So, you want to video call on your Chromebook.
With current conditions, you may be looking to connect with family, friends, or colleagues.
Perhaps you even picked up a Chromebook because of their attractive price point, but now you have no idea how to do video conferencing on it.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- If Chromebooks can video call
- How to start a call on popular platforms
- How to use Skype, Zoom, Duo, Hangouts, and more
- The best free video calling apps for Chromebooks
- Which video call services you can use on a Chromebook
- How to fix bad audio or poor video quality during a call
- Ways to get the most out of your device
- And more
Sound good? Let’s set up video calling. On Chrome OS!
Are Chromebooks good for video conferencing?
Yes, Chromebooks make decent computers for video calls with friends and colleagues.
Chromebooks are cheap and come equipped with a webcam, so you can start video chatting with whoever you want right out of the box.
Given that they are cheap laptops, there are pros and cons of using one for video calls.
- Chromebooks are cheap (you can pick one up used for less than $100)
- They have a built-in webcam
- They have a microphone
- The webcam is usually decent resolution (HD at 720P or higher)
- Some Chromebooks have multiple cameras
- Some Chromebooks are convertible so you have an adjustable position just for conference calls
- The majority of models don’t work well in poor lighting
- The microphone is basic and sound quality isn’t the best
- You may be limited to hearing your friends and colleagues through the speakers, which may cause a feedback loop or poor sound quality during a call
- And there’s a limited selection of apps and software you can use to call or receive calls with (compatibility problems)
Overall, you should be able to use your Chromebook for basic video conferencing.
For calling friends, colleagues, and your family, your device should suffice.
But if you’re a business professional and your colleagues won’t tolerate poor video or sound quality, then you may want to invest in a better laptop.
Common problems with video conferencing on a Chromebook
For starters, if you have a cheap model, you probably have a basic 720P webcam and the default built-in speakers and mic.
But video/audio is a whole ‘nother ballpark!
Poor sound quality from other people
This is when your conference partners can’t hear you well and you need to hunch over your laptop just so they can hear you talk.
This is due to the built-in microphone. It could be environmental/background noise that’s distorting what it’s picking up, or it can simply be because it’s crappy quality.
You may also have a malfunctioning one, but that’s highly unlikely.
Because these devices are cost-effective, the microphone is the least of the concerns when building the device.
How to fix it:
- Lean closer to your Chromebook when you speak
- Work in a noise-free environment
- Use a headset with a built-in mic for conferencing
- Upgrade to a newer device
Poor sound quality from your microphone
Just like the built-in mic, these laptops don’t exactly have the best speakers either.
Some models use name-brand speakers, but most are just some generic unbranded speaker systems. Given that most Chromebooks have their speakers placed on the bottom of the device, your sound output may be muffled or distorted.
For example, if you’re video calling on your bed, the sound coming out of the bottom of your Chromebook will be distorted by your bedsheets.
But if you’re working on a smooth surface (like a computer desk), then the sound resonates clearly and it’ll be louder, clearer, and crisper.
How to get some better sound:
- Work in a quiet environment
- Use a compatible external speaker
- Turn the volume up for your built-in speakers
- Work on a flat, hard surface
- Use headphones compatible with your Chromebook
- Try using an app to get a clearer sound
Slow, laggy, or bad video quality
Lastly, if your video call quality is bad, this can be a multitude of factors.
Typically, you’ll notice slow or chunky video, lag, or even weird colors or black spots on the stream. This is all normal and due to connection problems.
A smooth and clear conference call requires that both you and your partner have fast Internet connections.
The way it typically works is like this:
You speak > your webcam stream and microphone input are uploaded to the server of the platform you’re using > the server processes the data packets > the packets are sent to your conversation partner > your partner sees you on their screen and hears you through their speakers.
And the same goes in reverse.
This transfer of data requires both fast upload and download speeds:
- When you speak or move in front of your screen, it requires a fast UPLOAD to transfer the data packets to the server to their computer
- To receive your partner’s sound input and video input, it requires a fast DOWNLOAD to transfer the data packets from the server to your computer
Note: Webcams are constantly collecting the visual data during a call- not only when you move or when it detects motion. Some people even say your laptop’s webcam records you even when you’re NOT on a call!
