Discord Review – PCMag

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Online messaging harmony
Whether strategizing with teammates or just chatting with friends, Discord is an excellent multimedia messaging platform for gamers and non-gamers, alike.
Discord has quickly become the go-to online communication tool, the type of service that caused Microsoft to drum up billions of dollars in an attempt to acquire it. Once you use Discord, you’ll understand why. Discord makes it incredibly easy and intuitive for anyone to set up chat servers, and talk with friends or strangers via text, audio, and video. Discord is so popular, even non-gamers find plenty of use for it. You probably have it open while reading this, but if you were somehow on the fence, know that Discord is an Editors’ Choice pick for online messaging tools. You should integrate it into your digital life right now.
Your free Discord account follows you across many platforms. Visit the website or download the desktop app to use Discord on your Linux, macOS, or Windows computer. Download the Discord mobile app for Android and iOS. Microsoft and Sony even let you directly integrate Discord into your Xbox Live and PlayStation Network accounts, respectively. Currently, Nintendo doesn’t allow Discord on the Nintendo Switch, which is expected given the company’s rocky relationship with the internet. However, Sony only recently opened up to Discord (after Microsoft’s acquisition attempts fell through), so perhaps Nintendo will change its tune in the future.
Discord’s free tier should be more than enough for most users. However, Discord also offers two Discord Nitro premium tiers. Discord Nitro Classic ($5 per month, $50 per year) lets you change your username tag, show off your Nitro profile badge, use custom emotes outside your home server, and transform GIFS into animated avatars and emojis. For $10 per month or $100 per year, Discord Nitro (just Nitro) adds even more perks, like the ability to upload 100MB files instead of 50MB in the Classic tier or 8MB in the free tier.
Discord Nitro also gives you two “server boosts.” When members boost a server they level it up. At a high enough level, even free members can enjoy premium benefits within that server. Free users can buy server boosts for $5 per month.
Both premium tiers increase Discord’s video and audio quality. Free users stream video in 720p resolution at 30 frames per second, with 96kbps audio. Premium users enjoy 1080p resolution at 60fps, with 384kbps audio quality. Guilded, a Discord competitor, offers high quality video and audio (1080p at 60fps, with 256kbps audio) with its free tier.
Even with the best-looking video, Discord is only meant to complement video game live streaming services, not replace them. Want to use Discord as a community for your streaming audience? Integrate your Twitch account. Want to give Discord users even more ways to support you financially? Integrate your Patreon account. Discord knows what it is and what it isn’t. Once upon a time you could buy games from Discord, but the company shut that down once it became clear it wouldn’t be the next Steam
Everything in Discord happens on a server; either ones you make or the ones you join. Like Slack‘s servers, Discord’s servers consist of themed channels where members communicate about various topics. The channel type also determines if members talk through audio or text.  Members can also send messages directly to each other and make video calls. You can further organize channels by slotting them into categories like general chat channels or channels for specific games. In total, a server can have up to 500 channels across 50 categories. A single server can also have up to 500,000 members, although only 25,000 can be online simultaneously without issues.
As an admin, you’re encouraged to customize your server to fit your community’s needs. Open your server to the public or lock it off for private invites. Memorialize an inside joke with a unique emoji. Proudly display banner artwork. Deputize moderators to warn or ban hostile users. Encourage premium members to boost your server for everyone.
Alongside the aforementioned Twitch and Patreon integrations, Discord offers many more third-party integrations, from social media to productivity automation. Connect your Discord servers to GitHub, Google, IFTTT, Slack, Trello, Twitter, YouTube, and other services. The apps exist as bots that automatically carry out designated functions within your server. 
You aren’t confined to one server. In fact, a single user can join up to 100 servers. Take on a different identity by changing your nickname. Invite friends from one server into another. Prioritize which servers you receive notifications from. Discord makes it seamless to flow in and out of little ponds, into the open oceans, and back again. You get the benefits of tight-knit communities along with a larger ecosystem to freely explore. 
With so much going on, Discord’s interface can become a bit cluttered. A quick glance at my screen shows me a list every server I’ve joined, notification icons, a list of server channels, the main feed where you see everyone’s messages, a list of every member in that server including who is online, and all sorts of other little icons for my inbox and mentions and threads. Even with just text, it can be a lot to absorb, let alone with video or audio. Still, it speaks to Discord strength that it even has so many servers worth joining and so many other users to interact with.
So what should you use Discord for? Video games remain the primary focus. Say you and your friends want to play Rocket League, Overwatch, or some other game with crossplay. With Discord, you can create a central private place to verbally strategize while playing on different consoles. After a match, you may also just want to wind down and chat. Discord also pairs great with social party games with strong online features like Jackbox Party Pack
Meanwhile, the public servers give Discord an almost Reddit-like quality, where strangers come together to create a community over a shared interest. I’m in public Discord servers for Nintendo fans, as well as Black video game developers. Game developers frequently create official Discord servers to directly communicate with fans.
With more than a quarter billion users and counting, Discord appeals not just to gamers, but to basically anyone who wants a way to chat online. Within that extremely broad category, we’ve seen people use Discord for study and schoolwork, to host a Netflix virtual movie night, or listen to Spotify together. Forget video games, Discord is perfect for continuing your tabletop roleplaying game campaign when not everyone can show up in person. Video calls turn Discord into a Zoom Meetings alternative so effective that I’ve sat in on live press briefings from publishers conducted via Discord servers. 
It feels awkward to say “Discord is good because it’s popular, and it’s popular because it’s good,” but the vast community does genuinely improve the service. Guilded has nifty additional organizational tools and features specifically for setting up esports tournaments, but with just a fraction of the users that all becomes somewhat moot unless you only care about private servers. Discord feels alive, which is absolutely what you want from a social experience.
For countless users, Discord has become a new pillar of online communication, a dominant force in its field. This Editors’ Choice pick lets you type, talk, and get face time with old friends, or potential new friends, from the comfort of your own computer, phone, or video game console. From creating and organizing your own server to seeing what’s available to join, Discord honors its gaming roots while growing into a broad and accessible platform for all. If you want to be where everybody else is, you want to be on Discord. 
For more on Discord, check out our explainer: What Is Discord and How Do You Use It?
Whether strategizing with teammates or just chatting with friends, Discord is an excellent multimedia messaging platform for gamers and non-gamers, alike.
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Jordan Minor is an Analyst on PCMag’s Apps and Gaming team, and he really just wants to use his fancy Northwestern University journalism degree to write about video games. Beyond gaming, Jordan covers coding software, dating apps, meal kits, video streaming services, website builders, and other software-related beats. He also hosts The Pop-Off, PCMag’s video game show.
Jordan was previously the senior editor for Geek.com, and a PCMag intern before that. He has also written for Kotaku, The A.V. Club, and Paste Magazine, and is currently working on a book about the history of video games. He is the reason everything you think you know about Street Sharks is a lie.
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