In our 5 part series on "VoIP - What's Your Poison" - we take the 5 mainstream VoIP gaming clients and run them through their paces to determine what's the best suited VoIP service that meets your needs.
Fanboi's of online gaming will already know about this bunch of established voice communications tools - for those who dabble a little or just want a good quality voice tool then read on!
Part I: Skype
First cab off the rank to be scrutinized is Skype.
Skype was acquired by Microsoft in 2011 for a health sum of US$8.5B after being founded in 2003 by Janus Friis from Denmark and Niklas Zennstrom from Sweden.
Skype uses its own proprietary codec called SILK - bitrates vary between 6 and 40kb/s, a sample rate of 8, 12, 16 or 24 kHz - SILK is a peer-to-peer protocol. The varying sample rates and high bitrates can equal excellent audio and overall call ambience and quality. Skype will downscale the call if bandwidth is getting low or if latency increases.
Free; proprietary (some paid features where applicable.)
Hybrid System: Peer-to-Peer; Client-Server
We tested Skype in both two caller (the caller and one participant) and a three caller conference (the caller and two participants) while playing Battlefield3 over a mixture of connection types which include Cable, ADSL and ADSL2+ - the result? An Excellent and consistent quality of call with no echo.
Remember with Skype, the more participants, the more bandwidth and CPU time the calls require to keep alive. So if you're blowing up jets on Caspian Border or destroying the Zerg on Auir and you have a processor that's just cutting the mustard then you need all the CPU cycles you can get.
MOS Rating: (Measuring Voice Quality)
Skype Rating: 3.22 (as rated by Skype Developers)
PCG Rating: 3.9
Maximum Number of Calls
The catch with Skype is that the person who sets up the conference acts as a server. Therefore, the max number of calls in the conference will be limited to bandwidth and CPU to handle all the calls (as mentioned above.)
TIP1: Type /info in the chat window then click [send] to determine the max number of calls in that conference and to find out the current number of particpants in the call. (See: Skype Doco on Chat)
TIP2: For all Skype commands, (see: Skype Website on Roles)
According to Skype, the max number of callers in a conference call is 25. (300 max in a chat group.)
Ease of Use
Setting up a two-call is easy, providing you already have the person your contacts list - then it's a matter of click, call. The person answers and you're away.
To add more than one user, then you have to create a "group" then add more users to it.
TIP: For making conferencing calls in Skype, see: Skype Website on Conferencing
- Windows Phone
Version 188.8.131.52 for Windows 7 (x64)
Skype is free, provides excellent quality with good community support. Its quick and easy to setup for users who play with friends on a regular basis.
The client is good quality, provides chat functions and ability to share links and files.
I'd use Skype for small conferences with 2-4 participants simply because of the bandwidth requirement as the caller becomes the "server." And if you want private chat then Skype is for you.
Not ideal for large public-based systems such as an offering on game servers as each participant must be a part of the contact list and registered with the Skype network.
2-4 participants only (bandwidth permitting.)
Where do I Get it?
You can download Skype from their website: HERE
SILK Developer Website
Skype Wikipedia Page