To keep it simple, a poor connection is usually why the video quality sucks.
But it could be due to the server of the platform you’re using.
For instance, if you’re chatting on Skype and the quality of the conference is terrible, this could be because Skype servers are getting hammered or undergoing some kind of attack (DDoS, outages, etc.).
Your Chromebook itself could also be contributing to the poor video quality- if it’s been on for a long time, if you have multiple programs running and bottlenecking the CPU/GPU/RAM performance, or if it’s just too weak to run the software.
Your partner’s setup can be the same. If they have slow Internet, a weak or overloaded device, or perhaps are having Internet outages/slowness, this can all contribute to a worsened video call.
How to fix poor video quality during a call
With so many variables, it’s hard to pinpoint why your call quality is slow or laggy.
But these tips may help you get a more clear and smooth video stream on your Chromebook:
- Start the call near your WiFi router
- Check downdetector for outages
- Have your conference partner call next to a WiFi router, or use an Ethernet cable if possible (Chromebooks don’t have this port, so you must use WiFi only)
- Restart the call after both of you restart your devices
- Close out other programs or apps running in the background to free up resources
- Try another video conference program
- Try another computer or device
- Troubleshoot WiFi problems
- Check for downtime or reported outages on the official site of the software
Google Hangouts is 100% supported on Chromebooks, as Hangouts is made by Google (just like Chrome OS/Chromebooks).
If you’re calling anyone else on a Chromebook, they already have Google Hangouts by default!
The web conference app runs right in your web browser (you don’t even need to be using Chrome).
It’s free to use and lets you video call, type, message, and phone call any other user with a Google Account. Yes, that’s all you need to use Hangouts. A Google Account.
If you have a Gmail account, you have a Google Account. And you can use Google Hangouts. Right now.
Head on over to hangouts.google.com and start a session. You can invite someone by their email address. Even if they’re not a Gmail user, they’ll get an invitation to sign up.
So you can video call anyone using @gmail, @yahoo, @hotmail, @outlook, @ymail, @rocketmail, @aol, @protonmail, @gmx, @live, @zohomail, etc.
Nothing to download. Nothing to pay. Hangouts is the easiest way to get started in a video call on your Chromebook and works flawlessly.
You can have up to 150 people in a single conference, which is probably much more than anyone needs. Large enterprise corporations would probably have some fancy paid conference tool anyway for a scale that big.
But for the average user who just wants to chat with friends or hold a small online meeting, Hangouts will work on Chromebooks.
The straightforward answer:
FaceTime can’t be used on Chromebooks.
This is because FaceTime is owned by Apple and is proprietary software.
Chromebooks are owned by Google, which is a direct competitor with their own version of video conferencing apps (FaceTime vs. Google Hangouts). Thus, you can’t get FaceTime running on Chrome OS.
If you need to FaceTime someone, you’ll have to use a supported device.
Try using an alternative to FaceTime like Google Hangouts, Skype, Zoom, or a web app. You can also use Play Store apps that you use on your Android smartphone as a replacement for FaceTime.
This poses the same issue though- Android is another direct competitor to Apple (Google owns Android also), so you won’t find FaceTime on the app store.
So that means you need to use an app that both you and your FaceTime partner have. If they’re using an iPhone or Mac, they can try downloading an app that’s cross-platform and works on both iOS and Android/Chrome OS.
For example, you can both download WhatsApp. They can use it on their iPhone or Mac. And you chat with them on your Chromebook or Android smartphone.
Chromebooks have the ability to download Play Store apps now, so you can get WhatsApp on your laptop and chat with them through there.
Here are some other cross-platform alternatives to FaceTime:
- Facebook Messenger
- Google Hangouts
- Google Duo
- Google Allo
Since FaceTime won’t work on Chrome OS, you and your chat buddy can both use any of these alternatives.
