I’m a big fan of voice communication when it comes to gaming. A lot of people think that wearing a headset while gaming is overly hardcore, and maybe too geeky, but it adds a social element that makes the gaming experience that much better. TeamSpeak, which I admit has a hardcore name (it’s not only for teams!), is a great program for talking with your gamer friends.
While TeamSpeak may have started off as a solution for competitive gaming teams to discuss strategy and tactics in real-time, it has evolved into something beyond the bare essentials. Casual gamers and fierce e-sports enthusiasts alike use TeamSpeak to this day for many different reasons. Follow me as I explore this program to see why it remains so popular after all these years.
Before plowing ahead with this review, I just want to make note that I haven’t ever used TeamSpeak prior to me jotting down these words. TeamSpeak officially released version 3 sometime in mid-2011. Before that, I had a terrible experience with TeamSpeak 2, which was an absolute mess, and since then I’ve avoided it like the plague.
But wow! TeamSpeak 3 truly is like a brand new program, completely different from the TeamSpeak 2 that led up to it. For one thing, the team behind TeamSpeak has ramped up their production values when it comes to marketing and designing their product. I take that to mean that the program itself has received a lot of attention as well.
Everything about TeamSpeak says “professional quality” to me, which is why I’m excited to give it a whirl. Let’s see if it lives up to its marketing. If you were scared away by TeamSpeak 2, then maybe you’ll change your mind soon.
For voice chat newbies, the interface for TeamSpeak 3 will be a bit overwhelming. Even for a self-professed voice chat veteran like myself, I found it a little confusing. It presents you with a lot of information right away, which is great when you know what everything means, but until you get over that learning curve it will seem like unnecessary verbiage.
But that’s fine because you only need to focus on four things: the top bar (actions), the left rectangular area (channel list), the right rectangular area (server info), and the bottom half (text chat).
- The actions bar is a one-click bar that lets you quickly mark yourself as Away, mute your microphone, deafen your speakers, etc.
- The channel list shows you all of the different channels (or rooms) on the current TeamSpeak server using a tree structure. Only users in the same channel can hear each other speak.
- The server info area actually changes based on context. If you click on a channel name, it’ll show the channel info. If you click on a user, it’ll show you the user’s info.
- The chat area is a tabbed box for text messages such as server updates and chat.
Voice Quality and Latency
Two other make-or-break points for Internet-based voice communication software are voice quality and latency. Nobody wants to sound like a robot when they speak into their microphone – or maybe that would be awesome! – but having crisp, clear sound is killer. And the more you can minimize the delay between you speaking and your friends hearing you, the closer the experience will be to a live gaming session together.
The clip above is dated by about a year, but I find that the results are strikingly relevant even today. My experience has been that Mumble’s (another voice chat program) latency is fantastic but TeamSpeak is not far behind. Plus, I think TeamSpeak has better overall quality of voice. Combine that with the spiffy interface and you could make a strong point for TeamSpeak over other voice communication programs.
As with most gaming-centric voice chat solutions, TeamSpeak is not a centralized network like Skype. Instead, TeamSpeak servers are hosted by individuals and you must connect to them. This means that if you want your own server, you need to self-host or rent. If you don’t care about having your own server, you can still browse TeamSpeak’s list of public servers (pictured above).
The advantages and disadvantages of self-hosting:
- Entirely FREE for non-profit entities.
- The default TeamSpeak hosting license allows up to 32 user slots per server.
- Registering for a Non-Profit License boosts the slots up to 512 per server.
- Full control over TeamSpeak server settings.
- Steep learning curve for those who have no server administration skills.
The advantages and disadvantages of renting:
- No server administration skills required. Quick to set up and get running.
- Monthly cost depending on the hosting service you select.
- Pricing is often proportional to how many user slots you want.
- 24/7 uptime even when your computer is off.
- Can exceed the 512 slot limit of the Non-Profit License if necessary.
And, of course, TeamSpeak is cross-platform and available as a client on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android (the server software is available on Windows, Mac, and Linux). Most gamers are Windows users anyway, but TeamSpeak’s availability on Mac and Linux is a boon for the rest.
So good is TeamSpeak that it has a beloved spot on our Best of Windows page. What’s not to like about it? It’s an established voice chat solution, widely available, feature complete, and for the most part free. Give it a go if you haven’t already!