Gizmodo’s done their own tests of FaceTime on the Mac, but what about other video chat applications? We took a look at three of the most popular desktop apps to see how they fared against one another.
Video chat’s been around for awhile, but we’ve never really compared the quality of today’s popular apps. And, what with Skype’s newest beta being released and Google adding an enhanced video plugin to Gmail Labs, we thought it was time to see how they stack up. Check out the video to see our testing results, and read on to get some general notes on what we found. Note that all tests were performed on my Hackintosh in OS X (and with Adam’s Hackintosh in OS X on the receiving end).
Google Chat was surprisingly the best of the three (iChat coming in pretty closely). Despite its being a webapp, it works remarkably well – the enhanced video plugin in Gmail Labs provided remarkably good video, and the audio came in very clear – by far the best of the three. Full screen it didn’t lose any quality either, and the integration with Google is always nice, since you don’t have to download a separate app or create a new account to use it.
Skype gave us all sorts of problems. You’ll remember our most recent test of Skype’s 10-way calling (which was not so great), but two-way calling wasn’t much better. The video was fantastic – probably the best of the three – but the audio was so horrible that it was almost an immediate deal killer. Even turning down our volume, talking through Skype sounded like you were in a well or something, and when we talked at the same time Skype overcompensated a bit too much by ducking one of us out to the point where it was almost inaudible.
Note that due to a lack of communication between me and Adam I tested both the stable version and the newest beta, and it was not a beta issue — Skype really did have the worst audio. And, while it doesn’t really have anything to do with the quality of the video call, the newest version of Skype is really going down the tubes, UI-wise — and many of you noted in the comments of our last post that you agree. Plus, of course, you have to create an entirely new account and download a new program — not ideal if you already have something on your computer that works.
We decided to test out iChat at the last minute, since it’s pretty popular among Mac users. It was nearly on par with Google Chat — the video was pretty high quality, and while the audio seemed a bit off (it sounded like Adam was far away from the microphone when he talked), it was very usable. Obviously, its only downside is that it’s Mac only — but since it was really meant for desktop video chatting we chose to test it over FaceTime. However, if all parties involved have a Mac, it’s a great way to go, especially if you’re doing three-way video calling. Also, you can video chat from the moon if you so choose. Google Chat can’t do that.
Of course, these were just a series of tests that Adam and I performed over the course of the day. Your experience may differ, so if you find that you’re really a diehard Skype fan, or you just find Google Chat to be completely lacking in the quality department, let us know in the comments!