Videoconferencing in High Definition
Heavily pixelated videos with distorted colors were once notorious features of Webcam image capture. But as business videoconferencing has gained popularity--and as video chat clients like Skype and G-chat have become simpler--the need for higher-quality stand-alone Webcams has grown. The six high-definition Webcams we tested try to meet that need, with varying degrees of success. (See "Top-Rated High-Definition Webcams" for a ranked comparison chart of these devices.)
In appraising Webcam models from FaceVsion, Freetalk, Genius, Logitech, and Microsoft, we compared their video capture quality, adjustment settings, sound capture quality, and overall video-chatting performance with different chat clients.
All of the devices we tested capture video at 720p, and one of them (the Logitech HD Pro C910) can capture at 1080p. In order for these cameras to capture high-def video, the associated system must meet several minimum requirements: Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or higher, a 1.6GHz Intel dual-core or better CPU, and 1GB of RAM.
Some Webcams are designed to be paired with specific video chat software such as Logitech Vid HD, Skype, or Windows Live Messenger; others are plug-and-play models that work in conjunction with specific software programs. To test each Webcam, we connected it to different desktop and laptop PC that met the system requirements for HD connectivity, and then we initiated video chatting on the bundled or recommended video chat software. Thus we used Logitech Vid HD with the Logitech HD Pro Webcam; Windows Live Messenger with Microsoft's Lifecam HD-5000 and Lifecam HD-6000; and Skype with the FaceVsion TouchCam N1 and the Freetalk Everyman HD. The Genius eFace 2050AF didn't recommend a video chat service, so we used it with Skype.
We connected with video chat partners in different parts of the world, but in each case the individual's system met or exceeded the minimum requirements for HD video chatting. This is an important prerequisite: Both participants in the chat must have systems that support the high-def hardware.
For our tests, we would first chat with the Webcam set at the default settings, and then would adjust as necessary to compensate for changes in light, color and brightness flaws, as well as pixelation. As we video-chatted, we took note of issues in movement, sound capture, autofocus, and all-around video quality.
All six of the Webcams we tested delivered much better video quality than you'd get a standard non-HD embedded Webcams of the type found in laptops today. The Logitech HD Pro C910 Webcam earned top honors overall, excelling in 1080p video capture with stunning image quality. The FaceVsion TouchCam N1 and Microsoft LifeCam HD 5000 provided crisp and fluid motion capture, and the LifeCam HD 6000 has a sleek design with a 360-degree rotational swivel. The Freetalk Everyman HD's flickering autofocus and the Genius eFace 2050AF's color distortion in our tests make these models difficult to recommend.
From chatting casually with friends to creating your own Weblogs to partaking in business conference calls, the right HD Webcam can meet your particular needs.