Professional reviewers and users alike love Skype because it allows you to have free PC-to-PC VoIP calls or video calls. One drawback is sound quality that is decent at best, and poor in some reviews. Some experts say Skype isn't VoIP per se, but something different -- peer-to-peer technology that requires a special headset and microphone or a dedicated Skype phone. If you want to call landline phones, you'll need to subscribe to Skype's pay service (about 2 cents per minute or $3 per month for unlimited calls in the U.S. and Canada). Reviews recommend Skype for free international calls to other Skype users, as well as for very inexpensive international calls to landline and cell phones.
Skype isn't designed, however, to be the sole telephone for the household, mainly because it can't make 911 calls. Hardware-based VoIP services such as Vonage (*Est. $10 to $25 per month) offer 911 service, and your computer doesn't need to be on to make calls -- but you'll need a backup battery or cell phone in case the electricity goes out. For domestic calls, Google Voice Calls from Gmail (free) service gets good reviews. Several reviewers recommend Skype primarily for its broad user base and its excellent voice quality. However, these reviewers call Skype's video quality "lackluster" and "mediocre."
ConsumerReports.org ranks 12 VoIP providers, including Skype, along with other telephone service providers. A comparison review at SpotCoolStuff.com compares Skype with Vonage, magicJack and Ooma, as does a review in The New York Times. We found user reviews at DSLReports.com. The comparison review at TopTenReviews.com doesn't document its testing procedures, but provides ample details about Skype features.
Skype is among those listed in the separate chart on phone services in this report about bundled services. Twelve VoIP and VoIP-type services are ranked alongside landline phone services. However, the ratings chart is available only to subscribers.
Review: Phone Service Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, May 2011
PCMag.com recommends the use of Skype for video calling with devices with front-facing cameras. However, the authors state that the video calls take a while to connect and the picture quality "leaves much to be desired."
Review: Skype 3.5 (for iPhone), Jamie Lendino, Alex Colon and Jill Duffy, Oct. 21, 2011
3. Laptop Magazine
Kenneth Butler of Laptop Magazine recommends Skype primarily for its large user base, and its use on a variety of devices. He comments that, although Skype is popular for video chats, it has "lackluster" video quality on mobile devices.
Review: Skype Mobile Review, Kenneth Butler, Aug. 4, 2011
Skype ranks ninth among 20 VoIP providers that are rated here, with the editors of TopTenReviews.com praising its low prices and recommending the service for those on a budget. Testing is not documented.
Review: Skype, Editors of TopTenReviews.com
Awarding the Skype service on a Windows phone 3 out of 5 stars, PCMag.com likes its excellent voice quality and its interface. But the reviewers are disappointed by its inability to run in the background, which means you have to sign out every time the app is closed.
Review: Skype 1.0 (for Windows Phone), Sara Yin and Alex Colon, April 30, 2012
6. The New York Times
This overview of long-distance calling options tests Skype and magicJack, also comparing both with Vonage and Ooma. Call quality on Skype is judged "spotty."
Review: Talk Is Cheap, if You Ask, Eric A. Taub, April 29, 2009
Over 30 users review and rate Skype here -- not enough for editors to give it an overall rating. Skype's technical support gets some low ratings here.
Review: Skyp, Editors of and contributors to DSLReports.com
This review compares Skype with two other popular VoIP services, Vonage and magicJack --based on tests of call quality as well as other factors. (Comparisons with Ooma follow in a March 2009 article.) Skype is recommended for its inexpensive international calls, but Vonage provides more consistently good call quality.
Review: MagicJack vs. Vonage vs. Skype, Editors of SpotCoolStuff.com, Feb. 6, 2009