By John Brandon
Skype is the kingpin of the videoconferencing world. It has almost joined Kleenex and Google as a term you use that has come to mean more than the brand. We do a “skype” video chat now in the same way we grab a tissue or do a search online. The app runs on laptops, phones, and tablets and has grown in popularity for both consumers and business.
Unfortunately, many video calls over Skype ending up looking grainy, dark, blurry, and choppy. These chats usually rely on the low-end webcam in your laptop or mobile device. There are several competing technologies and hardware products that can make a video call much smoother for everyone involved.
1. Highfive ($1,199 per room)
This cloud-based video conferencing software uses an HD camera that sits on top of a monitor. The audio is pristine and the setup only takes a few minutes. It’s designed for businesses and costs about $1,199 per “room” (or wherever you have the camera). That might seem high, but similar videoconferencing systems cost thousands more.
2. Logitech ConferenceCam Connect ($500)
You can use Skype with this high-end conference camera, which connects into a laptop, but it also supports more robust products like Cisco Jabber. The camera can focus on the person who is sitting in front of the device and reduces background noise for clearer conversations. Color quality from the camera looks outstanding compared to a laptop webcam.
3. ViewSonic VG2437Sm 24-inch LED Monitor ($270)
The beauty of using this LED monitor from Viewsonic for video chats is that you can see the person in your chat on a 24-inch high-definition screen. The monitor has a 2-megapixel webcam built in, and you can use an app like Google Hangouts for the video conference. Unlike other monitors, there are ports for both microphone and headphones and built-in speakers.
4. Dell Chromebox for Meetings (Varies)
This small dedicated videoconferencing computer removes Microsoft and Skype from the equation altogether. It runs Google Chrome OS and comes with a dedicated video camera and speakerphone that sits in front of a monitor. You use Google Hangouts to make calls. Because the camera is HD and the computer boots directly into Hangouts, video chats always look smooth.