Skype has teamed with Logitech to provide what they call a High Quality Video solution. I had a chance to test this new feature via a videoconference with Tom Keating who heads up TMC Labs.
In order to take advantage of this new software you will need Skype 3.6 or higher and a Logitech QuickCam 11.5 or higher (Currently: QuickCam Pro 9000, QuickCam Pro for Notebooks, QuickCam Orbit/Sphere AF). In addition, your broadband connection will need to be 384 kbps or better and your CPU needs to run at 2.0 GHZ or higher and be of the Dual Core variety.
In case you want to know if you have a Dual Core processor you need to press Control-Alt-Delete on your PC then click on Task Manager and then Performance. If there are two separate boxes under “CPU Usage History,” you have a Dual Core processor. If there is a single box, you have a single-core processor.
For this test, Keating used a QuickCam Orbit and I tried the QuickCam Pro 9000.
Once we started a videoconference it took about ten seconds for High Quality video to start with an accompanying message on the screen and a star in the top left-hand side of the screen.
So what are the conference specs you ask? How about VGA or 640×480 quality at 30 frames per second. This is twice the frame rate and four times the resolution of regular Skype video.
Is the difference noticeable? Absolutely.
I did find that my notebook computer needed to be plugged in to have a sustained high quality video call but this wasn’t really a deterrent to using this new technology. This by the way is likely because the settings I have on my laptop are optimized for power savings over performance when running on battery.
As always, Skype has over-delivered on their free offering, providing superior functionality at the bargain basement price of zero dollars. Obviously you will need a new video camera and possibly a new pc to take advantage of the highest quality Skype video yet but these seem like small sacrifices to make when you consider you will not have to pay a recurring service fee to videoconference at far superior resolution.
This new product is certainly a win for the world’s most popular IP communications software company and moreover for users of the popular software/service.
Here is Tom Keating’s take on this new Skype feature.