Skype HQ (High Quality) Video officially launches today following its beta release earlier in this month.
It’s a significant increase in the quality of video that Skype can handle.
A dual-core PC running the right version of Skype on a broadband connection of at least 380kbps, equipped with the right Logitech camera is all you need to quadruple the resolution of the video – up from the standard QVGA 320X240 pixels to the High Quality full VGA 640×480.
Alongside the resolution bump up, there’s a significant frame rate increase – number of times the picture is updated every second – doubling from 15 frames per second (fps) to up to 30 fps. The end result is much smoother picture when things move across the screen.
What does it look like?
Last week Skype asked us to drop over to their London offices to see it in action – Seeing Skype HQ at Skype HQ, I guess you could say.
Using a laptop feeding in to a 42″ display, we entered into a video chat with the product manager at Logitech.
The results were really impressive. With the (large) screen filled with video, the quality and updates were high enough to make it feel like ‘normal’ TV was being watched.
During the chat, the quality of HQ Skype and the camera were well illustrated when a technical specification sheet was help up at the remote end. The camera – equipped with Carl Zeiss optics – auto-focused to reveal the perfect detail of the small text.
The gold version of Skype 3.6 HQ should be available in November – just in time for the holiday season, until then, the beta version can be used.
Skype has been working closely with Logitech for quite some time to make sure their products work sufficiently well together to be able to enable this quality boost.
By combining both parties intimate knowledge of video, they’ve been able to tune with mutual CoDecs to achieve this, without much of an additional need for bandwidth, Skype told us.
The deal between Skype and Logitech is an exclusive arrangement, which despite repeated asking by us, it’s undisclosed how long this may last.
The cameras you need cost between £70 and £90 and are detailed here
Impact on bandwidth
Beyond the need for a suitably-equipped machine, we wondered if there was an issue with additional bandwidth being used, not only by the machine that is running the video, but by the other machines between the source and destination that run Skype, creating the network to carry the audio and video.
Skype tells us that there shouldn’t be – they specify that at a broadband connection of at least 380Kbp/s is needed – but we’re planning to speak to one of their engineers to clarify.
Skype tell us that the Mac version should follow.