review

AnkerWork PowerConf S500 Review Comparing Original PowerConf Speakerphone

Wednesday, October 27, 2021


Noise is the nemesis of clarity, clutterring up the soundscape around you. Sudden background noise can happen at any time, creeping on you when you least expect it! If you need to sound as clear as possible at all times, the PowerConf S500 might be just the antithesis to background noise you're looking for!

 

PowerConf S500 offers three connection methods: wired (via USB cable) and two wireless options via the built-in bluetooth inside the speakerphone and via the included bluetooth dongle, which is the same bluetooth dongle (A3303) that comes with the PowerConf Plus version. PowerConf S500 supports multipoint connection so, you can connect to two devices simultaneously (e.g. laptop and a phone).



PowerConf S500 supports Zoom Room and MS Teams. The mute/unmute/answer function works well and syncs with the MS Teams application correctly, although with Zoom it only mutes at the system level - it will not reflect in the "mute" icon for Zoom application - but you can visually see it muted on the PowerConf S500.PowerConf S500 also supports "linking mode", although it is only available when you connect one PowerConf S500 with your PC using the USB-C cable. It is not available when connecting via Bluetooth. Recording function is not supported. AptX and AAC audio codecs are not supported.


PowerConf S500 has only four HD microphones (the original PowerConf has six HD microphones) but the microphones in the new PowerConf S500 are more sensitive (32kHz sample rate vs 16kHz for the original PowerConf). Not only the calls are clearer, the PowerConfS500 microphones can accomodate more people (up to 12 people), whereas the original PowerConf only supports up to 8 people).


PowerConf S500 retains the same 6,700mAh battery, which provides 16 hours (50% volume) of runtime. This is 8 hours less runtime than the original PowerConf (capable of up to 24 hours runtime). That said, the PowerConf S500 has a bigger output via a 10W speaker driver, making it twice more powerful than the original PowerConf 3W speaker. The volume output is comparable to the Soundcore Flare bluetooth speaker, although PowerConf S500 has a heavier emphasis on the midrange and higher tones than the bass, which is light.


PowerConf S500 doesn't support "charge-out" (like the original PowerConf), which means you cannot use it as a power bank to recharge external devices. The PowerConf S500 charging time is 4 hours, using a 10W (5V/2A) charger (not included). You can use the speakerphone whilst charging. Another note regarding battery performance is that you get better battery runtime when using the included bluetooth dongle rather than with the built-in bluetooth.

PowerConf S500 retains similar dimensions too, as the original PowerConf (13cm long, 13cm wide and 3.5cm high) but the PowerConf S500 is 0.5cm taller. It also has a more pronounced rounded silhouette and it's heavier, weighing 420 grams (70 grams more than the original PowerConf). The weight is surprising since the new PowerConf S500 doesn't have an all-metal aluminium construction like the original PowerConf.



The new PowerConf S500 is made mostly of plastic with a thick metal midframe and a thick rubber pad covering the base (entirely covered with rubber). On the base, there is also a magnetic cutout for storing the bluetooth dongle. On top, there are four touch control buttons built-in to the glossy plastic panel, as well as the speaker grille performations and bar led to indicate volume, mute and calling status. There is also an Anker logo glued on to the top. On the front side, there are four phsyical metal buttons, which are responsive and clicky.


As far as call quality, PowerConf S500 uses deep learning noise reduction technology - similar to the two-way AI noise cancellation technology used in Asus gaming laptops. PowerConf S500 is able to filter out background noise coming from both calling sides (yours and the caller). It can cancel out non-stationary noise (e.g. traffic, bird noises, mechanical keyboard typing, ambulance siren) much better than standard DSP noise reduction, which the original PowerConf is equipped with.


PowerConf S500 can also be tethered to a computer for wired mode. You can keep the bluetooth connection active while in wired mode, which is neat because it allows you to switch between bluetooth and wired mode. Switching from wireless to wired is not entirely seamless though. There are some steps you have to take. To go from wired to wireless, you have to manually disconnect the cable and then resume playback. To go from wireless to wired, you have pause the audio and plug in the cable again. The PowerConf S500 supports two-way master volume, which means when it's connected to an input source like a computer, you can control volume via the PowerConf S500 or via the input source.


The PowerConf S500 version comes with mobile app support via the AnkerWork app, which is a new app launched at the same time as PowerConf S500. The original PowerConf has also been added to the AnkerWork app so, it now has mobile support too. The AnkerWork app has a simple, easy to navigate interface and does not force you to register an account (there is an "skip" option). 

 

The AnkerWork app provides battery level indication, two mic preset modes: standard and broadcast, a volume control slider, mute (to disable the microphones) and more advanced setttings for turning on/off push notifications, prompt tone, indicator light, firmware, and power off (5 min, 10 min, 30 min, 60 min or off). The app also also has a feature for testing the volume output level of the speakers and input level of the microphones.


PowerConf S500 is set by default to "standard"mode, which drives the microphones omnidirectionally, picking up sound as far back, all around (ideal for groups). Broadcast mode is designed for one-way communucation (e,g, live stream, online teaching) with video and audio. The speaker gets disabled in broadcast mode so, you will not hear the caller's voice. Broadcast mode works in bluetooth mode too but it is not as fluent as in wired mode.


PowerConf S500 comes packaged inside a nice hard cardboard box with a few accessories: bluetooth dongle, USB to USB-C adapter, charging/data cable and a snazzy hardshell protective case safely store and transport the PowerConf S500. The case has a chrome Anker branding on it and has a leather-like outer shell. It opens up via a reverser coil teeth zip, single metal slider and rubber pull tab. The carry case weighs 90 grams and has a long webbing loop so, you can attach/hook the case onto something. The included cable has a thick rubber sheath. The cable weighs 32 grams and measures 84cm long. It is unbranded but it has a premium feel. You can buy the PowerConf S500 conference speaker from amazon.


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