Paltalk Videoconferencing Review

by Reads (10,644)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Design
      • 5
      • Performance
      • 6
      • Total Score:
      • 5.50
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Solid chat room functionality
    • Client is lightweight
    • Webcam just works
  • Cons

    • Half-baked design
    • Major Flash 10.1 bug
    • Requires client download

Quick Take

Poorly coded, Paltalk isn't worth your time.


By Dustin Sklavos

Paltalk bills itself as the ultimate all-in-one IM client, but is it really ready to displace your favorite instant messenger and video chat apps? We break it down in this review.

It’s actually unfortunate for Paltalk that it’s the last video chat client in this series of reviews for me to try, because had it been up front next to ooVoo I might not have been so hard on it for being a downloadable software client instead of web-based like the last three. Paltalk does offer a way of chatting over the web without using the client that they term SuperIM, but I wasn’t able to test this as it was another in a string of issues I had with the software.

GETTING STARTED

Paltalk signup step 1The first thing you’ll do is visit Paltalk’s website to download the client. To their credit, the client is pretty lightweight and a fairly quick download. Of course, when you click the download link on the first page, it automatically opens a download dialog that for some odd reason did nothing on either my desktop or laptop. So you click the download link on the page, and then it works. The download is quick, as is the client installation.

To get started properly, Paltalk lets you create a shiny new account. At this point it’s worth noting that no activation e-mail — or any confirmation e-mail of any kind — is sent to your e-mail address. This was a little disorienting just because I’m so used to this when signing up for other services.

Paltalk signup step 2

Getting to step two was interesting because Paltalk made the jump just fine on my laptop, but crashed out in the middle on my desktop the first time. The second time I loaded the program, it worked. Now it says that one of the perks of Paltalk’s Extreme plan is more than ten seconds of webcam video, but it’s important to note that this doesn’t apply to one-on-one chatting.

IN PRACTICE

Paltalk first open screenMost people familiar with instant messaging programs are going to be familiar with the oblong buddy list window, and to Paltalk’s credit the window is less busy than ooVoo’s was.

When you load Paltalk it gives you the Welcome overlay shown at the left, which is closed easily enough. From there, you’re on your way, and the buttons are pretty clear and easy to learn.

One of the things Paltalk does is integrate chat services like AIM, Yahoo, and MSN. This was the kind of integration that Tokbox was promising, but to use it in Paltalk you have to download extensions to the original software. Paltalk also again prompts you to install the Ask toolbar and structures the window in such a way to make it look like you have to in order to get this functionality, which you don’t.

Paltalk video chat

Testing the integration, it seemed to log in to my existing accounts well enough, but for my instant messaging needs I personally use Trillian, which offers the same level of integration and then some, and there isn’t anything in Paltalk that I’ve seen that would make me switch. Your mileage may vary.

One of Paltalk’s big features is SuperIM, which basically allows anyone to chat with you through their browser. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to test this, as it required Flash 10 to be installed in your browser and I have…10.1. Go figure. True, 10.1 is still in beta, but I’d rather have GPU-accelerated Hulu and YouTube (which works phenomenally, by the way) than be forced to downgrade for Paltalk.

Moving on, there’s still basic chat functionality that you can bump up to SuperIM. Webcam features worked well enough and all the basics are accounted for. Clicking the magnifying glass icon increases the size of the webcam images in the window. Paltalk also supports video chatting with up to ten people total.

Paltalk chat roomsAnd finally, Paltalk’s network supports a variety of chat rooms. When I opened the window I figured I’d like to get a better look at the choice of rooms immediately available, so I did what any sensible person would do and clicked the corner and dragged it open. Clearly this worked out well, as the image to right — and the beauty salon ad I inadvertently opened — demonstrates. It might seem petty to harp on something like this, but it just demonstrates the kind of poor coding that I’d already experienced a couple times before. And that kind of poor coding in turn represents a lack of polish, which a product really needs to be competitive.

Once I found a chat I was curious enough to enter, I saw a lot of promise and a couple annoyances. First, the room was playing its own music. If you sit at your computer and listen to your own music (like I’m sure a lot of the young people do in this day and age when they’re not busy stomping around my lawn) this is going to be a little annoying.

The chats also allow video to play, webcams to be enabled, and so on, and these are all good ideas suffering from a mediocre implementation.

CONCLUSION

Mediocre implementation really seems to be the main problem for Paltalk. All the good ideas in the world won’t make it if the whole thing doesn’t gel, and the issues I had while reviewing the software aren’t easy to gloss over. SuperIM not detecting Flash 10.1 as being usable may not be an issue to a lot of people right now, but it’s representative of a kind of glossing-over by the developers, choosing to ignore flaws they think won’t wind up being a big deal. The problem is that if you apply that approach to everything, your product accumulates enough flaws that eventually most of your users are going to run across at least one.

Of course, Paltalk’s biggest flaw is that it requires a downloaded client instead of running in your browser like many of the modern competitors do. Oh it can run in a browser, and they have a browser implementation on their site, but that implementation suffers from the same Flash issue I already mentioned.

Bottom line: Give Paltalk a pass.

PROS

  • Solid chat room functionality
  • Client is lightweight
  • Webcam just works

CONS

  • Half-baked design
  • Major Flash 10.1 bug
  • Requires client download



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