Gizmo5 - The New Beta from The Gizmo Project

Well, as I suspected at the beginning of the week, this has been an eventful one. First an excellent new release from ooVoo, followed by a sputtering mess from Skype full of the same old bugs, and now there is a new release from The Gizmo Project.

Well, as I suspected at the beginning of the week, this has been an eventful one. First an excellent new release from ooVoo, followed by a sputtering mess from Skype full of the same old bugs, and now there is a new release from The Gizmo Project. Wheeee!

The first big news is that they are "re-branding" their product, it is now called "Gizmo5".

It's a bit difficult to write a clear, simple comparison of this with the "previous" release, because there were multiple previous releases. There was the "original" Gizmo Project for Windows, version 3, which did audio only, and there was the "Beta" Gizmo 4.0 for windows that did video as well. This release follows in the 4.0 line, and as the last Gizmo 3 release was in June 2007, I think it is safe to assume that line has been retired in favor of this one.

Download and installation of the new release is smooth and easy (how nice to be able to say that again). The only caveat is that primarily because of the "re-branding", it is important that you remove any previous Gizmo release you might have installed before you install this new release. I did notice one new thing in the installation, it now asks if you want to install the "Ask" tool bar, and the default answer is "Yes" (of course) - I don't recall that it did this before.

The new release retained all of the contacts that I had defined with the previous release, of course. The cosmetics of this release are similar to the previous Gizmo 4 Beta release, which means of course that they are somewhat different from the Gizmo 3 release. The differences are not huge, however, and the menus and controls are quite intuitive, so Gizmo 3 users are not likely to have trouble adapting. Menu layout and options, sub-menus and buttons are all very similar if not identical.

From my "first look" at this release, the big news is in the video quality and reliability. As I had mentioned in my previous blog entry about the Gizmo 4 beta with video, the first time I installed and tested it I was able to crash the client in no time at all. I also got lots of other misbehavior short of crashing out of it. So far with this version, I haven't been able to get it to crash at all. Even better, the overall performance and efficiency are clearly much better than the previous release. Video quality is good, with much less tendency to smear and jump, although when I was testing with my brother on his low-quality internet link it still struggled to keep up. Audio quality is also much better, it sounds considerably more clear and natural than the previous release. I have also done a bit of testing at home, between my laptop and my partner's old, underpowered Dell 2400 desktop, and the new Gizmo release worked just fine, both for audio only and for video. This is a situation where Skype was simply not able to work properly, it used to overload her computer very badly, even with the ancient Skype 2.5 release installed. The difference is most likely a good example of why the Gizmo "Video Output Size" is such a good idea, I was able to reduce the video resolution to lessen the load on her computer. That's much better than having Skype simply try to start up at some higher resolution and then kill her computer for a minute or two while it slowly reduces the resolution and frame rate again and again, trying to unload the CPU. Most often, by the time Skype had arrived at something usable she had gotten disgusted with the connection and given up.

The other big thing that the people at the Gizmo Project (Gizmo5? SIPPhone?) seem to be quite excited about is their Gizmo5 beta release for mobile phones. I have had a fair amount of contact and conversation with the VP of Engineering there, mostly via Gizmo5 IM text, and whenever I chat with him I'm never sure if he is on a computer somewhere, or on his mobile, or something else. Since Gizmo also has releases Mac and Linux, this gives them excellent device coverage.

Speaking of text chat, I still have a preference for Gizmo's chat over any of the others. That is mostly because of personal taste - I think their presentation is clean and it works well - but that's what I'm here writing this for! If you are a MySpace user, Gizmo has just announce support for MySpace IM in their chat, too! In fact, as I sit here thinking about it, even before I first tested the Gizmo with video, in my opinion one of their best features was their CallOut to ordinary PSTN numbers. When I needed to put some credit on some sort of call-out program, to use while I was traveling over Christmas, I had a choice between Gizmo, SightSpeed and Skype (well, honestly, Skype was never really a choice, because I wouldn't give them one cent of my money, but they were at least theoretically a choice). I found Gizmo to be the quickest and easiest to put credit on when using my Swiss credit card, and I have used the CallOut feature quite a bit since then, it has always worked quickly, easily and well. Compare this to Skype's silly "3 Phone" or whatever it's called, which they hype like crazy that you can use Skype on, but they conveniently fail to mention that you can only use it for Skype-to-Skype calls, if you want to call a PSTN number you have to use your cell minutes.

So, I am going to continue testing this new Gizmo5 release, and I will report on it again in the next few days. My "first impression" judgment is that it is quite good, and it is an excellent improvement over their previous release both in terms of quality and stability. It has not "blown me away" the way that the new ooVoo release did earlier this week, but then ooVoo has a pretty good head start on Gizmo, especially in the video call area. If Gizmo continues to close the gap at this rate, things are going to get interesting before too long.


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