It wasn’t that long ago that videoconferencing was a concept best left for risk-takers like Dick Tracy and Batman, but two new Logitech webcams, the $200 TV Cam HD and the $250 BCC950 Conference Cam, are good examples of how high-quality videoconferencing has gone mainstream.
While the TV Cam HD is aimed at home use and works only with Skype and the BCC950 Teleconferencing Cam is meant for business use with Skype and many other applications, both of these remote-controlled units are easy to set up and offer business-quality audio and video.
Unlike most webcams, the Logitech TV Cam HD doesn’t require a computer—just an HDTV with an HDMI port, a Wi-Fi or Ethernet Internet connection and AC power. Skype videoconferencing software is built in and updates automatically. Setting up the 720p HD webcam is painless: Once Internet and HDMI connections have been established, the unit searches for a more recent version of Skype and downloads it if necessary.
Entering a Skype user name and password using the remote control and on-screen keyboard is slow, but the procedure has to be done only once. The TV Cam HD has a 2X digital zoom as well as digital pan and tilt, all of which can be controlled with the remote control. Four unidirectional microphones ensure that users can be heard clearly whether they are in front of or off to the sides of the TV. The TV Cam HD uses the TV for audio output but an internal speaker allows it to ring whether the TV is on or off—as long as it has an Internet link.
During a test, the TV Cam HD came to life quickly and provided a remarkably bright and sharp image in a dimly lit room. Keep in mind, however, that since the unit isn’t linked to a computer, you’re limited to the contacts that you’ve saved within Skype—it can’t access the computer’s contact lists or lift contacts from Facebook.
The odd-looking BCC950 Conferencing Cam provides 1080p HD video resolution at 30 frames per second (fps) and has UVC (USB video class) support, which means it can be used with a wide range of teleconferencing solutions without additional driver software. The webcam’s lens has a fairly wide 78-degree field of view and can be used with a short pedestal, which allows it to see above the laptops on a conference table, or seated in its base, which includes a speakerphone.
Outgoing H.264-standard video encoding is performed by a processor inside the BCC950 Conferencing Cam instead of by a computer’s CPU, which means users can perform other computer tasks without degrading the quality of outgoing video and audio, said Eric Kintz, senior vice president and general manager for the Logitech for Business division.
The BCC950 Conferencing Cam has microphones on all sides so that everyone around a conference table can be heard. Unlike the TV Cam HD, which has digital zoom, pan and tilt, the BCC950 Conferencing Cam offers motorized 180-degree pan and 55-degree tilt as well as zoom; all of which can be controlled with the remote control. When tested, the unit panned and zoomed smoothly and the video was clear and bright.
The unit connects with Windows or Mac computers via a USB cable and can be powered with an AC adapter or with a second USB cable, thus making it a viable portable videoconferencing solution for airport conferences, distance learning or remote medical-diagnosis situations, said Kintz.
While the TV Cam HD is clearly meant for home use in the living room and the BCC950 Conferencing Cam is a business-class unit, both have drifted a little into each other’s market, added Kintz. Thus, the right unit for you depends on how you teleconference. Both units are available now.