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Video conferencing is clearly part of our new normal, and if you’re working from home, and you probably need a webcam. Most major webcams are sold out and slow to get restocked, but there are plenty of webcams with lesser-known names you can buy on Amazon for a fraction of the price. The question is, are they any good?
We purchased six inexpensive webcams from Amazon, got them in two days, and compared them with each other and with two major name-brand models to see how they stack up.
Name-Brand Baseline: Logitech C922 and Razer Kiyo
We’ll start with two name-brand webcams to establish a baseline. The Logitech C922 is a $100 model that can record 1080p video at 30fps and 720p at 60fps. It features autofocus and light correction, a 78-degree field of view, and stereo microphones. The C922 also comes with a desktop tripod, so you can use it on a flat surface, as well as on the top of your monitor. All of the non-name-brand webcams we tested don’t have a tripod, but they do feature monitor clips similar in design to the C922’s.
The C922 is a small but nicely built, measuring just under four inches wide and just over an inch tall. The lens is tiny, but that’s standard for webcams. The stereo microphones are a welcome touch, letting you capture mono or stereo audio, and generally getting a nice, full sound.
The monitor clip is a flat slab of black plastic on a hinge, with soft-touch rubber on the underside and on a small foot that flips down to help stabilize the webcam against the back of your monitor. You can also fold the clip closed and use a built-in tripod hole with the included tripod, or any standard tripod.
The C922 captures a nicely exposed picture, though facial details look a bit soft. The stereo microphones pick up my voice well enough to hear, but it’s rife with echoes and sounds distant.
The Razer Kiyo is another $100 webcam. It can capture video at 1080p30 or 720p60, and features an 81.6-degree field of view. It doesn’t have stereo microphones or a tripod like the C922, but it features a built-in LED ring light for illuminating your face even in dark settings.
The Kiyo is completely circular, with the lens mounted directly in the center and the white ring light around it. The sides of the camera are a movable dial for adjusting the brightness of the ring light when in use. The monitor clip is a thick, puck-shaped base that folds to work as a tabletop stand, or unfolds to attach to the top of your screen. It also features a tripod mount hole.
The camera captures a very sharp picture, showing lots of detail in my beard and on my shirt. Unfortunately, the microphone is so soft that it’s nearly unusable; speaking clearly at the same volume at which I addressed the C922, all I can hear is a quiet mumble in my test recording.
So among the more expensive, name-brand webcams, the C922 offers better sound, while the Kiyo offers a far superior picture. Neither is particularly excellent overall, with each showing some form of weakness in either visual clarity or sound quality.
The much more expensive $170 Logitech StreamCam shows neither of these issues, with good sound and sharp 1080p60 video, but it’s nearly twice the price of either of these name-brand webcams, and several times more expensive than the affordable models we tested.
Now that we’ve established a name-brand baseline for webcams, let’s look at the lesser-known webcams we got on Amazon. Above is a comparison video we shot of all eight webcams, so you can see the difference between them yourself.
The Nexigo webcam is clearly aping the Kiyo’s design, with a circular body and an LED ring light built around the lens. The ring light is adjusted through a silver touch sensor just below the lens, rather than a rotating dial on the body of the camera. It sports stereo microphones, seen through two small holes on the back. The monitor clip is about as well-designed as the C922’s; it unfolds with an extra foot to help stabilize the camera when it’s mounted on the top of a monitor, and it features a tripod screw mount as well.
Video quality is about on par or slightly below the C922, with a generally slightly fuzzy picture. The lens is also a fair bit tighter than the C922’s or Kiyo’s lenses, even though the product page says it’s “wide angle.” Sound quality is markedly worse than the C922, though it’s actually audible, which puts it a step above the Kiyo.
The Jelly Comb is one of the nicer-looking webcams I tested, with a horizontal cylindrical design featuring a prominent lens and a strip of silver to break up the black plastic. The lens mount tells two lies about microphones, however, with twin sets of molded “pinholes” of solid plastic to give the impression of a set of stereo microphones, and a bit of metal grille tucked to the right to hint at another microphone larger than what’s actually on the webcam. In reality, the webcam’s mic is the tiny pinhole to the right of the lens mount. The monitor clip is nearly identical to the one on the Nexigo, with the flip-out foot and tripod mount.