Depending on the app, you probably have to find it and download it to your Chromebook first. Your buddy can get the same app on their Mac or iPhone.
And then boom. There ya go.
How do you Facetime someone on a Chromebook?
You can’t. Chromebooks don’t support FaceTime since it’s proprietary software owned by Apple.
Even with Linux, there’s no way to “hack” FaceTime onto your Chromebook. The software is compiled for MacOs and linked to Mac-specific libraries, and thus will never run on anything but MacOS/iOS.
Zoom works on Chromebooks and is regularly used by schools and professional environments.
Although you can’t technically “download” Zoom on Chrome OS, you can still use the web version of it.
There are two ways to do do this:
- You can directly head on over to Zoom’s site and join a room
- You can install the Zoom extension on Chrome
The extension is easier to use but will be another thing on your extension toolbar. If you don’t mind, then download it.
After you have the extension added to your Chromebook, launch it.
You can find it under Chrome > Menu > Extensions > Zoom. Or you can just click on the Launcher at the bottom-left of your screen and search for it.
Launch Zoom and you’ll see two tabs at the top:
- Join a meeting
- Sign in
If you have an account, you can just sign in. Otherwise, if you’re attending a meeting, select a meeting ID or use the provided link to the room. You can also choose to prevent showing your face on your webcam and disabling the internal mic.
Zoom will test both the camera and microphone on your Chromebook. You’ll then jump into the meeting and you’ll see the familiar control toolbar.
For best performance, always be sure that your Chromebook is updated to the newest version and close out any apps and tabs you’re not using.
Chromebooks have limited resources and having too many things running at the same time your meeting is up may lag your computer.
How well does Zoom on Chromebooks work?
Zoom meetings work on Chromebooks to a limited extent compared to the downloadable version.
You won’t have all the features you’re used to on a Windows or Mac standalone, but the web-based version of Zoom allows you to do most of the basic functions.
If you just need to host a quick meeting or join a meeting, your Chromebook will allow you to do so. You can even screen share, chat, and type to other people in the same conference.
Basically, all the simple features are there. But other functions like using the camera while screen sharing or conference call annotations are disabled. Some can be toggled on.
You can use the in-meeting chat box to type to other people.
The functionality is limited on a Chromebook, but you can do the following things:
- Manage room participants
- Add people to the meeting
- Control the screen sharing
- Pin videos
- Stop/start your own video
- View the gallery
- Maximize the screen
If you’re hosting the conference, you can lock the meeting, turn on or off the waiting room, and also remove users from the call.
You can also share your screen or just a single window. Recording the entire meeting is possible if you’re using a paid account.
Can you annotate in zoom on a Chromebook?
Note that you won’t have the annotate or Whiteboard features. And when you share your screen, your webcam will be turned off.
You can enable it again using the toolbar at the bottom of the meeting window.
As a room participant, you can view the shared screen, share your own screen, use thumb ratings, raise your hand, and of course, type using the message system.
Annotation is disabled for screen sharing on a Chromebook.
How do I see all participants in Zoom on Chromebook?
Click on the “participants” button at the bottom toolbar to see a list of all members in the current conference call. If you’re the host, you’ll have the “manage participants” button which allows you to add or kick people from the call.
Skype works on Chromebooks through the web-based version, AKA Skype online.
Just like most of the other web apps, Skype has a standalone version that you can download, but this is limited to Windows, Mac, and Linux.
They don’t have a Skype for Chrome OS, and probably never will because Chromebooks can’t download any programs anyway– they can only download apps from their own Play Store.
This is what makes Chromebooks so secure (and basically makes your Chromebook virus-proof).
Thus, you’ll have to stick with the Skype web app to use it.
You can go directly to their site here and sign in to your account, or you can download their Chrome extension for quick access. It doesn’t matter which one you use- they both accomplish the same thing.
Use the extension if you use Skype a lot.
Or if you don’t want any more Chrome extensions because you have too many already, then use the online app and leave it open in its own tab.
