ezTalks Onion: all-in-one videoconferencing is under-baked

I had a chance to get an early version (really early, as there is still some rough edges to be worked out) of the ezTalks Onion. The device (I don’t know why they call it the Onion – it doesn’t look like one particularly) is an all-in-one videoconferencing device (camera, microphones, speakers) that sits on top of an HDMI-enabled TV or monitor to provide conference room video and audio. Network connectivity is handled through an Ethernet port or, if you’re brave, Wi-Fi. The Hong Kong-based company had a successful Indiegogo funding campaign for the device, and is now ready to expand its offerings to the general public.

Once hooked up, the Onion connects to the ezTalks cloud-based videoconferencing service. Meetings can be created and viewed across a multitude of devices, including PCs, Macs, smartphones (iOS and Android) and tablets via the ezTalks app. The company’s free service lets one person host a videoconference for up to three people – if you want to have more hosts, you move to the paid plans. Those options range from $6.99 per host per month (for up to 10 participants), all the way up to $56.99 per host per month (for up to 100 participants – wow!).

The only up-front expenditure for companies looking to buy the Onion is a $1,300 charge (it’s on sale for $1,099 over the holidays) for the hardware component. So it’s unlikely that someone would want to use this for their home network – but perhaps an important executive who is working from home might use this in their home office. More likely, a smaller company would buy one of these units for their smaller conference room setups.

Setting up the Onion was slightly easier than some other video and audio conferencing systems I’ve tried, although a Quick Start Guide would have been appreciated. The Onion unit connects to either a monitor or TV via the HDMI port, and you also have the choice for Ethernet or Wi-Fi for the network connection. Power is provided through an included power adapter. There are two USB ports on the back of the Onion device as well, but it was unclear what those were used for. The kit came with a USB cable extension, so it’s possible that this was for connecting a computer directly to the Onion device.

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