Call quality, and picture quality were both good in tests, though as ever, things can be variable with Skype. Other people had no difficulty seeing or hearing me, even with the camera around eight feet away, though they did report a little echo when they spoke, similar to being on a speaker phone. In theory, the camera’s capable of full screen 720p video, but only when connecting to another Panasonic TV; Skype PC users get lower quality video.
Skype will listen for calls while you’re watching TV
Incoming calls can be dismissed while you’re watching TV
Fortunately, you don’t have to remain in VieraCast to make use of Skype; once configured, a pop-up will appear on-screen while you’re watching TV, alerting you to an incoming call. You can easily answer, ignore, or reject it. One niggle I did find, however, was that sometimes after using Skype, and returning to the Freesat tuner, the TV would display an ‘invalid channel’ message, rather than going back to the programme I’d been watching.
The menus will be familar to most Skype users, and are easy to navigate from the remote
The view from the other side: Orwell's telescreen is still work in progress
More seriously, Skype for TV thoroughly trashes any ‘it just works’ ideas you might have about Skype. With both this Panasonic camera and the Samsung equivalents, you can talk to other TV users, or to PC users with Skype 4.x. However, video calling to Mac, Linux or Asus Skype videophone gear doesn’t work.
Next page: Call of confusion
Ah - I see the internet's big brains are all over that idea...
ZDNet wrote an interesting blog about the convergence of facetime and this sort of webcam
So - how long before we see Apple TV with a similar plug in camera
Now we've seen the Apple TV tear downs exposing an A4 processor, decent RAM and 8GB of flash inside the Apple TV, isn't it only a matter of time before facetime hits the living room via a similar webcam device... interesting.
As someone who skypes often with my partner to other couples or family, I think sofa to sofa makes much more sense to me than having four or more people crowded around a couple of PCs so there is a really good usage case for this. A niche - but potentially a decent sized one.
This panasonic device and its like are likely the thin edge of a wedge.
Cool but meh
I recently acquired a panny plasma, though not the latest skype model, along with a sound system and an asrock 330 box which is running xbmc, and one of my first thoughts was how perfect this kind of setup would be for my technologically-challenged parents; Skype is in the middle of open-sourcing their interface for their linux client, and when that comes to pass it shouldn't be too difficult to include skype as a plugin for xbmc, and it being a proper computer means I would be able to hook up any combination of webcam/mic and video-call anyone and not just tv users (:
we have two of these, connected to panny plasmas in two offices
the camera has its own h264 encoder chip, and so you can only talk to clients with h264, which is why you can't talk to mac or linux and get video, only audio
the same problem exists, so I believe, with the samsung version
in theory the mac skype client will be sorted out some time
the skype client works OK, but there's none of the conferencing facilities of the full desktop client; you can add/delete contacts so you don't need to set up the account on a full computer first.
the camera is the same price in US$ as it is in GB£, so you can save a bundle if you know anyone visiting the USA.
Oddly, for someone who wears a metaphorical tinfoil hat, I've never cared whether Skype was encrypted or not. Maybe it's getting so used to assuming some guys in North Yorkshire have been running my conversations and email through patter-matching algorithms for years, or perhaps it's because I don't really care if anyone hears my usually inane babbling to my mates.