Video-conferencing software has come a long way since the late 90s, when unsophisticated programs and limited bandwidth made participants sound and look as if they were astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle. While SightSpeed's video quality isn't perfect, its performance may just convince the undecided to give videoconferencing a shot.

SightSpeed is available in two versions, a free edition and a Pro package; the latter costs $5 (around £2.60) per month and adds multiparty video calls and priority tech support. Both versions require a webcam, audio input (microphone) and output (speakers or a headset). A headset is preferable, and minimises echoes.

Downloading and installing the software is a snap. It automatically locates your audio and video source, then helps you adjust their settings for peak performance. After the initial setup you can tweak these - just not mid-call. So if you're in the middle of a conversation and notice the tint is slightly off, you'll have to hang up before you can correct the problem.

A pop-up window notifies you of incoming calls; simply click on Answer and you're instantly connected. SightSpeed claims that video quality in version 6.0 is 25 percent better than in past versions. We can't verify this claim, but the video is quite good. Some colours look washed out and the video appears blocky at times, but the video is mostly clear. If there's lots of traffic on the connection then you may find the results to be less satisfactory, but quality is generally on par with Skype.

Live calls can be recorded in 30 second clips - Pro extends this to 180 seconds. These can be sent as messages or embedded in webpages.

SightSpeed: Specs

  • 1GHz Intel Pentium or AMD Athlon
  • Windows XP/Vista/2000
  • 256MB RAM
  • 5MB hard disk space
  • 1GHz Intel Pentium or AMD Athlon
  • Windows XP/Vista/2000
  • 256MB RAM
  • 5MB hard disk space

OUR VERDICT

You won't mistake a video call for a movie, but the quality is good. Unlike apps such as Skype, which has added a video feature, SightSpeed's focus has been on video from the start - and it shows.

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