Face Time, Any Time: Best Video Chat Tools
Nothing beats face-to-face interaction--even when the people who need to communicate can't get together. Luckily, video chat services are making it easier to connect with colleagues from a home office, a hotel room, or even a park bench. Here are four options to consider.
Best for chats on-the-go
Cisco WebEx Meetings
This app, available for iPhones, iPads, and some Android devices, lets you videoconference with up to seven people using a Wi-Fi connection. You can view a list of attendees and hold private text chats. During our test on an iPhone, audio and video quality were excellent.
Cost: The app is free; to host meetings, you need a WebEx Meetings account, which starts at $19 a month.
Best for high-quality conferences
Cisco TelePresence EX60
Cisco's 21.5-inch LCD monitor comes with an HD camera and a touchscreen phone. You can hold conferences with up to nine other people on a variety of video services and share your screen. Audio and video quality were outstanding on a call with 10 people.
Cost: $9,000 for the hardware, plus $99 a month for unlimited domestic and international calls.
Best for low-cost collaboration
A good option for video chats on a desktop or laptop computer, Skype Premium lets you hold conferences with up to nine other people. You can share documents and present slide shows by uploading files or sharing your screen. Sound and picture quality were excellent during chats with three attendees but degraded on a call with 10 people.
Cost: $9.99 a month per user, or $60 a year per user.
Best for life-size calls
Not a fan of small screens? This tiny, 1.5-ounce device, which has an HD camera, can turn any high-definition television into a video chat hub. The device mounts to the top of a TV and uses Wi-Fi to make calls. After setting up contacts, you can use the remote to call one other Biscotti or Google Talk user. During our test, video was clear but a bit dim.
Cost: $149, which includes unlimited domestic and international calls.