display FCIF, the System 200 transmits only lower-resolution 176-by-144 QCIF video. ProShare-only point-to-point sessions run at 320-by-240 and 160-by-120 resolutions.
Despite this one constraint, we were impressed. The System 200 has come a long way in a year, providing terrific ease of use, excellent functionality, and superior standards support.ProShare Conferencing Video System 200. List price: $1,499. Intel
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