Taiwanese developer CyberLink is best known as the company behind some powerful multimedia packages, from versatile media player PowerDVD to the excellent video editor PowerDirector.
CyberLink U Meeting is a more business-oriented service which offers simple cloud-based videoconferencing via Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices, with a browser-based option giving you instant access anywhere.
Pricing starts with a simple free product allowing up to 25 participants with meetings of a maximum 50 minutes. That's not going to be long enough to discuss anything complex, but it's sufficient to test the system, and it could work for quick meetings with family or friends.
The Pro 50 plan costs $9.99 (£7.13) per month per host, lifts the meeting time limit to 24 hours and allows up to 50 participants.
Pro 50 has an unusual bonus in CyberLink's PerfectCam 'Virtual Makeup Plugin'. PerfectCam is a plugin which works with video apps including U-Meeting, Skype, Skype for Business and Google Hangouts.
The Virtual Makeup feature uses facial recognition and smart video enhancement to smooth skin, (optionally) apply virtual makeup and generally smarten you up. CyberLink's video expertise means this typically works well, but you can customize the results if you don't like them, or even turn the feature off entirely.
The Pro 100 plan costs $19.99 (£14.29) per month per host, keeps the 24 hour meeting limit, but lifts the number of participants to 100.
If you're looking for presentation features, a separate CyberLink U Webinar service includes PowerPoint integration, support for video-on-demand and scheduled broadcasting.
A free CyberLink U Webinar plan allows presentations of up to 60 minutes and 25 participants, and the base commercial plan gets you support for 100 participants and 8 hour events for $29.99 (£21.43) per month per host.
Signing up for CyberLink U Meeting is surprisingly simple, especially for a business-oriented product. There's none of the usual prompts for phone number, company type or industry - you're only asked for your email address, password and the display name you'd like to use in meetings.
We entered our details, confirmed our email address, and were taken to a download page with links to the desktop and mobile clients.
Launching the Windows client presented us with a simple interface listing all its key actions: Start a Video Meeting, Start a Voice Call, Join a Meeting and Schedule Meeting. (There are also options to host and record a webinar, but they're only accessible if you sign up for the separate CyberLink U Webinar service).
There's no preparation required. If you're in a hurry, choosing the video meeting or voice call options takes you to the meeting window. You can then send alerts to other CyberLink U Meeting users, or send the meeting URL via email, or copy the URL to the clipboard for posting online or sharing via some other route with whoever you like.
Email recipients receive a message with the subject '<your name> has invited you to a meeting' with a meeting link in the form 'https://u.cyberlink.com/meeting/971455081' and meeting ID number.
Clicking the link opens a browser window at the CyberLink U Meeting site, the recipient can choose their display name and enter the meeting with a click. There's no signup required and nothing to download. As long as they give permission, you'll see their webcam stream, hear their audio and be able to share your screens and take part in basic text chat.
If your recipient has CyberLink U Meeting, entering the meeting ID allows them to access the meeting directly. They can join with voice only via VoIP, but aren't able to dial in via a telephone.
Overall, the client is relatively easy to use, mostly because it doesn't have that many features. We figured out most of it almost immediately, and when there were questions, it didn't take long to find an answer. If you've used any other decent messaging program, you'll have CyberLink U Meeting figured out within a minute or two.
CyberLink U Meeting had created a good first impression, then, but we needed a closer look to get a true understanding of what it could do.
Meeting hosts have a simple Contacts system which enables building up lists of individual U Meeting contacts, organizing them into groups and inviting them to meetings. While this works, you're only able to add other U Meeting users. If other regular meeting participants can't or don't want to install U Meeting, you can't create a contact which includes an email address only, and will have to manually send them an email each time.
Starting a meeting works much like other conferencing software: webcam views appear as people log in and there's a separate list of participants. What you don't get is a log window to display a list of events. If one of your 50 meeting participants is cut off, for instance, the screen will tell you there are now 49, but there's no easy way to tell who left.
The program also lacks audio events for these logon, logoff or other events, meaning you must pay close attention to visual indicators to keep an eye on what's happening.
The meeting window is straightforward, displaying panes with the webcam stream of each participant if they've allowed it, a plain box if they haven't. Icons tell you if their microphone or camera are disabled, and both the meeting host and participants can toggle their audio and video on or off, or disconnect from the meeting with a tap.
Mobile users get a separate button for switching between front and rear cameras.
Anyone using a desktop client can share their desktop with everyone in the meeting (there's no way to choose just some of the participants.) Unfortunately, mobile apps can't do this at the moment.
We tried streaming HD video over Wi-Fi to an Android mobile to test CyberLink's claim that U Meeting can handle 30 frames per second. The desktop client complained that this might not work due to our low bandwidth network, but as we had a 76Mbps fiber connection on the outgoing side, it wasn't clear what the app was talking about. Fortunately, we were able to ignore the warning and the video played very smoothly and with no significant issues.
Windows clients - but none of the others - can start, pause and resume recording meetings at any time. Everyone else sees a 'Recording' alert to warn them this is happening. There are absolutely no settings or options to configure how this works - file size, quality, anything else - but it's at least easy to use, dumping an MP4 recording into your Videos folder (This PC > Videos > U Meeting Recordings) when the event is over.
A simple text chat system allows anyone to enter and share messages at any time. You can copy individual messages to the clipboard, but we didn't see any way to save the entire conversation, which could be annoying in some situations.
Basic? Yes. But CyberLink U Meeting at least ended on a positive note with its handy message scheduling feature. Set a date and time and you can choose to share your event via Outlook or Google Calendar, a useful extra which could save you a lot of setup time.
CyberLink U Meeting has limited features, and the mobile apps are even more basic (no recordings, or screen sharing). It works well as a basic conferencing tool, though, and there's nothing that can't be fixed with a little more development time.
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