Google Hangouts Hero EditedSource: Google

Best Video Conference Software Android Central 2020

So you're working from home, and now you need to check in with teammates, collaborate with colleagues or address an HR issue - tasks that can't be easily done through email or instant messaging. Video conference software is the tool you need to conduct face-to-face meetings and interviews even when you and your coworkers are out of the office or spread across the globe. The quickest, easiest and most cost-effective solution is Google Hangouts Meet. But there are a few others that work, too.

Best Overall: Google Hangouts Meet

Google Hangouts Join Meeting EditedSource: Nicole Johnston/Windows Central

Everyone can use Google Hangouts Meet, including its video conferencing features. All you need is a Gmail account to get started. You can access Google Hangouts from your G Suite and, depending on the package you choose, allow 100, 150 or 250 to participate in a video conference at a time. Invites are sent through email and, when accepted, are automatically added to Google Calendar and reminders set. Organizers can create contact lists by adding each contact individually, or tapping into their Gmail address book and transferring all contacts into Google Meets.

During meetings, hosts can share documents, links, and images through the chat feature, and share screens to present more engaging materials. Both admins and users can mute audio and disable cameras so others can't see what you look like or where you are during the meeting. Participants can join as a single user from their desktop or mobile, or several people can join from a conference room using an internet-enabled device.

Google Hangouts Meet can be used by anyone, anywhere, anytime and on any platform that supports Google apps. We have noticed, though, that Mac users tend to have a more unstable connection when joining a Google video meeting and are dropped more frequently than those using other devices.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Works on all platforms
  • Cheap
  • A lot of features
  • Packages for up to 250 participants

Cons:

  • Some Mac users may be dropped by the program
  • Need a Google account

Best Overall

Google Hangouts Meet

Most versatile for everyone

Google Hangout Meets is easy to use for both organizers and participants. All you need is a G Suite account to get started.

Best Value: Zoom

Zoom Pro Meeting EditedSource: Nicole Johnston/Windows Central

Zoom is an easy program to set up and use for video conferences and one-on-one meetings. Its Pro package lets you record your video meetings, save them and share them later with those who missed the meeting or attendees that want to revisit some of the talking points. With Zoom Pro, you can have 100 people join your meeting at once and create up to 50 breakout rooms for collaboration and team-building activities. Zoom syncs with Skype for Business so you can tap into your contact list to invite guests to your meeting. If one of your participants can't join via video, Zoom lets them call in and join via audio from over 55 different countries. If you need to include more coworkers, Zoom's Business package allows up to 300 while its Enterprise caps meeting participants at 500.

For presenters and organizers, Zoom gives you tools to share your screen, even from mobile devices, disable chat features, and mute attendees. You can also annotate directly on your view screen, assign co-collaborators, and give them admin capabilities, too. Zoom integrates with email applications, including Outlook and Gmail, so you can easily click and create, or join, a meeting without having to log into your account from the Zoom webpage. You do need to allow popups for Zoom to launch. Also, unlike other video conferencing software, Zoom opens another view window rather than opening within your open web browser.

Pros:

  • No meeting time limits
  • Free version
  • Record and save all meetings
  • Multiple paid tiers
  • Features for users, including annotation and recording

Cons:

  • Popup blockers must be disabled for Zoom to work
  • Opens in separate view window

Best Value

Zoom

The best tools at the best price

Zoom gives tools to connect with large groups or one-on-one meetings including share screens and breakout rooms.

Best for Collaboration: GoToMeeting

Gotomeeting Create Meeting EditedSource: Nicole Johnston/Windows Central

GoToMeeting is a good video conferencing solution when you need to collaborate with several co-workers. It's compatible with both Windows and Mac computers and most smartphones, so everyone can join regardless of the device they have, or where they are located. GoToMeeting doesn't require a desktop, so you can organize or join from a mobile device. And this program allows multiple organizers where other video conferencing software caps it at two. You can create personal meeting rooms so more than one meeting can take place at the same time, or use them for breakaway sessions.

Meeting hosts can take notes right within GoToMeeting, convert slides into PDFs, and send files through the program to be shared with those attending. You can record your entire meeting and GoToMeeting will both save them for later and provide you with a transcript. GoToMeeting is one of the only virtual meeting programs that lets you share both your screen and your mouse and keyboard for the ultimate collaboration experience. The cheapest packages offered by GoToMeeting let you invite up to 150 participants, but some packages allow up to 3,000 people to join a single meeting.

