Zoom vs. Google Hangouts: Which video chat service is right for you?

zoom vs google hangouts
(Image credit: Zoom; Google)

Comparing Zoom vs Google Hangouts comes down to your priorities and needs for communication. They're both video chat clients that have been widely popular for a while, and can both be found on a variety of platforms — and while Zoom is under fire for a series of privacy flaws, Google keeps adjusting and expanding Hangouts, as well as Meet, which is more competitive with Zoom.

And as we all spend more and more time apart, these services have become all the more important, and so we've looked closely at both Zoom and Google Hangouts to see how they differ. Surprisingly, they've got big differences on a couple of key features. 

While each service is rather simple to use, one is more limited than the other in terms of the size of the groups it appeals to — and the other doesn't care about how much time you spend chatting away. There's also another competitor out there, check out our Skype vs Zoom face-off to see how a long-standing video call service is competing with Zoom.

For those still figuring out how to use Zoom or how to set up a Zoom meeting, we've got guides for that, and more. Here's everything you need to know to figure out your choice of Zoom vs Google Hangouts. (Oh, and check out our best webcams for video calls guide so everyone can see you clearly!)

Zoom vs Google Hangouts at a glance

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 ZoomGoogle Hangouts
Supported devices Windows 10, macOS, Linux (including Ubuntu), iOS, Android and Blackberry Web browsers (Chrome, Safari and Firefox on both PC and Mac), Linux, Android, iOS
Maximum number of participants 100, with up to 49 visible at once 25 (100 in Google Meet), up to 10 visible at once
Special features Custom virtual backgrounds, end to end encryption, HD video and audio Google app integration
Is there a free tier?YesYes
Is there a paid tier? Zoom Pro ($14.99 per month per host)Google Meet (formerly Hangouts Meet) was paid, but is currently free. Enterprise versions still exist, with more perks.
Paid tier perks Meeting duration limit is 24 hrs, 1GB of cloud recording, Skype for Business (Lync) supportEnterprise Meet has 250 video callers at once

* Google Hangouts Meet has been rebranded to Google Meet. Then, Google announced that Google Meet, the premium video meetings product, is now free for all Google account holders, until September 30. Meet calls have a limit of 100 people, and while there will be a 60 minute time limit for calls, that will not be enforced until Sept. 30.

Why you should use Zoom

Zoom is frankly the more impressive offering. I've seen Zoom's giant chats for myself, and those large 5x5 grids of faces look unlike anything I've seen on Hangouts. Read more about how to see everyone on Zoom.

With Zoom, you can get up to 100 video callers on the line at once, and see as many as 49 of them at the same time. That towered over the 25 video chat participants number from Google Hangouts, but Google Meet (formerly Hangouts Meet) meets Zoom at its 100 caller cap. 

It's also the more-fun version. Sure, people can use emojis to react on Hangouts, but that's table-stakes. As you'll see in our guide on how to change your Zoom background, you can set up a variety of colorful backgrounds that make it look like you're somewhere other than on your couch or at a makeshift home office.

There's also a Zoom web app, so you don't need to download Zoom to use it. But this version of the software is much more limited. 

Why you should use Google Hangouts

Hangouts wins for me because of utter simplicity. While it has an app on iOS and Android, it works entirely over the web for most folks. Zoom tries to get you to download an app, which might be worth its bonus features listed above, but I don't really need those.

And since my Hangouts aren't going to be for more than 25 people, I'm paying more attention to the free Zoom's other limit: time. Zoom calls with 3 or more people have a 40 minute time limit, while a Google Hangout lets you hang out for as long as you like with no time limit. 

Google Meet, as I've noted above, which is free for all until Sept. 30, has a cap of 100 users and has no time limit (though that changes to 60 minutes on Sept. 30).

I'm also defaulting to Hangouts over Zoom because that's the account I already have. For those who don't use Google services, I can get why it would be annoying to make an account for Hangouts. But Google's video chat app makes sense for those relying on Gmail and Google Calendar, which Hangouts seamlessly integrates into. 


It's pretty much all in their names. You're primarily gonna want to chat with Zoom if you've got a wide enough set of video phone pals that you need to zoom in and out. Hangouts, in turn, is best suited to smaller groups looking to spend more time in their chat (and Google fans who need more people in the room should check out Meet). Neither is bad, they're both pretty simple to use and direct. 

But I wouldn't be surprised if some long distance relatives were surprised when Zoom told them their time was up after 40 minutes.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.