Review: Biscotti – Video Chatting Made Simple

Review: Biscotti – Video Chatting Made Simple

Biscotti shattered the video chatting platform as a tiny device with large ambitions.  Over the years, video chatting has become easier to navigate and more people have adopted it as a common form of communication.  Unfortunately, video chatting has been confined to a computer or small mobile device but turning high-definition TVs into conferencing hardware is made simple with the Biscotti.

Design

With a staggeringly small footprint, the six-inch-wide Biscotti seamlessly blends into any popular HD-TV.  Sitting daintily atop the largest viewing screen in the user’s house, Biscotti could easily become one of the most desired methods for video chatting.  The on-board 5MP camera will view the whole living room with a wide angle lens or can digitally zoom-in on a particular section.  Additionally, the camera pivots four directions, internally, to ensure a perfect 720p high definition picture is captured.

Biscotti utilizes HDMI-in and -out and built in WiFI (b/g/n) to easily place and receive calls while watching TV.  The included remote is easily simplistic and intuitively controls the included software.  While a Bluetooth keyboard would be nice for the initial setup, it is not necessary for the continuous operation of the device.

Functionality

Most brilliantly, no computer is required. PERIOD. The complications of video chatting on a computer can be frustrating at best, but the Biscotti contains the built-in software to operate as a stand-alone device.  Utilizing a TV as the single source for video display, Biscotti can pop up notifications when video chat requests are received without interrupting.

Biscotti is a pass-through-device between a cable box and the TV, which continuously pushes the TV signal through, using HDMI to maintain HD signal strength.  When a call is received, a small, unobtrusive window appears and an audible notification signifies the incoming call, which may be answered or ignored.

It sets up in a couple minutes, let’s me watch TV while receiving calls, is HD, digitally pans/zooms, and has a wide angle lens. How can it possibly get any better?  The cost is the cherry-on-top.  Placing and receiving calls is absolutely free, as Biscotti operates utilizing Google Talk and G-Chat features.

After confirming with Biscotti Tech Support, who answered straight-away and were very polite, only Google services such as the Google video browser plug-in, Google Talk, and/or third party iOS apps like Vtok (Free, iTunes Link) work appropriately.  This means it is not compatible with iChat or Messages for Mac.  For more information, see the Tech Specs or the Biscotti FAQ section.

Making Calls

Presently, the software does not support importing addresses from the user’s Google account, even though the system runs through the Google infrastructure.  However, it is Biscotti’s intent to address this issue in a forth-coming software update.  As with all web-connected devices, the call quality depends on signal strength (minimum 256 Kpbs up/download speeds required). Unfortunately, a hard wire ethernet connection is not an option, but it would have considerably increased the Biscotti footprint.

The on-board 720p camera  and the long-range microphone offer exceptionally high quality calls when the proper bandwidth is available.  The call quality I received was excellent and only tiled or pixelated when I was straying to far from the WiFi router.  Audio quality is a bit “airy” on the receiving end but I used Biscotti in a large living room when placing calls.

Once contacts are added to the Biscotti list, calls can be placed with the click of a button on the included remote.  On the other end, the call may be answered from any of the aforementioned devices/services.  To receive calls, requires inviting friends to add a new @biscotti.com address to their contact list, which is not complicated, but a little more work than if the Google email address could receive calls.  The video below does an excellent job of explaining the service.

Conclusion [rating: 4.5/5]

Biscotti ($149, Order Page) is the total video chatting package: sets up easily and quickly; works with HDMI-out cable and satellite boxes; is always on; makes free calls; boasts a small, sleek design.  Utilizing a large HD TV for video calling is much more enjoyable than hovering over a laptop or mobile device and with the digital pan and tilt camera, zoom right in on the comfy couch.  The Biscotti makes a great addition to the living room and is the perfect gift to a friend or family member you do not see often!

Pros

  • All-in-one design with a small footprint
  • No software to install
  • Watch TV and receive calls
  • WiFi enabled
  • Easy setup

Cons

  • No ethernet option
  • No contact import from Google

  1.  Logitech is Cocking something big for TV

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