Our Top Pick for 2017: Logitech C930e HD Video Webcam
Read our full review.
It took a while for the internet to really gain steam, but now it has taken over virtually every aspect of our daily lives. More and more of our entertainment is consumed through streaming services, we use the internet for knowledge and research—like, for instance to find the best products—but one of the main functions of the internet is also one of its biggest initially selling points: connectivity. The ability to connect to people instantaneously over great distances cannot be underestimated and it has driven whole markets to prominence. YouTube is the most highly watched content provider for young millennials, and it is likely only going to become bigger as an entire generation grow up with it. Face time has become a major selling point for apple products. However, as time progresses, our screens and monitors get better and better resolution. To keep up, our webcams also continue to provide better resolution. At this point, webcams are able to record and transfer in HD quality. Still, with all of the options out there, it can be difficult to determine which is right for you. That is why we have put together a list of the top three HD webcams as well as a budget option to ensure you get the webcam that best suits your needs.
#1. Logitech C930e HD Video Webcam
View it on Amazon: $76.46*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Logitech has a long and storied reputation as a manufacturer of PC peripherals—though it has not always been favorable. Less than a decade ago Logitech had a reputation for making some incredibly quality products and some real stinkers. For a long time there was a huge chasm between those two levels of quality that were filled with competitors. However, Logitech has made a concerted effort to fix those issues with some of their products, and now, they regularly produce some of the best rated peripherals in any market. This change includes the webcam market which they have all but cornered.
The C930e is our Gold Pick Winner and with good reason. This is one of the better business class HD webcams on the market. It is ideal for those businesses that need to hold teleconferencing calls with a large number of members in the same shot. Whenever you see an image of five people sitting around a table during a teleconference call, this may very well be the webcam that took that shot. The specs on this webcam are impressive to say the least.
First, this webcam records in full 1080p HD so you will have the clearest image available in a webcam. Moreover, this webcam records at 30 frames per second. With these two specs alone you can feel comfortable in the quality of this purchase. 30 frames per second is the rate at which many professional cameras record video for professional production. This means that you can actually use this webcam for more than business meetings of casual chats. If you want to record a professional podcast that has a visual show corollary to be uploaded to YouTube, this is an excellent webcam for that purpose. However, the C930e is not finished, because it is actually designed to provide an excellent live streaming quality.
While the industry is still in its infancy, ESports have made a huge splash in the sporting entertainment market. Various game tournaments are regularly aired on television, and the biggest ones even make it onto ESPN. This alone highlights the earning potential for ESports, but you do not have to play at the highest levels of competition to make a name for yourself in this field. In fact, there is quite an industry of stay-at-home gamers who make their living strictly from streaming the games they play along with a video stream of themselves playing. If this sounds like something you would use your webcam for, then you definitely want a webcam with high streaming capability. The C930e comes with an uvc H.264 encoding software. This is not software that you have to download onto your PC, and then fiddle with to get it working. This software is actually embedded into the webcam itself. The fact that this software is integrated with the webcam provides two distinct benefits. First, this encoding ensures that you get excellent stream quality without loss of image quality.
However, one of the primary benefits of this encoding software being integrated with the C930e is that you do not have to worry about it occupying precious bandwidth or processing power through your PC’s hardware. This is a vital element when it comes to live streaming and can even play an important role if you are using the C930e for business purposes as opposed to content production.
However, the C930e comes with other features that make it ideal for home production to achieve a professional level of quality for content creation. First, the lens is one of the highest qualities possible. It is a glass lens that has been certified by the ZEISS Company to ensure that your video quality produced the absolute best images possible. Moreover, this webcam uses Rightlight 2 technology to provide excellent video recording quality even in low-light conditions without suffering the loss of resolution, frame rate, or even color saturation. These two features should give you a sense of just how good this webcam is since not all webcams use glass lenses. Many of the lower quality webcams use plastic lenses instead.
