Originally posted by wormwood
if the price isn't a problem, ICC is the best. the 3-minute, 5-minute and 15-minute pools work exactly like you wanted. they also have auto-forfeit after disconnection, which is the best thing since the thing that came after sliced bread. it also has the most players, and loads of videos.
FICS is the free 'little brother' of ICC, separated when ICC went ...[text shortened]... s or tournament commentary either. but it IS free and usable.
I play mostly at ICC myself.
FICS also lacks central monitoring of lag, which means you cannot screen persisitent laggers out. On ICC, in the 5-minute pool, the server will not let you enter if your lag exceeds certain limits. Playchess also helps players avoid lagging opponents.
You get what you pay for, and sometimes free is too expensive in comparison to paid services. ICC is a great value. I like the Playchess GUI better, but sometimes it is hard to find an opponent there at times that I want to play. In my time zone (western US), more players seem to be on ICC in the evening than on Playchess.