I've tested some unusual products over the years, but the InFocus Mondopad INF6521 is easily one of the most interesting of late. As a videoconferencing and digital whiteboard display, the product is intended to help teams communicate with each other--whether the team is in the same room or spread out across the country.
One reason it was so fun to test: The product arrived in a massive crate, so there was no unpacking or setup. I removed the lid, pressed a button, and the Mondopad rose up from the crate like it was part of a magic trick. (The crate was custom made for trade-shows; InFocus does make a mobile cart that gives you similar portability.)
Of course, my first "test" involved playing tic-tac-toe with a friend. The 65-inch screen is big enough to see from across the room, and I noticed the touch sensitive display worked about the same as my iPad Pro and registered every flick and gesture perfectly.
Because the Mondopad runs on Windows 7, the big claim to fame here is that you can run whatever apps you want--anything that runs on Windows like Skype or Google Hangouts. InFocus includes several apps of their own, and the Mondopad interface can run full screen so you can keep things simple. You use large icons to access the whiteboard, make a video call, adjust settings, or run a presentation. During my testing period, I tested the video calling and held a few meetings in person.
There's some science to how this works. Real-time collaboration on the same display is incredibly helpful in terms of focus. We all have a certain capacity to "clue in" on a specific topic--it's known as a sustained attention span and lasts about 5-10 minutes. It also explains why so many meetings go awry. In my tests, having a 65-inch touchscreen in the room helped because anyone could annotate a Word document or pop up a video call with someone in New York with a quick button press. Many of the video calling systems I've tested before, particularly the Chromebox for Meetings products and Skype, don't quite hold the attention of the people in the same room or remote participants.
During one call, I noticed how people tended to pay more attention and look at the screen, making sure they were tracking with a presentation or what I was saying. When I had people in the same room, the same thing happened. There's something unique about a large electronic whiteboard.
Most of my video calls sounded great. The soundbar attached to the screen is large enough that you can hear people even in a larger room conference room, and the sound quality matches a home theater system. The display itself looked bright and clear without that flat business-look of some larger screens or a projector.
InFocus offers a free mobile app called ControlView 2.0 that uses a streaming tech called LightCast that's similar to Miracast or Apple AirDrop. It's a way to share what is on your on phone, tablet, or laptop directly to the Mondopad over wireless. I even tested a plug-in that let me share the screen from a Chromebook. (InFocus says they is a beta version of the app for Mac.) Once synced, you can swipe through a presentation, jot down notes and annotate the screen...all without getting up out of your chair.
The Mondopad INF6521 I tested includes a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, which makes it easier to do "real" work like typing up a document or editing a photo.
There are no "gotchas" with the Mondopad--what you get is a powerful aid for meetings, whiteboarding in person with a team, and making video calls with a remote office. It's important to know this is a high-end business product. As I mentioned, you can use any free video calling app like Skype. If you use the InFocus apps, the 121 video chat app without SIP registration (meaning, you can't add other SIP callers) is free; if you use 121 Basic that lets you use a SIP registration, it's free for a year and then costs $295. The 121 Premium app for adding up to four callers costs $399 per year. For meetings with up to 25 people, you'll need the InFocus ConX app that costs up to $3,999 per year for 25 people.
One minor gripe: There's a remote included for adjusting the volume, but if you lose it, you have to use a menu option and find the volume controls. At a hectic startup, that could be an issue since the remote is easy ti misplace.
With the Mondopad INF6521 (which costs $10,499), you can add a second Mondopad so that there's one screen available for a video chat window and another for the whiteboard. I could see a startup installing two of these side-by-side on a wall. If you do that and install a second model, you're looking at an investment that's north of $20,000.
The Mondopad includes a full license for Microsoft Office. There's a Mondopad Ultra version that runs in 4K resolution. To engage an audience, the Mondopad is a smart addition, especially for anyone with a short attention span.