It’s amazing how the web cam and the technology behind it has evolved over the years; from being a device that produced mediocre video at best to its present day incarnation of delivering crystal clear video and breath taking crisp pictures. It is safe to say, that web cams are very much at the forefront in today’s computing environment. The use of personal web cams is very much embedded into our culture (just look at social networking sites like You Tube or My Space).
Thus, many web cam manufacturers are always looking to incorporate a human element into their technology. Take for instance the Philips web cam with Skype ($39.99). Skype is the wildly popular video/audio service that enables one to talk on the internet using Skype’s video conferencing network via a web cam or a Skype enabled phone.
Sporting silver on black and weighing less than one pound, this device reminded me of a mini observation microscope with its rotund shape. The included head phones were fairly comfortable and light weight. The web cam instructions were straight forward and very easy to follow. This web cam is only compatible with Windows (sorry Apple users). I used Windows Vista in testing out this web cam and the drivers weren’t on the installation CD (information on the CD clearly pointed this out) and directed me to the link to download the Vista Drivers.
Philips claims this web cam is different than most because it can be mounted on a monitor or a laptop and even as a stand-alone on a desktop (I strongly have to dispute the monitor or desktop claim). This web cam did not sit well on top of my 19 inch HP monitor (it slid off) and if Philips thinks that plopping down this legless web cam onto a desktop is their idea of “mounting”, they are sadly missing the point. However, in all fairness to Philips, perhaps this web cam is made to fit desktop monitors that have a thin frame. The saving grace was that this web cam did sit just fine on my laptop screen.
The web cam controls are simplistic at best; the middle cam lens moves up and down and the focus is done by turning the lens. There is one button on each side of the web cam (the right button snaps a still picture and the left button activates video recording).
Vlounge is the multi-media software of choice. This software captures, manages, and prepares video clips or pictures to be emailed and enables one to archive snapshots and video clips. The operation of this software was elemental at best but was a welcomed change because most webcam software is either too innovative in its functionality or does not have enough features. I found the software to strike the right amount of balance in its ease of use and features. However, I found the web cam video operation panel to be dismal at best because I could not get that “grainy” video to go away and the overall response time to live video was a tad bit slow and choppy.
Making a video call was fairly easy and is achieved using the Skype software interface (just make sure you download the Skype software, sign-up for an account and purchase some Skype calling credit prior to making a call). The over-all video and sound quality of my Skype video calls wasn’t that impressive.
Using this web cam won’t exactly make you the Steven Spielberg of You Tube nirvana but it’s a very basic “starter” web cam with a decent software package. Hence, if all you want to do is to record and send video clips via email to your family and friends as well as make video calls, and your not too particular or picky about the video quality, then this web cam is for you. However, there are much better alternatives available if you want to experience faster frame rates and better pixel and video quality. The Philips SPC1300NC/00 web cam should do the trick.
The Good: Good multi-media software (Vlounge) .
The Bad: Not Compatible with Apple computers, mediocre recorded video and still picture quality (very grainy and pixelated). USB 1.1 and does not mount on a monitor that has a thick frame and needs to include a removable stand.