Pros:

  • Up to 3,000 attendees
  • Share screens, mouse, and keyboards
  • Convert presentations into PDFs
  • Allows for multiple organizers

Cons:

  • Some features and tools cost extra
  • No free option

Best for Collaboration

GoToMeeting

Everyone participates with collaboration tools

This video conferencing software supports all devices and platforms. It lets you share screens, a keyboard, and your mouse.

Best for Small Business Teams: Cisco Webex

Cisco Webex Meeting Dashboard EditedSource: Nicole Johnston/Windows Central

Cisco Webex lets you get started for free with video conferencing for a small group of people. This starter package includes collaboration features, like interactive whiteboards, storage and searching of message threads. You can record all video chats and save it to your Webex account. You are given 1GB of cloud storage for this. The starter package supports call-in audio and allows you to have an unlimited number of meetings, however, each one must be no longer than 40 minutes. You also only get a single meeting room.

With Cisco Webex's paid conferencing packages, you get administrative tools that allow you to create multiple rooms, including breakout rooms, the ability to mute participants, and include chat features during your presentation. You also can share your screen and send documents and files through the chatroom to participants so they can see and work on projects during the meeting. Paid packages let you host between 50 and 200 participants, including encryption and other security measures, and don't have time limits on meetings. You can also receive transcripts of all recorded meetings.

Pros:

  • Supports smaller groups
  • Free version
  • Works with mobile devices
  • Cloud storage available

Cons:

  • Time caps on meetings
  • Some features cost extra

Best for Small Business Teams

Cisco Webex

For small group pow wows

Cisco Webex has the tools you need to collaborate with 50 people or less. Video meetings are recorded and saved for later.

Best for Office 365 Users: Skype Meetings

Skype For Business Document Sharing EditedSource: Microsoft

You can only tap into Skype Meetings or Skype for Business if you have a Microsoft 365 account. This video conferencing app lets you hold meetings with 250 people with tools for sharing your screens, images, and files with those in attendance. For Skype Meeting users, tools include a virtual whiteboard to help with real-time collaborations, and laser pointers to highlight specific items on your shared screen. However, these tools are only available to people using Skye within the U.S.

Everyone participating must have a Skype account to attend video meetings. You are charged a monthly fee for each participant, which adds up quickly and can become expensive. Also, for those who don't have Skype, they can call into the meeting and use audio to participate. But this, too, costs organizers. You can prepay for credit to use for landline and mobile call-ins.

Pros:

  • High definition audio and video
  • Supports call-in participation
  • Share your screen for interactive presentations

Cons:

  • Must have an Office 365 account to use
  • Some tools only available to those in the U.S.
  • Expensive

Best for Office 365 Users

Skype Meetings

Call into meetings from within the app

Skype allows people to call in rather than participate via video. It has screen sharing and collaborative whiteboard.

Bottom line

Now that a lot of people are working from home, it's important to figure out how you're going to connect with your coworkers. Google Hangouts Meet is the quickest and easiest program to use for video conferencing. It comes with your business G Suite account, and, if all you have is a personal account, you can use it for quick one-on-ones with employees, investors, collaborators, and partners. You can create multiple meeting rooms for more than one virtual gathering to take place at a time, or use them as breakout rooms during large meetings. Google lets you share your screen and send links, images, and documents through its chat feature.

When you send an invite to a meeting, recipients that have a Gmail account will have the event automatically added to their calendars, complete with reminders. And it doesn't take too long to find who you want to include in your meetings since Hangouts taps into your Gmail contacts to avoid having to manually enter each one. Google Hangouts Meets works with every device and platform, so no matter where your participants are located or which device they are using they can join. However, we have noticed during our own team meetings that some Mac computers tend to get booted from the room more frequently than Windows or Android users.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

As a mom of 10 and grandma to five, Nicole Johnston pulls from her years of experience raising her family as she explores, tests and reviews a variety of consumer products from food processors to bed pillows to parental control programs. Nicole has over 13 years of research and writing experience in both the public and private sectors.

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