Still, the C930e continues to impress with a host of extra features to provide all of the bells and whistles that justify this product’s somewhat pricey tag, when compared with some of its competitors. First, the various lens settings offer a degree of breadth that you simply will not find with too many webcams elsewhere. This webcam is capable of 4 times zoom without sacrificing resolution. That means that regardless the zoom setting you use, you will still record your video in 1080p. This is a far cry from many other webcams which lose resolution quality as they zoom in, often to the point where the image becomes obviously pixelated. Another quality of the lens that makes this a top pick is its field of view. Most webcams have between a 50 to 60 degree range of view which is decent but requires the subjects to be crammed within a small area. This means that using other webcams for business teleconferences may result in knees knocking together and an uncomfortable degree of closeness. However, with the C930e’s whopping 90 degree field of view, you and your peers will be able to position themselves comfortably in view of the webcam without worry of anyone getting cut out of frame. Moreover, the lens comes with a pan and tilt function so you can actually adjust the angle of the shot on the fly without having to move the entire webcam. This can provide an even greater field of view in case you have a large room or a large number of people being recorded.
Other features that make this an incredibly attractive option include the integrated autofocus feature. This means that you will not constantly have to get up and mess with a focus knob nor will you have to set the focus through the onboard software. Of course, if your situation calls for a manual focus setting, you can always open the onboard settings and disable the autofocus feature. In this software you can also adjust the zoom settings and more. The C930e has two microphone attached to either side of the lens. This is somewhat unique in that it not only allows the webcam to capture sound from a wider range, it also allows the webcam to transmit the sound in stereo. While this is an often overlooked feature, it is simply one of those nice touches that you do not see elsewhere.
The C930e connects to your PC or mac with a USB connection but is capable of connecting with a USB 3.0. This means that your webcam will be able to transmit far more recording data to your PC than many other webcams. This increased data transfer will translate into a better image quality with less loss of frame rate or latency on the other end of the line. This webcam also comes with a tripod, but it has an integrated clip design as well. This provides a nice versatility of setup depending on the situation or need. With a 3-year manufacturer’s warrantee, you will not have to worry about the durability of this webcam. Still, it has a frame of rubberized plastic which makes it resistant to falls as well as strong. Moreover, the C930e comes with a built-in camera lens to provide extra security in case rogue software attempts to hijack the webcam or someone tries to hack you.
#2. Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920
View it on Amazon: $49.93*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
When we said that Logitech had essentially cornered the webcam market, we were not kidding. In fact Logitech has taken both the top Gold Pick Winner as well as the Silver Pick Runner-Up position. However, Logitech is such a quality producer of webcams, they were not fit to end their reign there. They also managed to pick up another spot on this list. This will likely be the first and last time that a single brand captures more than 50 percent of the spots on one of our lists. To make things even more impressive, the C920 would easily still be the top spot on this list were it not for the fact that Logitech improved on its own dominance with the C930e. When we mentioned earlier that Logitech made a concerted effort to rectify any poor reputation it developed a decade ago, we meant it.
The difference between this model and the previous, however, is not a huge leap but still significant in its own way. First, the optical features of this are very similar to the Gold Pick Logitech, though they fall just a tad short in very specific circumstance. Note, this does not mean that this webcam is inferior in any consistent way. On the contrary, the C920 provides nearly as good a resolution as the C930e. However, depending on the broadcast screen resolution there are a few of the highest screen settings which will cause a slight drop. Still, you should take comfort in the fact that this webcam will never drop below HD quality. It just has different HD quality recording resolutions depending on the receiver’s screen settings. To point, if the receiver’s screen is unable to display images at a 1080p resolution, the C920 will automatically record and transmit the video in 720p. However, you should not worry about this function on your end. This is not an “either/or” scenario but an “and” scenario.”
The C920 will actually record both in 1080p and 720p unless you tell it otherwise, though it will only transmit one at a time. Therefore, if you do not want to have to worry about some of the distortion that can occur with software rendering a higher resolution image into a lower resolution, this webcam will ensure that that is not an issue. The C930e does not advertise this feature, though the onboard video processing software in that model likely accounts for the receiving screen resolutions and adjusts accordingly, converting the video images beforehand without having to worry about switching to a different recording resolution. In this way, this feature of the C920 has been made obsolete, but if you are not planning on ponying up the extra 25 percent that the C930e costs more than this model, it is still a nice feature to have just in case.
