The best ways to video chat on your TV

Don't get stuck behind a small screen when trying to stay in touch with loved ones. Here's how you can get Skype and other services on your TV.

Skype

Video chat services can be a great tool for keeping in touch with friends and family members. Services like Skype can be accessed from a variety of screens -- such as your computer, smartphone, or tablet -- and are relatively easy to use.

Initiating a video chat from a laptop or tablet is great for one-on-one conversations, but it's a little ridiculous when the entire family is forced to crowd around a small screen. Luckily, there is a rather simple solution.

Here's how you can get Skype and other video chat services on your TV:

Skype

Skype is the easiest way to video chat with a friend, colleague, or family member. Basic accounts can hold video chats between two people for free, while a premium subscription adds support for video chats with up to 10 people. Skype is also available on a variety of operating systems, such as Windows, OS X, Linux, Android, iOS , BlackBerry, and Windows Phone.

Built-in
The most convenient way to get a video chat service on your TV is to purchase a Skype-ready smart TV. Manufacturers such as Samsung, Sony, Sharp, Panasonic, LG, Toshiba, Vizio, and Elite offer TVs with the Skype service preinstalled.

The camera on the Panasonic TC-PVT60 series TV flips up when the Skype app is launched. Sarah Tew/CNET

Some of these high-end models even include integrated cameras, meaning all you have to do is open the Skype app, sign in, and you are good to go. Otherwise, you must purchase a special TV camera that is compatible with your specific make and model. In most cases, a basic Webcam won't do the job.

While this may be the most convenient way to get Skype on your TV, it is also the most expensive. These high-end TVs (especially ones with integrated cameras) usually retail for thousands of dollars.

Blu-ray player
There are cheaper alternatives, though. Similar to how Skype is bundled with select TVs, the service is also included with some Blu-ray players. A small number of Blu-ray players from companies like Sony and Panasonic are certified as Skype-ready; however, you will still be required to purchase a compatible TV camera.

The Panasonic DMP-BDT220 is one of the few Blu-ray players to include Skype compatibility. Sarah Tew/CNET

While this method can be useful for people who don't own a smart TV, when it's all said and done you could be looking at a bill that exceeds $400. Not to mention that the number of Skype-ready Blu-ray players is rather limited, especially if you're looking for a 2013 model.

All-in-one
Another option is to buy a Skype-ready all-in-one TV camera from Tely Labs or Logitech , which retail for $279 and $199, respectively. Both devices include a wide-angle HD camera, microphones, an Ethernet port, and Wi-Fi connectivity. The TV cameras are connected to the HDMI outlet and are compatible with every HDTV.

The more expensive Tely Labs TelyHD even includes a Web browser, an SD card slot for sharing photos with other TelyHD users, and AirPlay support. The device can also be controlled by any Android or iOS smartphone or tablet.

The $249 TelyHD attaches to the top of the TV and is compatible with nearly every make and model. TelyHD

Xbox One
Microsoft announced earlier this year that its new Xbox One game console will include a built-in Skype client . If you think about it, the console offers the biggest bang for your buck. Retailing for only $499, the Xbox One can play the latest console games, Blu-ray discs, movies and TV shows, and even content from places like Netflix and HBO.

Microsoft will finally bring Skype to the Xbox ecosystem in November with the release of the Xbox One. James Martin/CNET

Best of all, you don't have to buy a separate TV camera, the new Kinect sensor is included with the system.

The Xbox One is scheduled to be released on November 22, 2013.

Laptop
Perhaps the easiest (and not to mention cheapest) method to Skype on your TV is to use your computer. Given that most laptops are equipped with integrated cameras, simply connect your computer to your TV through an HDMI cord, launch Skype, sign in, and begin a video chat.

There are a few hurdles you must overcome with this method. The laptop's low-end camera will result in poor picture quality and the integrated microphones may have trouble picking up your voice.

Alternatives

Xbox 360
For some reason beyond anyone's comprehension, Microsoft, despite buying Skype in 2011, has yet to integrate the service into its extremely popular Xbox 360 gaming console. Gamers can, however, video chat with each other through the company's Skype-like Video Kinect service.

Unlike Skype, which doesn't have many limitations, Video Kinect requires that both users have an Xbox 360 console, a subscription to Xbox Live Gold, and a Kinect sensor. Alternatively, the sensor can be swapped for an Xbox Live Vision Camera and headset.

Microsoft's Kinect sensor is required to video chat with friends. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

The Video Kinect feature can be accessed in the Apps folder. Click on Browse Apps, select Social, and choose Video Kinect. Open the "More Friends" options and select someone to chat with.

PlayStation 3
Similar to the Video Kinect feature, owners of Sony's PlayStation 3 console can also video chat with friends. In addition to a PlayStation 3 game console, requirements include a free PlayStation Network account, a camera such as the PlayStation Eye, and a microphone or headset.

The video chat feature can be accessed in the PlayStation 3's main menu. Scroll over to the Friends icon, choose to start a new chat session, and invite individuals you wish to chat with from your friends list. After your friend accepts the invite, scroll over to the chat settings icons and make sure the camera option is toggled on.

The PlayStation 3 supports video chats for up to six people. Sarah Tew/CNET

The PlayStation 3's video chat feature supports up to six people in a single video session. The negative for using either the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 to video chat, however, is that you can only do so with friends who own the same console.

Microsoft has also hinted that it may release a Skype app for the upcoming PlayStation 4 in the future.

 

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