Poly Sync 20+ Smart Speakerphone Review: Decent audio for meetings and multimedia alike
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With remote work becoming the new normal, it has become all the more important to have proper collaboration tools to effectively conduct businesses or schooling. While a decent audio subsystem is not uncommon nowadays in laptops and smartphones, there is still a lot of scope for improvement when it comes to audio quality particularly for richer meetings and online experiences. This is where Poly aims to fill the gap with the Sync 20 and Sync 20+ smart speakerphones.
The Sync 20 and Sync 20+ are identical devices. However, the Sync 20+ comes with a BT600 Bluetooth adapter for wireless connection to a PC or Mac. We have with us the Poly Sync 20+ smart speakerphone for review.
Case: Well-built with IP64 rating
The Poly Sync 20+ is portable and well-built. The smart speakerphone is IP64-rated for dust and water resistance. The top of the device is completely occupied by the speaker area, which internally houses a bass reflex system with dual-passive radiators, a 40 mm loudspeaker, and a steerable three-microphone array.
A touch-sensitive control panel with dedicated buttons for call/answer, microphone mute, volume up and down, and a programmable "Rocket" button is present below the speaker area. Poly also offers the Sync 20 as a Microsoft Teams-certified version in which case you will also find a dedicated Teams button on the panel.
A status light bar glows along the length of the touch control panel when the device is connected to the source. The bar glows blue upon a successful connection, green during calls, and red when the microphone is muted. The same lighting cues are also offered by the BT600 dongle.
The base sports a groove for neatly winding and tucking away the USB cable when not needed. The USB cable itself is not detachable from the device, though. The four rubber feet ensure a tight grip on the surface without skidding.
Connectivity: USB and Bluetooth supported
The Poly Sync 20+ primarily offers USB and Bluetooth connectivity. Depending on the model, either a USB Type-A or a Type-C connection can be availed. Both the Sync 20 and Sync 20+ can connect to smartphones via built-in Bluetooth and to PC or Mac via USB. However, only the Sync 20+ can wirelessly pair with a PC and that requires using the bundled BT600 dongle. A direct Bluetooth pairing with PC would have been useful.
The Sync 20+ offers full duplex audio for all connected devices simultaneously.
The Sync 20+ does not require any software control for regular use. Still, Poly offers the Poly Lens Desktop app for Windows and macOS for firmware updates, configuring ringtone and equalizer settings, customizing the programmable "Rocket" button, and to reset the device to factory defaults. Offline firmware updates are possible as well. The Poly Lens app is easy to use and can work with all connected Poly devices.
Call quality: Works great across the room
The Poly Sync 20+ makes for a good calling device when connected to your phone or PC. Callers on the other side report good voice clarity with no perceivable clipping or disturbances. The microphone frequency response is rated between 100 Hz and 6.7 kHz, so do not expect too much of a bass effect in the voice. That being said, the quality is more than sufficient for regular phone calls and online meetings. The added bonus is that the Sync 20+ supports noise and echo reduction, which should result in call quality better than your average laptop or smartphone microphone.
Another nifty feature of the Sync 20+ is that the steerable microphone array can be quite sensitive to your voice across the room. Poly specifies that the microphone has a pickup range of up to 2 m and is ideal for a 4 m x 4 m room size. In our testing, we found that to be largely true. The microphone can easily pickup voices while walking from one corner of the room to the other without having to shout your lungs out. If you like a fully hands-free, natural talking experience while moving about your home or small office space, the Poly Sync 20+ will ably fit the bill.
Audio quality: Decent for music, not so much for movies
The Poly Sync 20+ also doubles up as a neat listening companion to your smartphone or laptop. However, you will only get a monaural experience since the device sports only one loudspeaker. Poly confirmed to us that it is not possible to pair multiple Sync 20 units in stereo mode.
Still, the overall sound profile is quite decent. The passive radiators ensure enough bass for casual listening, but do not expect it perform great at very low frequencies. As you can see in our pink noise diagram below, the Sync 20+ can reproduce distinct bass only from around the 52 kHz mark. That being said, the 40 mm loudspeaker augurs well for higher frequencies, particularly the mids and vocals.