Much like the C930e, the C920 sport ZEISS certified glass lenses. Again, this means that you can have confidence that your recording image quality will be without distortion for either color or resolution. Another feature that makes this a nice alternative to its higher priced cousin is that it can also take 15 megapixel snapshots. This is not better than the C930e, but it is still a nice feature that will provide excellent still images all the same. One thing to keep in mind though is that the snapshot images are not actually captured in 15 megapixels. The snapshots actually undergo a software conversion that interpolates the images to 15 megapixels. However, a 15 megapixel interpolation is actually the maximum number of interpolated pixels possible before images get distorted. This means that in terms of interpolated images, the C920 is literally at the top of the class. Moreover, the images themselves are still crisp with sharp lines, excellent color, and a high-quality resolution. In fact, so many of the features of this model mirror the C930e, you almost have to wonder why Logitech bothered to make the better model in the first place—not that we are complaining mind you. Also just like the C930e, this webcam runs at 30 frames per second which will provide you with a quality image that is on par with numerous professional recording devices. Keep in mind, those devices actually record at a much higher frames per second rate, but they generally display at that rate on your monitor or television screen. Regardless, the C920 does not suffer from latency issues. The C920 also uses the same encoding software as the C930e, the H.264 video compression, and just like the C930e, this software is integrated with the webcam so you do not have to worry about the video data compression occupying valuable resources on your PC.
Other features that are the same include the dual mounted microphones which allow you to record and transmit audio in stereo. Moreover, the C920 also features automatic light correct for low-light settings as well as autofocus. Of course, you can always turn these features off if they do not suit your needs. The C920 also uses a facial recognition software called FastAccess as a form of password protection. It has an integrated clip-on design or it can be mounted on the included tripod. It does only connect with a USB 2.0 port, so it that regard, the C930e has a bit of an edge in video data transfer speeds. Also, the C920 only comes with a 2-year warrantee instead of a 3-year warrantee, but this quality product should not give you any troubles beyond 2 years with proper care.
#3. Microsoft LifeCam Studio 1080p HD Webcam
View it on Amazon: $51.69*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
This is the first and only non-Logitech HD webcam on our list, and it comes from the trusted people at Microsoft. However, there is a bit of a warning that needs to be made. Microsoft specializes in operating systems—we are all familiar with Windows. This can create a conflict depending on the computer and software that you use—especially with apple products. Another issue with this paradigm is that Microsoft is not really known for producing the best quality peripherals. However, this does not mean that the peripherals they do produce are garbage, simply they are not the best on the market. Of course, as our Bronze Pick Third Place winner, you could probably already gather that.
First, the good news is that this webcam does record at a high level of quality. It has a 1080p widescreen resolution for snapshot images. This actually places it a step above the C920 in terms of field of view. However, the LifeCam does not surpass the C930e. This makes its snapshots a nice middle ground between the two. However, a webcam is not determined by the quality of still images it takes. Instead, the webcam is all about the video image resolution. That is part of the LifeCam’s downfall and why it only the Bronze Pick. For some reason, the LifeCam only records in 720p. This makes absolutely no sense. If the camera and lens are capable of taking 1080p resolution still shots, it should be able to do the same with video. Alas, that is not the case.
This may be a deal breaker since this places the webcam in an awkward position. It provides the wide field of view that you demand from a business or professional webcam, but then it undercuts its own viability in these circumstances with a lower 720p resolution. As such, the resolution of this cam can still produce acceptable images for casual video chat and potentially for small business owners, but you will not want to host teleconferencing meetings with a lot of people in front of important clients with it. Moreover, you will definitely not want to film any internet video content for a professional brand on a podcast or anything of that sort.
Still, for small entrepreneur business, this should provide an acceptable video image quality such that you do not look unprofessional. Still, there are other qualities about this that make it a bit frustrating. For instance, the autofocus feature on the LifeCam is known for being one of the more annoying autofocuses on the market. Every autofocus has its limitations. Often, you will run into problems if you move around a lot. This is especially relevant if you move side to side. Some autofocus features will simply unfocus a bit while you move and immediately refocus once you become stationary. Not the LifeCam. Perhaps in an effort to achieve perfection, the software in this webcam will continuously try to maintain the perfect autofocus. While a good idea in principle, the execution leaves a bit to be desired. Instead of getting a consistent autofocus even during motion, the LifeCam is just as likely to try to continuous autofocus even if you are stationary. Part of this has to do with changes in lighting and the face tracking software, but even repositioning a foot or leaning a bit forward or back can create a tedious process where the autofocus runs into a bit of a vicious cycle continuously autofocusing.
