Skype just dropped an update for its Mac client. Version 5.3 includes support for HD video, so long as your Mac is equipped with one of the new FaceTime HD cameras introduced in MacBook Pros earlier this year, or a third-party USB camera that supports HD resolution. Along with the usual bug fixes, the update also brings full Lion compatibility.
I tested the new Skype client with my new 2011 27-inch iMac, which is equipped with an HD camera. The person I called reported that video quality definitely looked much better post-update, even though my home DSL internet connection probably doesn’t quite meet the 1.5 Mbps upload/download specification recommended by Skype for HD calls. We talked for approximately five minutes, and he noticed no real change in the quality of the picture.
Skype also says on its blog that the update brings “a number of fixes and improvements to the user interface.” I didn’t notice any major ones, besides changes to the way the contact list appears, including quick access to adding individuals to favorites. For me, the Skype interface still isn’t nearly as clean or well-designed as in versions preceding the 5.0 update.
Skype remains probably the strongest video chat client on the Mac, something backed up by our readers. One of its biggest strengths when compared to Apple’s own FaceTime solution is how consistently it has released small updates that pack new features, whereas FaceTime has remained relatively static since launch in terms of what you can do with it. The HD calling seems to work well, at least based on my limited trial. If you do install the update, please let us know how HD calling and the interface tweaks are working for you.