The best webcams for streamers and zoom calls in the test

Webcam buying guide: The Ars tips from cheap to extravagant

Anete Lusina

Webcams have a moment. As video chatting and conference calls become a normal aspect of life in a pandemic-stricken world, having a device that puts you at your best can be invaluable.

The best webcams will greatly improve your online presence compared to the mediocre cameras built into most laptops, whether you’re working at home, video chatting with family, teaching online classes, or streaming on Twitch. Best of all, most webcams are plug-and-play, so you can start improving your video quality right away.

There are countless webcams on the market today, from affordable options designed for the basics to feature-packed models that can cost in the hundreds. Some work better in daylight. Others more accurately render colored LED backgrounds or create flattering skin tones. Some record at ultra-sharp resolutions like 4K, which can be nice but isn’t essential. The video quality you get will always depend heavily on the lighting and general condition of your surroundings, but some webcams still make it less difficult to look sharp.

To make it easier for you to find the right model, we’ve put a number of highly rated webcams to the test. Below are our top picks, ranging from a budget option to a more professional all-in-one setup, all of which we’ve evaluated in a variety of lighting scenarios.

An affordable option

Creative Live Cam Sync 1080p V2: $30 at Amazon

Specifications at a glance: Creative Live Cam Sync 1080p V2
Dimensions 3.3 × 2.3 × 2.4 in (83 × 58 × 60mm)
weight 0.2 pounds (96g)
connection USB2.0
sensor CMOS
field of view 77 degrees
opening f/2.4
focus area 19.7 inches (50 cm) to infinity
Supported Resolutions 1080p 30fps, 720p 30fps
microphone Built in dual
apartment Creative app (Windows only)

Compact and ultra-light, the Creative Live Cam Sync V2 probably won’t be your first choice for high-quality streaming or recording, but it’s an all-in-one purchase for $30. For this low price, you’re still getting a camera that shoots at a perfectly competent 1080p resolution at 30 frames per second (fps) and a 77-degree field of view.

In natural light, it picks up details finely and the autofocus is smooth. We found that image quality looks best when natural light is coming in from the side. In these conditions, the camera added dimension to faces and avoided a washed-out look. However, it would be helpful to have image controls in the creative app to tweak white balance and tint, for example, as skin tones tend towards green.

You can mount the Live Cam Sync V2 directly to your monitor – or attach it to a stand or tripod if you have one – and connect it with the included USB 2.0 cable. As with most of our tips, there is no software to download so you can start using it right away.

If you’re a Windows user, you can use Creative’s companion app to change a few additional settings – although these all apply to audio quality, not video quality. For example, you can enable VoiceDetect, which automatically mutes and unmutes your microphone during a call. You can also change the volume of your voice and surrounding sounds manually, or let the camera adjust automatically.

The camera has a subtle white light to indicate when it’s in use and a simple privacy cover that won’t come off. The webcam has a built-in microphone; Recording quality is acceptable for calls, although the audio was slightly hollow even in a small, carpeted room. Still, it’s good enough if you need an all-in-one webcam for business or personal calls.

The good

  • Audio configuration app included
  • Decent microphone
  • Acceptable video quality in most lighting scenarios
  • Low price

The bad

  • The app has no picture settings
  • Low quality construction

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