Elive2u sets its sights high. This communication app incorporates an instant messenger into its video e-mail delivery system. Alas, it's pretty lousy at both functions. As a video e-mailer, it has one huge problem: your recipient must be online and checking e-mail to see the live feed. And even if you catch your pal online, the video quality isn't fabulous, and Elive2u's instant messaging is slow and awkward. If you really want to send video e-mail to family and friends, turn to VMailTalk. Elive2u sets its sights high. This communication app incorporates an instant messenger into its video e-mail delivery system. Alas, it's pretty lousy at both functions. As a video e-mailer, it has one huge problem: your recipient must be online and checking e-mail to see the live feed. And even if you catch your pal online, the video quality isn't fabulous, and Elive2u's instant messaging is slow and awkward. If you really want to send video e-mail to family and friends, turn to VMailTalk.
Installing Elive2u can be a snap or a serious headache. While our test revealed no problems downloading the 10MB program onto two Windows XP systems, the program crashed on one system every time we ran it. We were unable to solve the problem, and tech support was no help. However, Elive2u worked without a hitch on the other PC.
Assuming you get Elive2u running, you'll see two unobtrusive windows. The first displays your Webcam feed, and the second acts as an instant-messenger-style window where you see your online buddies. Although the windows are small, Elive2u should consolidate the pair à la Windows Messenger (the version of MSN Messenger for Windows XP). While Elive2u also provides application sharing and online conferencing services, such as Raindance or WebEx, the implementation is awkward and extremely slow. Even as an instant messenger, Elive2u can't match Windows Messenger or Yahoo Messenger.
No e-mail client integration
Unlike VMailTalk, which records, then uploads your video clip, Elive2u simply sends your pal an invitation to view the live video coming from your Webcam. Your recipient receives your message, opens it, and is asked whether he or she wants to download an ActiveX Control. Then, finally, your buddy will see your mug in a frame within the message--pretty easy, all in all. It's equally easy to send video mail. Just click the Start Video button on the smaller of the two windows to turn on the Webcam feed, then click the "Send live video mail" button.
In our tests using a PC connected to the Internet at 28.8Kbps, Elive2u took 30 seconds to display the sender's movements on the recipient's PC. Elive2u fared a bit better on a 56K connection, but at times, our video looked like an old movie slipping off of its projector's sprockets. To optimize performance, you can tweak the video-feed frame rate, the number of frames (or snapshots) per second that the camera sends. When we modified the frame-rate speed settings on our 28.8K-connected system, the delay dropped from 30 seconds to about 5 seconds, but the quality of the video plummetted precipitously, as well.
You're live, but is your friend there?
Even more frustrating than Elive2u's video quality is that it requires that your pal be at the computer when you send the e-mail invitation; otherwise, she or he won't see your precious video. Moreover, if you stop the feed for any reason--either closing your ISP connection or turning off your PC--your friends won't see a thing when they open your message. What a hassle.
Help from down under
Need help configuring your Webcam? Good luck. Elive2u doesn't provide phone support, and its online documentation is skimpy. E-mail is the only way to reach tech support, but when we asked for assistance with our troublesome install, we got a canned response.
Elive2u's one nifty trick, the live video feed, doesn't outweigh this app's limitations. If you want to add video to your e-mail, go with VMailTalk.