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TelyHD brings Skype to your HDTV

January 25, 2012 | Hogan Keyser
tely_labs_telyhd.jpgJanuary 16, 2012 by Yardena Arar via PCWorld.com -- Although Skype video chat has become a popular tool, the webcams on computers don't really lend themselves to group chat. If you've ever tried to crowd several family members around a computer, you know it's tough to get everyone in the frame. The TelyHD from Tely Labs addresses the need for family-friendly videoconferencing with a Skype-enabled, Android-based network device that doesn't use a computer at all. It takes advantage of your HDTV's big screen and bundles a webcam (with a microphone and speaker) that can capture high-definition images of several people seated on a living-room couch.

At $249, the TelyHD is less expensive than some other living-room videoconferencing systems (most notably the Cisco Umi, which required subscribing to a proprietary service and is no longer being sold to consumers). Even more important, the TelyHD communicates with any Skype client, so you can use it even if the party at the other end doesn't have the device.

I tried out a TelyHD with both another TelyHD user and a Skype PC caller The video quality wasn't what I'd hoped for--the large images appeared worse than the small images shown on a laptop, looking generally fuzzy, frequently pixelated, and occasionally frozen. But the product generally performed as billed. In addition to enabling [roup video chat, the TelyHD has some Tely-to-Tely features, including support for video voicemail and a cute photo-sharing feature that lets you upload JPG images to another party.

The TelyHD is a black cylinder roughly the size of a skinny paper towel roll, with an adjustable folding bracket for mounting on top of a flat-screen TV (I had to move my Nintendo Wii receiver to install the TelyHD). The webcam lens faces front; on the back are an HDMI port for connecting to the HDTV with an included cable; an ethernet port for connecting to the network (a wired hookup is recommended, but 2.4GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi is also supported); a port for the AC adapter; and a USB port and SD Card slot for the image-sharing feature.

Once you've connected the HDMI and power cables, the TelyHD automatically launches its guided setup routine (you must activate the device's HDMI input to see the Tely user interface). You control all aspects of the TelyHD using the provided remote, which is about the size of a business card and has standard navigation buttons (four arrow keys surrounding a selection key) as well as menu and call-hangup buttons.

telyhd_skype_tv.jpg
In the guided setup, you adjust the screen footprint of the TelyHD's image, set up Wi-Fi (if need be), and then set up your Skype account using an on-screen keyboard. The unit will save your Skype ID and login details so you don't have to tap them in again.

The default screen layout is thoughtfully designed, with help (usually showing what the remote can do) in the left pane and actual content on the right. After setup, if you've input your Skype information, the right screen will show your contacts as a series of circles that you can scroll through horizontally. To initiate a call, you simply navigate to a contact and press the select button.

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