In our measurements, the Sync 20+ yielded a signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of 51.4 dBFS, which is somewhat on the lower side but does not affect casual listening much. While playing back a 1 kHz sine wave, we observed very low total harmonic distortion (THD) and background noise. Thus, some of the finer nuances in the tracks including voice and instrumentation can be reproduced much more faithfully than your average laptop or smartphone speaker.
We found this to be largely true while testing with lossless FLAC tracks such as Belle from Notre Damde de Paris, Hotel California by The Eagles, and Child of the Universe by Ambra Angiolini, which have distinct vocal and guitar signatures. All measurements were taken with the Sync 20+ connected to the PC via USB.
The relatively lower bass response means that movies may not be as enjoyable as music on the Poly Sync 20+, particularly with action sequences in multichannel audio downmixed to mono. For instance, we observed that a lot of detailing in the audio was missing while playing back the school bus action sequence in Terminator: Genisys or in the Chateau fight scene in The Matrix Reloaded.
Setting the equalizer to "Bass" in the Poly Lens app does help improve things considerably, but the monaural experience can be off-putting for some. Still, the Sync 20+ offers a marked improvement over tinny laptop speakers as long as you don't mind watching movies in mono in a small room area.
Battery life: Lasts more than a typical work day
The Sync 20+ sports a 3,200 mAH Li-ion battery that is rated to last for a 20-hour talk time with a charging time of four hours. In daily testing, we found the battery to last a tad lower than that at around 17 hours, which is still decent. Of course, battery life can vary based on usage and the volume at which the speaker is operated. A nice addon is that the Sync 20+ also doubles up as a battery pack, so you can give your smartphone or other mobile devices a quick battery top-up via the the USB Type-A port.
The speaker announces the battery level, whether full or not, upon establishing a connection. We found some discrepancies in the way this actually works. For instance, we noticed that although the speaker announced that the battery is full, the Poly Lens app showed the level to be 75% while our test OnePlus 9 phone showed the battery level as 90%. So, there's clearly some issue in the way the device broadcasts battery life. Hopefully, this can be fixed with a firmware update.
Verdict: A nifty smart speakerphone for hybrid work
With a good deal of today's workforce increasingly opting for remote work, a good speakerphone that augurs well for collaboration has become essential to overcome limitations in conventional laptop and smartphone audio setups.
The Sync 20+ is built well and is very portable. It is easy to use and requires virtually no setup apart from pairing it with the source device either wired or wirelessly. Using the Poly Lens app is optional, but it does allow you to perform device maintenance and customization.
The Poly Sync 20+ is is built to cater to the new "work from anywhere" philosophy, and we found that the device largely delivers on this front. It's not a smart speakerphone that will rock your pad, but its overall audio prowess is several times higher than your average laptop or smartphone speakers.
Call quality is good and serves the purpose well for cellular and VoIP calls. The freedom to move around the room hands-free without having to worry about audibility on the other side of the call will be appreciated by many. Business will also like the optional Teams and Zoom certification. The Sync 20+ is also a capable multimedia speaker as long as you keep expectations tempered. Quantitatively, we found the Poly Sync 20+ to have a decent sound signature with the speaker performing its best near the mids. We low observed low THD and noise, but overall we recorded an SNR of just 51.4 dBFS. Battery life is decent, but the battery life reporting is not always accurate.
The Poly Sync 20+ does have some shortcomings too. There is no stereo support and the bass, though not deep, is passable. While it may get the job done for casual music listening, movies with detailed audio tracks may not sound their best.
Unlike several other Bluetooth speakers on the market, the Sync 20+ does not come with a voice assistant of its own and relies on the device it is connected to for voice commands. Also, a direct pairing with PC over Bluetooth instead of having to sacrifice a USB port for the BT600 dongle is something Poly can consider for the next iteration.
Overall, if these drawbacks don't seem particularly concerning, the Poly Sync 20+ makes for an excellent collaboration companion.