Still, if you can ensure that you have plenty of light and maintain relatively still, this can be a decent webcam. However, with a price that is not appreciably less than the C920, you would probably be better to just go with that. One positive is that the LifeCam uses Microsoft’s TrueColor technology which does produce excellent color contrasts and prevents colors for being washed out. However, this feature also affects the webcam’s exposure setting which can create further issue with the autofocus feature. The lens is glass, but not ZEISS certified. You will still get a good picture, but technically, it could be better. This webcam is made from aluminum which makes it both light and strong. Its high-fidelity microphone records audio extremely well, though not in stereo like the C920 or the C930e. This webcam comes with a 2-year warrantee and a protective lens cap.
#4. Logitech HD Webcam C310
View it on Amazon: $19.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
In a near perfect coup de grace, Logitech also takes the place of our Best Budget Pick. This is truly impressive as Logitech has gone out of their way to create a variety of webcams that not only suit a wide array of user needs but a wide array of user budgets as well. This is Logitech’s third entry on our list of four, and while it is not nearly as impressive as our Gold or Silver Pick winner, this webcam still provides an impressive price to value ratio.
First, this model is less than half the cost of the other entries on this list. Of course, that steep of a cut in cost will affect the overall quality of the video recorded, but that is not to imply that the image quality is bad, per se. Simply, the C310 has a lower ceiling than the other entries on this list. First, the maximum resolution for the C310 is only 720p. Let us be clear: this is still HD. It is still an excellent quality resolution. However, it is not the best resolution available nor will the images be quite a sharp or clear as with a 1080p recording. However, the decrease is not as significant as you might expect. For most people, the difference would be negligible. This does not even account for the fact that many people do not have monitors which display the 1080p resolution. As such, this may not be a huge factor depending on your uses. Keep in mind, if you need a webcam for a professional setting or to create a professional level of content, then this is not the option for you. However, if you are simply looking for a decent webcam to casually video chat with family or friends, this is an excellent option. Moreover, this webcam also takes snapshots at a high 5 megapixel resolution. Again, this is not the top of the line, but it is still a very high quality that produces exceptional quality images.
The C310 has a built-in mic with noise reduction, but this microphone is not as good as the C9xx series of webcams. It is only a single mic and does not record or transmit stereo sound. However, if you plan on using this for yourself and not a group, this should not be a problem. Moreover, the noise cancelling function will allow you and only you to be heard during your video chats. However, the C310 does us the same Rightlight 2 technology that the other Logitechs use which means you will not have to worry about low-light conditions washing out the color or decreasing the resolution of your images. One issue is that the C310 uses a plastic lens. This may cause issues with color or image distortion in certain situations, but for casual video chats there will be no problems. While it does not have an autofocus function, it does have an “always focused” lens which will limit you distance from the webcam to maintain the highest resolution. This is a clip-on webcam that is light, but the fit is not quite as snug as you might prefer. Still, it will not jostle. It uses a 1.1 USB but is compatible with a 2.0 USB connection for good, but not the best, data transfer. It also comes with a 2-year limited warrantee.
This is arguably the most important spec when buying a webcam—whether HD or otherwise. Webcams have come a long way over the years. There was a time when it was impossible to get a webcam that did not produce a grainy, blurry, poor quality image. One of the big reasons for this was that webcams were not able to record in high resolution. However, just in the last five to eight years, there have been major advances in recording technology—probably due to a higher demand from podcast web shows and more people using video chat. This has led to a veritable explosion in the recording resolution of webcams which can now record in HD—hence this product review. Still, within the HD resolution field there are two primary options: 730p and 1080p. Like with most of the considerations in this list, the option that is right for you depends more on what you intend to use the webcam for. If you intend to simply use the webcam for casual chats with friends and family, chances are unlikely that you need a 1080p webcam. The viewer on the other end will likely not be able to tell that much difference between the picture quality from a fixed position recording. However, if you are wanting to make a webcam show with a podcast or the like, then you will definitely want to use the 1080p. Aside from the fact that the 1080p will produce a better image quality, it will also allow you to record from further distances than the 720p resolution while still maintaining the image quality you require.