You can type messages, video calls, phone calls, add people, transfer files, and do all the basics through the web all. It works across all modern browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Opera, etc.) and definitely works on Chromebooks. No downloads are necessary.
Skype is free to use and is owned by Microsoft. You just need an account to use it and you’re all set to call your favorite people on your Chromebook.
Can I use Skype on a Chromebook?
Yes, you can. Use the web version of Skype and you’ll be able to access the major core features: video calling, phone calls, and texting/messaging.
You can check out this tutorial for complete details.
Duo is a free app made for Android and iOS.
Just like Hangouts, anyone with a Chromebook can use this app by default. It works out of the box. Automagically.
Think Hangouts, but in mobile form. The app allows you to video chat using your phone for free.
The UI is very easy to use and basic. If you’re not technologically inclined or you’re trying to video call someone who’s not knowledgeable about technology, then try Google Duo.
All you need is a smartphone. Any modern Android phone or iPhone works. Search for “duo” in the app store and download it to your phone.
Duo allows you to video chat for free. Up to 12 people can join in a single conference call.
Users can chat with each other no matter if they’re on Android and iOS, as the app supports cross-platform video calling. It also works directly through the web browser similar to Google Hangouts.
So technically, you can have people in the same room all on different devices- tablets, desktops, laptops, phones, etc.
If you get lost, here’s a help doc you can check out. It covers all the steps to set it up.
So if you want to quickly video call someone on your Chromebook, check out Google Duo. It’s as easy as it gets and perfect for video calling someone who’s not tech-savvy.
Other FAQs about video conferencing on Chrome OS
Here are some common questions from readers about video calling on a Chromebook.
How many people can join my call?
A lot of the apps listed here allow you to do group calls.
Depending on your purpose for video calling in the first place (business or leisure), and how many people you need in the call at the same time, find one that suits your needs.
- Google Hangouts lets you have up to 150 people in a session, but only 25 in a video call.
- Zoom allows you to have up to 100 people in a call, and up to 500 with a paid “add-on.”
- Google Duo allows up to 12 people per video call.
- Skype Allows up to 50 people in the same audio call.
As you can see, you’ll want to choose a calling service that suits your needs.
For instance you don’t want to use Google Duo for professional reasons. Zoom is more suited for that.
Conversely, you can just use something like Google Hangouts for a quick video call with your friends and relatives.
No need to make it complicated with Skype- as long as everyone has a Google Account!
How do I receive a voice call?
This depends on the specific program you’re using.
As long as you’re signed in to the service, connected online, and have it running in a tab in the background (or as a standalone app on your Chromebook), then all incoming calls should be received automatically.
You can adjust the notification settings in most apps. They usually have a sound alert, pop up message, or will just take over your screen asking you to accept or reject the received voice call.
Check the help pages of the app you’re using for more details. Or you can ask me below by posting a comment.
Can I call others on my Chromebook?
Of course you can. You can use a variety of different conference calling apps listed here (Skype, Hangouts, Duo, Zoom, etc.) or you can download an app from the Play Store.
Chromebooks have a webcam and mic built-in so you have everything you need by default to start video chatting with others.
Of course, Chromebooks will only support apps running through the browser or directly as a downloaded app from Google Play.
And not all Play Store apps work on a Chromebook- only specific ones will.
The majority of apps should work. And pretty much all of the online web-based video conference apps work 100%- though with some limitations because of Chromebooks.
How to improve audio and video quality
Green screen backgrounds
Only “that” one person in the meeting will have a pro green screen as their background (probably a Twitch streamer).
But that doesn’t mean the casual attendee can’t do the same!
You can buy a cheap green screen online and use it to cover your background and change it into anything you want. Basically, if you have an ugly background, these screens let you put any picture you want over it.
Or you can make it completely solid white (so it’s like you’re in the Matrix). Or solid black so it’s like you’re trapped in a room with the lights off (kinda like a meeting anyway).
Note that not all apps support this functionality. And some apps don’t work with Chrome OS. You may need something like OBS which won’t run on a Chromebook.
But what you can do is run the software on your Windows PC and set up a remote connection to your Chromebook.
