August 09, 2012

Product review rules

Software and web-based video conferencing

There is an unprecedented amount of software and web-based video conferencing applications available today. It’s my new mission to try as many of them as possible and objectively and subjectively (of course) review them for things like ease of use, quality of product and of course price.

To date, here is the short list of tested or soon to be tested products (and more will be added as I find them):
·           Vidyo Desktop
·           ClearSea from Lifesize
·           Connections from Lifesize
·           TenHands
·           GreenAppX
·           EasyMeeting
·           Huddlv
·           Fuzebox
·           OmniJoin
·           IOCOM
·           VidTel
·           Skype
·           iMeet
·           Fastmeeting

Each program will have the benefit of their own full review (or as much as I can do as one person with two computers and an iPad). Unless noted otherwise, all demos and reviews were done in summer 2012. If there is new information or later demos after that, I will note the date accordingly.

Ease of use
What I am looking for is the easiest solution available. Typically, I will not have a video conference with the same person twice. Therefore I am looking for a solution where I will always be the moderator and can send out easy invites via email. I do not want a solution where I have to determine ahead of time who gets a ‘license’. This is pointless for my needs as stated above. The solution should be iPad compatible at least on my end.

Quality of product
As of this date, I do not plan to hold meetings on 65” televisions so pure resolution is not so much of an issue. Quality will be defined as latency (and the program’s ability to self-correct), pixelization and handling of audio. Data sharing is a must. Latency between endpoints cannot be helped, but any latency between someone’s mouth moving and what comes out of it will not be tolerated. At that point, I don’t want to look at the person and want to just listen…just like on a telephone call.

Price drives most product usage, and I am cheap. Two competing products, yet one with maybe one extra bell or whistle but a much higher cost will lose. Well, unless you absolutely need that extra bell. What we’re looking for is video chatting with data/screen sharing. That’s it. Busy people don’t need or want complications in a product or pricing scheme. Pricing must be simple, month to month and we must know what it is. There are several products out there with fuzzy math as it relates to their pricing. I don’t want that and my guess is that you don’t either. Please note that I will only share pricing if it is posted on the company’s website or I am given permission to do so.

About my setup
I am testing all products from my home office, using the equipment listed below
HP HPE-400y desktop with:
·           3.0GHz AMD Phenom II X4 945 processor
·           8gb RAM
·           FaceVision Touch Camera N1 with integrated microphone
·           Generic speakers connected to on-board audio card
·           Plantronics Blackwire C420-M headset
·           Acer 23” LCD monitor running 1920x1080
A New iPad with Logitech’s Bluetooth headset 981-000381
HP Pavilion dv7 Laptop w/1.8GHz AMD Phenom and 6 GB RAM

I have a cable connection that runs 10-15 mbps download and 768k-1mbps upload. Both desktop and iPad share a wifi connection from my router that sits in my old home office 30 feet away. My laptop also shares this connection and will be used if necessary for these demos.

Understand that these reviews are mine based on simple and short tests either by myself or with a representative of the product being reviewed. These are not month long product tests under all conditions at all times of day. Also understand that I do tend to be highly critical of products and they will always be compared to some fantasy product out there that has exactly what I want at the price I want to pay. As the saying goes “your mileage may vary” and before taking my word for it, test one or two of these products yourself. Trust but verify.