This spec is just slightly less important than resolution when buying a webcam, but only marginally. The frame rate will determine how naturally you appear to move while on cam. If you have ever seen a video or held a chat where the other person would become blurry whenever they moved, chances are that was due to a poor frame rate. This is an essential quality of all video, not just webcams. Moreover, videogames also place a high priority on frame rates. The point is that for any moving visual presentations, frame rate can make or break a production. For instance, if you are running a podcast that also has a live streaming webcam show, then frame rates will be key. Nobody will want to watch a webcam podcast show if the host and guests constantly become blurry the second the make a quick gesture. Conversely, if you are just using a webcam to talk to friends or relative across the country with a video chat program like Skype, you do not need to be as concerned about frame rate. A good baseline for frame rates is 30 frames per second.
The standard form of connection for webcams, and a whole host of other PC peripherals, is the USB connection. The most common standard is USB 2.0 though there are a few which utilize USB 3.1. This is generally not a primary concern, however, if you plan on using the webcam for a professional use, you will likely want to opt in for a webcam that connects by a USB 3.1 connection. The reason for this is because the USB 3.1 can handle a larger amount of information transfer than a USB 2.0 can. In practical terms, this can translate into better frame rates. However, the more common issue would occur in the reverse. Whereas the USB 3.1 will generally not have any loss of image quality or frame rates, the USB 2.0 may not be able to transmit the information quickly enough. This can create a loss of resolution, drop in frame rates, or latency of video. Of course, this only occurs when the webcam is pushed to its limit, like if there is a lot of motion, changing lights rapidly, etc. Some webcams can also be connected wirelessly, however this is best for casual situations. Part of this is because the wireless connection may not always remain stable, and you do not want a drop in data transfer in the middle of a big meeting.
Few people care what the actual webcam looks like. In fairness, the cam will not be recording itself—unless it is facing a mirror. However, the manner in which the webcam is stationed may be a serious consideration for you. There are generally two types of positioning formats to choose from. These are the clip-on or freestanding positioning models. You can actually get high-quality models from either positioning, though the highest quality webcams will usually be freestanding. Of course, the highest quality webcams will also usually have a clip-on method. Still there are excellent models in the mid-range that are clip on only. The low-end of webcams have both types, but generally tend to favor the clip-on models. However, if you have plans to use the webcam in a professional context, freestanding is the only way to go. Clip-ons are generally designed for laptop use. While many professionals may use laptops and conduct business using video chat with their laptops, they are not actually trying to put on a professional production with their webcams.
It may not be immediate obvious at first blush, but many of the cheaper webcams on the market are able to push their price down by using inferior materials. For the actual frame or casing of the webcam, this can be acceptable. Chances are, you do not need a webcam that has a metal chassis. However, one part of the webcam that you certainly do not want to trade quality for price with is the lens. Lenses generally come in two materials: plastic and glass. We suspect you can already guess where this is going, but glass is by far the superior lens material. However, even within this choice there are different quality of glass lenses. Unless you are using the webcam for a professional production, chances are you do not need the best quality of lens. However, there is little to no reason to go with a plastic lens if you can avoid it—which will be heavily dependent on your budget and need. Plastic lenses can cause distortion and they do not perform well in low light.
Depending on what you intend to use your webcam for, this can be a necessity or a luxury. If you are just buying a webcam for your home or office and intend to be in a fixed position every time you use it, then there is likely little to no need for an autofocus feature. Simply set up the webcam and determine the focus from the position you will be sitting, and you are good to go. However, if you have different positions you plan to be, move around, or intend to use the webcam for teleconferencing with multiple people seated, you should probably get one with autofocus. This is especially important for the last of those three as poor focus will look unprofessional and undermine your credibility. The two former scenarios will still make sense with autofocus, because it will prevent you from having to make so many edits in post-production or allow you to stream live.
Conclusion (Wrapping it up)
If it is not already obvious by now, Logitech is the way to go for webcams. They are head-and-shoulders above the competition and claimed the top two places as well as the budget option on this list for a reason. The C9xx series offers some of the best recording resolution available and amazing frame rates as well. The onboard video encoding software adds an extremely convenient feature to minimize the resource consumption from live streaming. With an incredibly high-quality construction, glass lens, and multiple-year warrantee, you do not have to worry about anything happening to your webcam. For the budget option, the Logitech gives you all of the necessary functions at an incredible price to value ratio that is simply unmatched. When it comes right down to it, if you are in the market for a webcam, then you almost certainly should purchase a Logitech—regardless your budget.