Skype: Getting Started – The Hardware

If you are new to Skype you will first want to install Skype on your own PC, get a bit of experience and then consider your path for working Skype into your personal and business communications activities. First we’ll cover the hardware requirements and then move on to installing the Skype software.

Hardware Requirements:

Personal Computers: to access Skype’s features on the most popular platform for Skype you need a Windows, Mac or Linux PC equipped with a sound card that includes a microphone along with a pair of speakers; optionally you can also use headsets, preferably Skype-certified, or a USB speaker phone:

  • Windows XP/Vista/7 PC’s: here you can use the any built-in microphone and speaker combination or acquire any of several hardware options involving a headset or a Skype-enabled speaker phone.
  • Mac PC’s: if you have a Mac or MacBook acquired since early 2006 with the basic microphone, speakers and built-in iSight webcam, you have all the hardware required. Optional again are headset and Skype-enabled speakerphones; Logitech also offers a line of webcams that support HD and High Quality Video on a Mac/MacBook.
  • Linux PC’s have the same requirements as Windows PC’s.

Note that with Skype’s Echo Cancellation technology, many users simply use the mic and speakers embedded in their laptop PC or the microphone and speakers of a desktop PC. Headsets and phone hardware are usually employed in situations where either privacy issues or background noise come into consideration. Headset microphones will also often remove a “talking-into-a-barrel” effect that can mildly distort audio quality when using a PC”s native mic.

Mobile phones and tablets: April 2009 saw the first large scale launch of Skype on popular smartphones, with Skype for iPhone. Initially operating over WiFi connections Skype for iPhone more recently supports calls over 3G networks. Just prior to New Year’s 2011, Skype introduced video calling into Skype for iPhone. In 2010 Skype introduced Skype for Android and Skype for Symbian (for more recent Nokia phones). Early August, 2011 saw the launch of Skype for iPad, taking full advantage of the iPad’s display format.

If you are a 3 subscriber in 7 European countries, Hong Kong or Australia, a carrier-specific version of Skype is available on various phones available with the 3 network. If you are a Verizon subscriber in the U.S., a carrier-specific version of Skype is available on BlackBerry and Android phones supported by Verizon.

Skype on a Home Phone: Skype may also be accessed, although not necessarily with all Skype’s features, on PC-Free phones which can be plugged into any broadband router, and on various wireless-enabled gaming devices from Sony. The FREETALK Connect Me Adapter allows use of any traditional Home Phone to access Skype voice services with the option to also use a landline for, say, “local” calls on a PSTN service. Effectively Skype can become the long distance service associated with a landline service.

Skype for TV: Skype is currently supported on selected high end, Internet-enabled models of TV’s from Samsung and Panasonic. At CES 2011, it was announced that Skype will be supported on forthcoming versions of Sony Bravia TV’s as well as selected models of Blu-ray players from Panasonic and Sony. The required webcams can be purchased on the Skype Store.

Internet Connection: For voice calls using your PC or a PC-Free Skype phone, Skype does require a broadband (>128 kbps) Internet connection via (i) any Ethernet connection, such as with cable/DSL routers or (ii) a wireless WiFi access point. For video calls a minimum 384kbps Internet connection (such as is available with most “broadband” cable/DSL connections) is required; HD video calls require a minimum 1.2Mbps upload speed Internet connection.

Skype on mobile smartphones provides the best quality over WiFi connections; calls over WiFi also have the advantage of not using a wireless data plan. More recently Skype has provided support for calls over 3G networks; however, there is one caveat: Skype over 3G networks uses the carrier’s data plan; ensure you have a data plan that supports at least 1GB per month — and more if you make frequent Skype calls over a 3G network.

DialUp Internet connections are not recommended.

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