With friends overseas and family interstate, video-calling for some people is a godsend, a means of communicating that makes these vast distances feel so much closer. While many messaging clients feature video streaming, Skype has become the name synonymous with the concept.
To date video-calling has come with trade-offs. To maintain the speed of the stream, we have endured low-quality feeds, and in truth, this hasn't changed too significantly just yet. However, Skype has recently introduced a new High Quality video service which we've recently had the chance to play with.
This new service improves the image resolution from QVGA (320x240 pixels) to VGA (640x480) and doubles the frames-per-second broadcast from 15 to 30. The result is much cleaner images and much smoother movement. To take advantage of this improved video you'll need the latest version of Skype, which is a free download, but you may also need to fork out for some new tech.
Firstly you'll be needing a better webcam than the integrated model in your laptop or computer monitor. In fact, at the time of writing there are only three Logitech webcam models that support the higher quality video streams; the QuickCam Pro for Notebooks, the QuickCam Pro 9000, and the AF-Sphere. One of the cams will set you back between AU$149 and AU$249 depending on the model.
Sending and receiving higher resolution at twice the frame rate means significantly larger packets of data being transferred so you'll be needing at least an ADSL broadband connection. Skype recommends 384Kbps or faster.
You may also need to upgrade your PC. Skype indicates that the minimum requirement to use High Quality video is a dual-core processor (a Core 2 Duo or similar). You'll also want to have sufficient memory or else the stream will lag.
It's also important to remember that both parties need to meet these requirements. Your friends don't need a Logitech cam to receive the High Quality feed from you, but without the minimum required PC and internet speeds then the extra quality to the stream will be lost due to lag.