Adobe ConnectNow Video Conferencing Review

by Reads (17,973)
  • Pros

    • Extremely simple interface
    • No client app required
    • It just works
  • Cons

    • Minor performance drag
    • Guests have little screen control
    • Not entirely free

By Dustin Sklavos

Adobe’s ConnectNow video conferencing service aims to out-simple the competitors, but did Adobe take the less-is-more approach too far? We break it down in this review.

Though having similar functionality, it’s clear from the get-go that  ConnectNow is aimed at a different group than the stalwart Google Chat. While our last contender, ooVoo, seemed fairly schizophrenic and bloated, ConnectNow is extraordinarily streamlined and, best of all, it operates right in your browser window.

SET-UP

To say Adobe ConnectNow is moronically simple would do a grave injustice to it. ConnectNow is sub-simple; it just works. Because it uses a standard web browser and operates in Flash, there’s no need to download a client. In fact the only downloads you’ll need are a couple of Flash plug-ins to make it work; these pop up as needed and are quick and non-intrusive to download and install.

Adobe ConnectNow Video Conferencing main screenAssuming your webcam is functional, all you have to do to get video transfer going is click Share My Webcam and presto: Your webcam is shown in the same window as the other cam-sharers, hanging out just above a text chat window and a shared notes window that anyone can type into.

But wait, there’s more! While you do have to individually enable what services you do and do not want to share, mercifully there are only two services. After enabling your webcam, if you’d like to use your microphone you just click the microphone icon at the top. The icons are simple, obvious, and everything is neatly taken care of.

If you’re hosting the chat, it’s easy to get other people involved: Just give them the URL that the software provides you (usually just connectnow.acrobat.com and your name) in an IM, over the phone, or Adobe provides a way to e-mail the invite.

Adobe ConnectNow Video Conferencing mic setupIn terms of actual setup, the program runs you through approximately none, but you can go into preferences just in case something isn’t working. Options are simple and spartan, but the same hiccups I dealt with in ooVoo and Google Chat in getting the microphone working still apply: If the mic isn’t set up properly in Windows, it’s not going to be right here, either.

Adobe ConnectNow also offers the usual trio of options for setting a connection speed, but adds a useful Calculate button which can measure exactly how much bandwidth your current connection is capable of.

IN PRACTICE

I can’t stress how phenomenally easy Adobe ConnectNow has been to use. Ignoring the virtual lack of set-up, the minimalist design of the software is extremely appealing. However, just because it’s not necessarily bursting at the seams with features doesn’t mean ConnectNow isn’t flexible. Quite the contrary, actually.

The host of the session is able to resize and rearrange windows while the participants cannot, but these windows do change size dynamically for those participants. As a result, window placement is solely up to the host’s discretion — whether or not it’s most convenient for the end user.

Other than that, everyone involved has pretty much the same options. Sharing files is easy enough; just click the paperclip icon and the dialogue opens, allowing you to share with all members of the meeting.

Adobe ConnectNow Video Conferencing my screenAdobe ConnectNow also features the increasingly common desktop-sharing functionality, but here it’s very simple to get going. You choose to share your screen, the above dialogue comes up, and if it’s your first time doing so there’s a very quick software download and install that takes place during the meeting. Once you’ve got it going, it’s very easy to use and surprisingly snappy.

The software layout was clearly designed to have someone sharing a screen, and here it looks pretty simple. Note that screen-sharing reverts the Windows interface back to Basic instead of Aero Glass.

I’d like to point out that I found the overall video, sharing, and sound quality to be excellent. Adobe ConnectNow has proven to be very fluid, with minimal (but still necessary) latency. I was actually taken aback by how smoothly the desktop-sharing seemed to work, at least in comparison with ooVoo.

CONCLUSION

When I first started looking at Adobe ConnectNow, I was taken aback. Part of the trials and tribulations of being a computer user and software reviewer is the expectation that software is going to require some kind of learning curve, that it’ll take you some time to figure out, and that expectation is what I went into this review with. So, as silly as it sounds, I wound up confused by the lack of confusion. Everything is just there, simple and easy to use, ready to go the first time. Provided your computer has the required hardware that any video chat software would need, ConnectNow just works. And that’s a phrase that gets tossed around a lot, but seldom holds true.

And how much does it cost? Well, the free user can conference with up to two other people, enjoy Adobe’s suite of free online office applications, and transfer an unlimited number of files — all of this already an improvement over ooVoo. If you’re willing to pony up some bread for a little more functionality, Adobe offers a $15-per-month plan that bumps the number of conferencees from three to five, cheerfully converts your notes (and etc.) to PDF files, and adds tech support. The full $40-per-month price-tier jacks the number of conferencees up to a total of twenty.

This review glows because it made my job a lot easier. I didn’t have to add any clients to my test machines, didn’t have to bang my head against software configuration I wouldn’t have already had to do in Windows to get any video chat to work, and didn’t have to learn anything. For consumers just interested in webcamming, I think it’s going to be of questionable value compared to the more basic Google Chat. For business users, though, it’s a homerun.

PROS

  • Extremely simple interface
  • No client app required
  • It just works

CONS

  • Minor performance drag
  • Guests have little screen control
  • Not entirely free



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