Best Desktop Video Tools

Adobe Connect and Cisco WebEx are all-around winners in test of Web-based conferencing products.

desktop videoconferencing

Desktop video has come a long way. Today’s SaaS-based products are faster, easier-to-use and less expensive than their predecessors. We tested Adobe Connect, Cisco WebEx, Citrix GoTo Meeting, InterCall United Meeting, LogMeIn’s JoinMe Pro, Microsoft Lync 2013 (beta), Skype Premium and Vyew.com Professional. Read on to see thumbnail reviews of each product.

Web-based conferencing comes of age

Adobe Connect

Adobe Connect

Adobe Connect costs $55 a month per host (meeting leader.) It supports a client browser; Windows, Mac or Linux desktops; iOS, BlackBerry and Android mobile clients. Adobe Connect’s sweet spot is large-scale corporate meetings or Webinars that call for recording and archiving the content.

Cisco WebEx

Cisco WebEx

Cisco WebEx has a free version that’s limited to a three-person meeting. For $49 per month, you get up to nine hosts and 25 participants, plus there’s an enterprise version for larger groups. WebEx has no desktop client; access is browser based and WebEx supports iOS, BlackBerry and Android mobile devices. It’s a solid all-around conferencing service. You can easily attach an agenda or upload files that are archived online. Meetings can be recorded.

Citrix GoToMeeting

Citrix GoToMeeting

At $49 per host per month, Citrix GoToMeeting requires a desktop client (Windows or Mac) and does not offer a browser client. It supports iOS and Android mobile devices. GoToMeeting is also a solid all-around performer, with a clean control panel and areas for text chats and audio controls. GoToMeeting supports up to six video streams, all in HD. WebEx and Connect have better systems for posting recordings of meetings, if that’s a priority.

InterCall Unified Meeting

InterCall Unified Meeting

InterCall costs $59 a month per host (or 17 cents a minute per participant), supports Windows and Mac desktop clients, but doesn’t yet have mobile client support. InterCall doesn’t have the smoothest interface or the most polish. It is best suited to small workgroups. One interesting feature is the ability to construct simple polls. You can also draw on your screen, share your Webcam and schedule meetings via an Outlook plug-in.

LogMeIn Join.Me Pro

LogMeIn Join.Me Pro

Join.Me Pro is a low-cost offering that’s best suited to ad hoc, simple desktop collaboration for groups of two to five people. It’s fast and easy to set up, all meetings are set up from a Web client and it supports iPhone and Android mobile clients. There’s a free service that supports just audio, and a $19 a month Pro service. Join.me also doesn’t work for archival records of your conference.

Microsoft Lync 2013 (beta)

Microsoft Lync 2013 (beta)

Lync took the longest to get installed. That might be because it’s still officially in "preview edition" or because we were using an earlier version of Microsoft Office and it wants to install the 2013 Live Office version. Nevertheless, the 2013 Windows client still crashed several times and I had to re-install it on a second Windows 7 computer before I could continue testing. Once I got it installed, it was easy to start meetings and share various pieces of content. Lync charges on a per-user basis ($6 a month). It supports iOS, Windows Phone and Android mobile devices.

Skype Premium

Skype Premium

Skype is our favorite telephony application, but as a general-purpose Web meeting service it is lacking. You can't initiate a group video call from the mobile client. Also, the mobile client can't send video from the phone camera. You can use the mobile client to view a shared screen or participate in a group audio conference. And if you do a one-to-one call you can get the video from your mobile. Finally, the mobile clients can be slow to connect and post messages. The free version of Skype gives you the option to choose either a live camera video or share your screen. You can have both streams as part of the premium account ($9 per month per user).

Vyew Professional

Vyew Professional

Vyew takes seconds to set up. Even with its free plan, you have sophisticated controls over the rights of what each participant can do, along with comments, real-time text chats, and an integrated audio conferencing service. Vyew doesn't have a separate mobile client. Since it uses Flash, it won't work in iOS-based devices, and it didn't respond well in my Android phone's mobile browser. But you can't argue the price: there is a free plan for up to 10 participants at a single conference. Vyew also has fee-based versions.