Of the seven webcams we tested (they appear below in ascending price order), one model clearly outperformed the others, and one produced picture quality inferior to that of the webcams built into the two laptops. The remaining five did just fine and, for many consumers, the optimal combination of price and performance is likely to be found among those options.
The Logitech Brio was the outstanding performer, offering users the best picture quality and the second-best audio quality. It can record video at up to 4K resolution at 30 frames per second (1080p video can do 60 frames per second). It records clean audio with the built-in microphone (meaning the person on the other end of the video call should be able to hear you clearly) and includes handy extras like a privacy shutter to block the camera and a tripod mount so you can easily place the webcam on your desk.
At a retail price of $165 to $200, though, it was the most expensive model we tested.
The Microsoft LifeCam Studio produces poorer picture quality than the webcams found in our MacBook Pro and HP Envy 15—despite retailing for up to $80. On the upside, it was the only webcam with a status indicator light that turned on an alert when audio was being recorded. (Microsoft recently released a $70 webcam called the Modern Webcam that wasn’t available in time to be included in this report.)
The remaining five models are where things get interesting.
They are the Aukey PC-LM1E, Lenovo Essentials FHD, Logitech C270, Logitech C920 HD Pro, and Razer Kiyo. Of these, we think the Aukey and the Lenovo represent the sweet spot for consumers, offering better picture quality for roughly $40 to $50 than what you’d find in a laptop.
The Aukey brand may not be as well-known as Logitech or Lenovo, but the PC-LM1E offers real value for consumers given the $50 retail price. It supports up to 1080p video at 30 frames per second. And it has most of the useful features you’d want to see, including color correction and noise reduction, which improve image quality without forcing the user to manually adjust settings.
At 55 degrees, it has one of the narrower fields of view we saw in our tests. But that may not matter if you’re used to appearing solo on Zoom and simply want to improve your workspace setup.
Aukey earns substandard scores for security and privacy for a number of reasons. The company doesn’t provide security researchers with an official way to report vulnerabilities, for instance. It doesn’t say how long it retains data collected from users. And it doesn’t give users a way to delete that data.
Aukey products currently have limited distribution but can be purchased on Aukey’s website.
The Lenovo Essentials FHD, which retails for $30 to $40, supports up to 1080p video at 30 frames per second and includes useful features like noise reduction and auto color correction. It has a tripod mount, a built-in privacy shutter, and a 95-degree field of view, making it easier to fit more than one person in the frame at once.