Apple’s Mac OS X Leopard’s iChat 4.0 review

“iChat is one of the most obvious receipients of Apple’s new interface design rules. This, more than most any program in Leopard, reaps the rewards: the lack of borders and the relatively utilitarian look mean more room for text, both in the buddy list and in any of the conversation windows,” Jon Fingas reports for MacNN.

“Until now, iChat has always been the IM client experienced Mac users ran only out of necessity, such as having to conduct an AV chat or requiring a reliable file transfer method. Although Skype and Yahoo have caught up in some respects, iChat is still what most turn to when connection quality is more important than the luxuries of more robust clients,” Fingas reports.

“iChat 4.0 does not entirely meet every need, especially for those who depend on Windows Live or Yahoo. Regardless, the improvements in day-to-day usefulness are hard to ignore when iChat is used regularly. iChat alone may not justify Leopard’s $129 price-tag, but it could be enough to tip the balance in favor of a purchase for some fence-sitters. The additions may even provoke at least a few companies that turn to iChat for business purposes,” Fingas reports.

Full review here.


  1. IChat AV has always been far superior AV conferencing tool when it comes to call (i.e. video) quality and robustness. Skype is significantly less reliable and can’t tolerate high-latency connections well. While Skype does everything it can to maintain best possible audio, this makes video suffer badly. Very often, video turns into a slide show (1 fps). On iChat, I have seen bandwidth drop down to 35kbps (practically dialup!) and both audio and video would continue to stream without dropouts.

    My daughter has been using iChat since she was 4 (past almost 4 years) to talk to her grandfather practically every day. The grandfather is in Belgrade, Serbia (ADSL, 1 MBps down, 128kbps up). It is by far the simplest, most intuitive teleconferencing application out there. Skype comes close with UI, but falls behind on connection robustness.

    3-way conferencing is the most amazing feature. Oftentimes, I had such a conference with Brussels, Belgium, The Hague, The Netherlands, and Belgrade, Serbia (I’m in NYC). It is just remarkable how everyone hears everyone, there is absolutely NO feedback (Skype suffers terribly form audio feedback), and video is smooth and robust on all participants.

    I am sure iChat alone could very easily be the most convincing factor for many family switchers.

  2. I am an experienced mac user and have looked at other cleints like adium and such but I just don’t get it. What is it that these other clients offer that make some people look down on iChat? Is it the mutli protocol capabilities? I know literally no one who uses anything other than the AIM protocol so that’s useless to me. Within the US I didn’t think that any of the other protocols were very popular so is the appeal international messaging? Are there awesome, useful features that I just can’t find in there?

    As mac users I would think people would appreciate the minimalism of iChat. I love it because it has everything I want and nothing I don’t.

  3. @ JAYGEE WLM is so bad that M$ have not given it automatic access on Vista. This is mainly due to the fact that it was design to let your buddies know automatically when you are logged on so that they can talk to you.

    You can also grant your buddies access to your HD which means that they can alter your programs and files remotely. Granted that you owuld have to authorise that access. Some unwitting fool & there are many could inadvertently allow such a scenario hence M$ dropping its priority on Vista.

    Now, WHY would I want it on my Mac?

  4. I bought a Mac mini for my parents so we could video iChat easily. They are in France and I’m in California. Nothing beats the simplicity of iChat and that was the #1 requirement as my parents are hopelessly un-tech savvy. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

  5. All of my friends use WLM on their Windows machines *shudders*. My friends that have Macs use Microsoft Messenger for Mac, as they where Windows users before getting Macs.

    I never really wanted to use WLM or msn messenger, as it was known, when I got my PC, but all my friends, & most people in the UK use it, so I had to use it, to talk to people.

  6. @Art W: I love the screen sharing too. Nothing beats having that ability built into the OS. When a friend of mine did an erase and install of Leopard, it was great to be able to see his screen afterward and help him with the configuration and installation of some things…talking him through it on the phone would have been much more difficult. I can’t wait to upgrade my parents’ computers to Leopard…no more having to explain to them where to click or what to do, I can just say, “share your screen and I’ll take care of it.”

    So I do stand corrected, iChat does figure into people’s Leopard upgrade decisions…I wouldn’t bother upgrading my parents computers if it weren’t for that screen sharing feature.

  7. I could swear that the video color looks richer in Leopard. I was bummed that on my PB G4 15″ I was disallowed from several features, including PhotoBooth video features, because i was told my CPU wasn’t up to snuff… But then again Spotlight was indexing and I was doing something else… maybe loading iLife. Hopefully I’ll be okay.

    Still looking for the George Washington’s mouth feature and Star Wars Hologram, though.

    When you think about it someone out there could write a pretty blistering article about the stuff that was said to be in Leopard that didn’t make it.

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