This will let you video call on your Chromebook, but lets your PC do all the processing. This way you can use a custom background on your meetings.
If you already have a Windows PC, that’s all you need. Remote connection software is free from Google. All you need is a speedy, reliable connection.
Or just use a Zoom background
Don’t want to buy a green screen? Then use a Zoom background!
This basically lets you upload a picture to use as your background during calls so you can hide your leftover dishes from last night, or the piling laundry on your bed.
There are even a bunch of premade templates ready to go (some of which are created to be pretty freakin’ funny).
Or you can check out the tutorial here.
Use bright, even lighting
Your lighting can make a big difference in how you look on a web call.
Poor lighting forces webcams to compensate by adding their own algorithmic processing to help “fix” the picture for the other people in the room.
Use natural, warm lighting for best effect. Work in a bright area.
Don’t work under lights that emit partial lighting or else you may cast dark areas on your face and this can affect webcam processing.
Use full, bright, and warm lighting with minimal to no lighting in the background.
Aim the webcam at your nose and position the laptop a comfortable distance away. Minimize body movement and use slow expressions to reduce lag or chunky rendering for other parties.
Consider using an external camera
The majority of people use the built-in webcam on their Chromebook. Most models out there are equipped with at least a 720P camera, which is decent for HD video streams.
Some have HDR technology for a clearer picture and sharper stream.
But let’s face the facts: Chromebooks are made to be affordable and the webcams aren’t where the technology shines. They’re grainy, laggy, and lots of noise appear all over the screen.
At least, that’s the case with my Acer CB3-131.
Even when I use it under bright lights and barely move, I see noise all over the preview pane. And this is with “HDR technology” and an “HD” 720P cam.
Regardless, if you need a professional webcam, Chrome OS lets you connect external cameras to your device and will use that instead of the built-in one.
You can get a webcam compatible with Chromebooks and plug that in as a replacement.
But then again, if you’re a professional in a high-stakes work environment, you’ll probably be provided the office equipment or you’ll be shelling out more dollars for a “real” laptop.
Buy an external headset
The last thing you can do to have a more pleasant online meeting is to get yourself a nice headset or pair of earbuds.
This will bypass the speakers that come with your Chromebook, as they’re probably not the best sounding devices on a laptop.
You can buy yourself an ergonomic, economic, and decent headset to use, and instantly you’ll be able to hear your coworkers in clarity.
Most headsets and earbuds also double as a microphone so you can speak through it.
Depending on the mic’s quality, your colleagues may be able to hear you better and this will minimize the “what did you say?” or “what?” or the talking over each other commonly occurring in video conferences.
Your Chromebooks support this natively.
Any Chromebook compatible headset or earbuds plug directly into the 3.5mm audio/mic combo jack.
It’ll detect your headset and automatically route your sound output to it. It should also detect the mic on your headset and replace the internal one. No drivers or configuration needed!
This is the easiest and fastest way to get a clearer sound during a conference call. And to make yourself easier to hear also.
If you’ve heard these remarks from your colleagues:
- “Could you repeat that?”
- “What’s that background noise?”
- “You sound like you’re far away from your computer.”
- “You’re a little low.”
- “You’re cutting in and out.”
- “You’re too loud!”
This may be solved by simply getting the right equipment. And a good pair of trusty earbuds or a decent headset is worthy of your consideration. You also may want to double-check your WiFi connection.
You can check out this buyer’s guide for compatible headsets and earbuds (with mics).
Now you can get connected. Virtually.
You have the knowledge to get started and conference/video chat with your coworkers, friends, and family- which is pretty much necessary in these trying times.
Watch your teacher’s lecture. Listen to your boss’s presentation. Or catch up with your bestie. It’s all here.
If you have any questions in particular don’t be hesitant to leave a comment. I try to reply to everyone within 24 hours.
If you found this article helpful, consider sending it to a friend.
Especially someone that also has a Chromebook. Then you can start video calling away on your favorite service ASAP.
Or just let me know that this page helped you out =]!
Thanks for reading!