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Welcome to the wide world of meeting-room systems. Videoconferencing is hot, and the world’s most powerful hardware makers are all vying for a piece (or more) of your customer’s tech budgets.

In return, these hardware suppliers offer varying degrees of connectivity, ease of use, and purpose-built hardware. All promise to virtually connect users no matter where they are on the planet.

Innovation is coming quickly. In fact, when it comes to virtual conference systems, it seems there’s always another must-have device on the horizon. Always.

Hot number

The one everyone’s been talking about lately is the Lenovo ThinkSmart Hub 500, introduced late last month. Does this system deserve all the hype? To find out, we’ll have to wait until the first quarter of 2018 — that’s when shipments are set to begin. But judging by the device’s specs (and more on that below), the answer looks like a resounding Yes.

Lenovo ThinkSmart Hub 500

Lenovo’s ThinkSmart Hub 500 meeting room system

Today, there are basically 2 kinds of conference systems on the market:

> Those built on a platform that tries to be everything to everyone. These include conference-room systems built around the Intel NUC mini-PC. While they often achieve good results, they also often require a fair bit of tinkering, searching for the right cables, etc.

> Those designed for a single purpose. These purpose-built systems offer the user varying degrees of plug-and-play usability. This can be invaluable to those who simply want to get down to business.

Lenovo’s ThinkSmart Hub 500 is decidedly in the latter category. Lenovo has also included a few smart design elements in the interest of getting down to business faster and more efficiently.

Perhaps ThinkSmart Hub’s most notable innovation isn’t really an innovation at all. This time Lenovo wisely created their new device as a standalone client for Microsoft’s venerable Skype Room Systems software.

By pinning its fate to this well-developed communications platform — Skype has some 74 million users worldwide — Lenovo has removed one of the most reviled aspects common to meeting room systems: poorly developed software.

Hardware that just works

As for the hardware itself, Lenovo seems to have pulled out all the stops for this one. The industrial design is equal parts gee-whiz and business chic. It looks like it belongs in a Fortune 500 conference room. And it runs on Windows 10 IoT Enterprise.

Pricing for the ThinkSmart Hub 500 hasn’t been announced yet. But the whole system is controlled via an 11.6-inch high-res touchscreen that swivels 360 degrees. There’s also a sophisticated, 360-degree microphone array. Speakers fed by a Dolby Audio Premium sound card. And secure cable management. This system should look and sound great.

If your customers need a meeting-room system, they probably want ease-of-use, too. That’s what Lenovo is really selling here: an all-in-one hardware solution that simply works.


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