The test recording I made with this webcam offers some of the best sound, tempered by one of the worst pictures of the bunch. My voice can be heard more clearly than on the C922, but every detail in frame looks fuzzy.
The Vitade webcam is nearly identical to the Nexigo, except its ring light is circular rather than pinched in on the sides. It has the same body shape, the same touch sensor for the ring light (which is also weaker than the light on the Kiyo), and the same monitor clip as both the Nexigo and the Jelly Comb.
This is where you can start to see that many of these webcams are using some of the same parts. It comes through on the video quality side, as well. The picture and sound on the Vitade are identical to the Nexigo: The lens is a bit tight, the audio is muffled, and the picture is a little fuzzy, but not unusable for video chat.
This is the biggest webcam of the group, and the only one with a removable cable. All of the other models, including the C922 and Kiyo, have hardwired USB cables, while the Depstech camera has a micro USB port on the back. Other than that, the design is big and dull, with a large, pill-shaped black plastic body with a flat face featuring a lens set in the center. There are stereo microphones, and they’re actually mounted on the front unlike the Nexigo and Vitade. It really cuts corners on the monitor clip, though, as it doesn’t have a stabilizing foot or a tripod mount.
The Depstech webcam can record at QHD (2,560 by 1,440), making it the highest resolution of all the webcams in this group. That said, I captured test video at 1080p to compare the general video quality with the other webcams directly, for consistency.
This camera has one of the widest lenses of the group, capturing a frame as large as the Kiyo’s. It isn’t quite as sharp, but it’s serviceable. The sound is the big surprise here, though. The microphones on the Depstech webcam are the most sensitive I’ve experienced on any webcam yet. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, however; you can hear the audio clipping from me speaking at a fairly normal volume, and my voice sounds like an adult from a Peanuts cartoon.
The Whew webcam looks like a thinner version of the Depstech, with a lens in the center and a single pinhole microphone instead of stereo. The monitor clip is downright tiny, and again lacks a stabilizing foot (so securing it to the top of your monitor might be tricky) or tripod mount.
It has a relatively narrow lens, like the Nexigo and the Vitade. Audio and video quality are also very similar, with a somewhat fuzzy picture and muffled sound. I wouldn’t be surprised if the internals of the camera are nearly identical to the Nexigo and Vitade, just without the ring light.
Finally, we come to a shameless knockoff of the C922, the Firsting webcam. It’s clearly designed to look like the Logitech model, with distinctive stereo microphone “ears” to the sides of the lens. But it’s not as well-made as the C922, with far fewer details, a flimsier build, and no indicator light. It comes with a tiny monitor clip with no foot or tripod mount.
Video from the Firsting is fuzzy, but the sound is among the best of the group. Audio is clear, even if it has a slightly muffled echo. While it looks and feels cheap, the Whew’s performance is quite decent across the board.
Are Cheap Webcams Worth It?
Well, the good news is that all of these inexpensive webcams you can buy on Amazon work decently. Considering they cost a fraction of the price, it isn’t surprising that none have video quality that comes close to the Razer Kiyo, and only one has sound quality that approaches the Logitech C922. These are still perfectly usable webcams, and are likely a slight upgrade over what’s built into your laptop.
Sound quality is an issue across the board, not simply for the Amazon-purchased webcams, but for name-brand models as well. Unless your room is an acoustically ideal space, you should seriously consider getting a separate microphone or using a headset with a decent boom mic for much better audio quality than anything these webcams can capture. A Blue Snowball Ice mic is just $50, and will result in much clearer sound than a webcam’s microphone can provide.
It’s also worth noting that if you have a decent digital camera, you might not need to buy a webcam at all. Check out our guide to using your digital camera as a webcam to get started.
keyword: You Can Buy These Cheap Webcams on Amazon Right Now, But Are They Any Good?You Can Buy These Cheap Webcams on Amazon Right Now, But Are They Any Good?You Can Buy These Cheap Webcams on Amazon Right Now, But Are They Any Good?