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Genius eFace 2050AF
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As the number of high-definition Webcams grows, products need more than a low price to distinguish themselves. I took the Genius eFace 2050AF ($40 as of August 6, 2010) for a test run, and found that it fell short of the competition in design and overall performance.
The eFace 2050AF supports 720p HD video chat at a paltry 9 frames per second (some competing Webcams managed frame rates of 30 fps in high definition). Unfortunately, the limited frame rate translated into choppy video.
The unit can capture 8-megapixel still images, has a built-in microphone and an AF glass lens, and incorporates a 360-degree swivel and a 125-degree up-and-down tilt. It works in accordance with Genius's CrazyTalk software, so be sure to load the program before plugging in your Webcam.
The eFace 2050AF is compact and circular, with a dual-hinged pop-up frame. The bottom portion anchors the Webcam to your laptop or monitor, the middle section rests on top of your screen, and the top portion holds the lens. The design is clever and sets it apart from other HD Webcams, but because the device is so lightweight, I had trouble getting it to stay in place--it felt as though it were lightly resting on the monitor instead of firmly locking to it. It's much better suited to desktop PCs than to laptops.
Another flaw in the design involves the unit's 360-degree rotation: What should be a positive feature of the eFace 2050 is actually a hindrance. The USB cable attaches to the back of the camera, so if you do swivel it around the full 360 degrees, the cord wraps around the device and eventually covers the lens. Also, turning the lens causes the base to detach from your monitor, forcing you to reclip, readjust, and then try to spin it again. And unlike the Microsoft LifeCam HD-6000, the eFace 2050 does not rotate fluidly; instead, it has several stopping points that produce a jarring effect that all of my conferencers commented on.
The eFace 2050's software is stored on a CD-ROM, but setting up the Crazy Cam features can take a while. I recommend giving yourself a good 20 minutes to get the software up and running. The basic system requirements for using this Webcam are a 2.4-GHz Pentium 4 CPU, Windows XP or higher, and DirectX 9.0 or above. If your system doesn't meet the requirements needed for HD video chatting, you can opt to chat at a lower resolution (like 640x480 at 30 frames per second).
The default settings on the eFace 2050 are extremely bright, and altering them to make the displayed image seem more natural results in color distortion. Despite tweaking the manual settings several times and playing around with different rooms and light settings, I never found the magic combination to eliminate both these problems. Lowering the contrast and raising the saturation a bit was the best I could do, but even then brightness and color remained problematic.
Though I noticed a delay and drag in movement, the autofocus worked accurately and subtly, free of the distracting flicker that I've encountered with other HD Webcams I've tested recently. However, the eFace 2050's slow movement capture largely overshadows the smoothness of its autofocus.
The CrazyTalk Cam software's special features are extensive and permit you to record and share videos and simple screenshot captures easily. The softwares avatar creation feature lets you turn any photo into an animated cartoon. You can make the image talk and add motion or sound effects (such as animal sounds or voice warping). These features are fun,but it takes effort to make the animation look crisp.
Overall, the Genius eFace 2050AF is no match for some similarly priced cameras--in particular, the Microsoft LifeCam HD-6000, which also features a 360-degree rotational swivel. The eFace 2050AF's mediocre HD video quality, poor design, and lackluster color features keep it from being a star.
This story, "Genius eFace 2050AF Struggles to Keep Pace With Other HD Camcorders" was originally published by PCWorld.
Genius eFace 2050AF
Though the Genius eFace 2050AF supports 720p HD video capture, it needs improvement in the areas of delay, movement drag, and color distortion.