Big screen video calling, à la Back To The Future 2, has been a reality for a few years now thanks to web-connected webcam-packing TVs, the ever-growing popularity of Skype and even games console peripherals like the Xbox 360 Kinect or the PlayStation 3 Eye. It's still however slightly daunting for tech newbies, needing either a games console or laptop hooked up to a TV, or confining yourself to a laptop or computer screen.
Enter the TelyHD, a Skype-packing, Android-powered webcam designed for both the living room and the boardroom, with simplicity in mind.
Looking much like Microsoft's Kinect accessory, the TelyHD sits on an adjustable bracket on top of your TV (or could of course stand freely on a tabletop if that's a better fit for your living room), and requires just a plug socket and HDMI port on your TV to get to work.
A 720p HD video camera sits on the front, with the unit packing in 4 noise-cancelling microphones to pick up conversations. Coming with Skype pre-installed, a clean, easily-navigated UI lets you log in to your account, which then throws contact cards for all your Skype pals onto the main screen. Connecting over Wi-Fi or a wired Ethernet connection, you can then video call pals across the globe.
Using adaptive streaming to set the resolution based on your web connection rather than having you suffer the pains of buffering, it's a pleasant experience. The UI isn't as intuitive as it could be, and using the small remote a little clunky, but a smartphone app that lets you navigate the TelyHD and type using a software keyboard rather than the onscreen one with the remote should make things easier.
Beyond video calling, the Tely HD also has a number of other tricks up its sleeve.
Photos can be shared using the TelyHD, splitting the screen between those video calling, and giving over a large chunk of the display to the images being shared. These can be popped onto either an SD card or USB stick and plugged into the back of the TelyHD. It's a nice feature, and a far more personal way to share your photos and see the recipients instant reactions than sharing them via Facebook or email.
Apps are also coming to the TelyHD. As well as already offering a fully functioning web browser, supporting video playback from the likes of Netflix and BBC iPlayer, the TelyHD will also soon offer select Android apps for download, including the ubiquitous Angry Birds game. In this sense, the TelyHD can almost also be seen as a Smart TV upgrade for older TVs, as well as a webcam.
A recent upgrade has also improved the TelyHD's features for business users. Popping an upgrade code (purchased from Tely.com) into the settings pane of the TelyHD menu opens up extra features such as document sharing and 6-party group calling, turning the TelyHD into a workplace tool too.
There are a few concerns though, with the main one being price. At a few pennies short of £200, you could have an impressive Android tablet with video calling functionality or laptop. Indeed, this wouldn't have the big screen appeal of the TelyHD, but the extra features you'd get with such alternatives are obvious and difficult to overlook. Also overlooked is the ability to add Skype credit straight from the TelyHD; during our playtime we found no way to top-up for premium features, meaning anyone looking to call a landline or mobile using the gadget would also need access to a computer in order to add funds, and undermining the "no computer required" TelyHD motto.
For the most part, it does the job, and does it well though. For true technophobes, the TelyHD would be an unobtrusive, simple way to connect visually with friends, family, and even business partners around the globe.
Available now from www.amazon.co.uk (and headed to select retailers before Christmas), the TelyHD will set you back £199.90.