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Computing

OBSBOT Tiny 4K is a UHD webcam with AI-powered tracking

This content was produced in partnership with OBSBOT.

Webcams are a big deal these days. With remote work, livestreaming, and online teaching becoming more and more central to everyday life, it’s essential to have a webcam that’s not only reliable but also one that can provide a high-quality image or resolution. Most webcams offer low-quality video, poor audio, and static framing, often randomly cutting off your head or face. That’s not so with OBSBOT’s incredibly petite yet equally impressive Tiny 4K webcam. It’s equipped with AI-powered framing and autofocus features to offer next-generation, enhanced tracking — it locks onto a person and follows them no matter where they go in the frame. The movement tracking is incredibly helpful, especially if you have to get up and move during a presentation or video conference with colleagues. But that’s not all that’s unique about it. Also impressive are its gesture-based controls, powerful dual omnidirectional microphones, and 2-axis gimbal system. You can check it out for yourself below, or keep reading for a deep dive into all that it has to offer.

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Get up and move: 4K Ultra-HD, AI Autofocus, and AI Auto Tracking

Thanks to the OBSBOT Tiny 4K webcam, your students, colleagues, or family will receive a crystal clear picture of you at all times. That’s because it’s equipped with a 2.8-inch Sony image sensor and 4K lens, capable of producing an ultra-HD image or stream — at 30 frames per second (fps) in 4K resolution, and 60 fps in 1080P. That’s important whether you’re livestreaming for viewers during a gaming session, or joing a live work conference from your home office. Low-light correction keeps the picture bright and vivid even in a dark room or environment. It also provides a better picture overall for everyone, reducing some of the contrast and darkness issues you normally see with webcams.

While it mounts to the top of a monitor like any other webcam, the Tiny 4K has a two-axis gimbal and AI-powered functionality. The AI autofocus and tracking means the camera will follow you, keeping you in the frame, while you move about the room. This is excellent for teachers or presenters who aren’t sitting and like to give a genuine in-person-like experience to their viewers. If you are sitting still, it works just as well to keep you in the center of the frame. There are tracking modes available to configure the camera for different situations, too. Motion mode, for example, moves at a faster rate to capture you moving around without sacrificing image quality. Headroom mode is another option, giving you extra space above your head that prevents you from being cut off in frame, which happens often with static webcams. This ensures there’s a more formal and professional feel to the whole experience.

Stay hands-free: Gesture controls, and more

OBSBOT Tiny PTZ 4K UHD webcam mounted on monitor.

As a teacher or presenter, it can be frustrating trying to adjust the camera and viewing angles on a livestream. Tiny 4K’s gesture controls mean you don’t have to fiddle with the keyboard, mouse, or camera to change basic settings. There are two controls available, each with its own gesture, to lock or unlock targets and to zoom in or out. Teachers will love this option especially, because they can keep their hands free during a lesson, using gestures to adjust the visual presentation.

After a call or presentation has wrapped up, you can tilt the camera down to activate a privacy mode, and there’s also an integrated switch to power it down easily without unplugging it. That’s a lot better than makeshift covers you’d have to use with alternate webcams, and you never have to worry about someone seeing something they shouldn’t — the camera is aimed down. After your conference call, tilt it down and then you’re free to loosen your tie, and maybe even your belt. If you don’t tilt it down, or forget, the device will automatically enter Sleep Mode after 30 seconds. If you want to change that detection time, you can set it manually in the device settings too.

All of these features combine to provide a robust and versatile option for game-streamers, as well. Your viewers will benefit from the UHD video, you’ll always stay in focus thanks to the AI, and you can interact with the camera with a quick gesture — to do something like getting a closer look at your zany facial expression.

Let your voice carry: Excellent audio quality

So many webcams lack decent audio support, but the OBSBOT Tiny 4K has dual-omnidirectional microphones with noise reduction technology. It can pick up your voice, nice and clear, within a range of 3 meters, almost 10 feet away. There’s no need to plug in third-party microphones or headsets just to get a good recording of your voice, or to properly communicate with your viewers. If you’re giving a presentation, and you’re some distance away from the webcam and its microphones, your commentary will still be picked up. Even if you’re not doing anything on video or stream, you can still use the microphone as you would any other. You won’t have any more awkward conversations with your co-workers because they can’t hear you either.

Having the OBSBOT Tiny 4K installed and connected already gets you excellent quality video and sound. There’s nothing more to it. TinyCam is the application you’ll use, on Windows and macOS, to change the settings, which also offers a few extra configuration options.

You’ll look great, sound great, and it’s easy to use, especially thanks to its plug-and-play support. Just connect it to your computer of choice and you’re good to go, no special applications required. It’s ideal for nearly any use or occasion from livestreaming your favorite games with an audience to conference calls with your colleagues.

If all of this sounds great to you, then you can grab the Tiny 4K for $269 at it’s normal price. But from 7 to 17 July, receive up to 35% off the entire Obsbot product line, including the tiny4k, on Amazon and the official Obsbot store.

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Editors’ Choice




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Computing

This 3-in-1 webcam claims to fix the eye contact problem

Eye contact is one of the main reasons video calls don’t feel as natural as real-life conversations. We’ve seen attempts to resolve the issue, such as Dell’s magnetic Concept Pari camera, but a new Kickstarter project has a new approach: A retractable camera that dangles down in front of your screen.

Created by a Hong Kong-based brand called MetaAxon, the “3-in-1” Meca webcam is featured on Kickstarter and has already raised $335,454 with 361 backers of the project.

The design and functionality of the Meca webcam are simple; the 3-in-1 peripheral features an adjustable camera, a microphone, and a ring light with scales for brightness and color temperature. These aspects are intended to help you keep a consistent presence during a video conference.

The primary feature of the Meca webcam, however, is its retractable camera. It can be pulled down from a 1.5mm cable at the base of the system to be level with your face. This configuration allows you to look directly into the camera and avoid the issues that come with having to look up or down at a misplaced webcam. The cable is also not supposed to be disruptive to any on-screen work. MetaAxon promises lifetime functionality of the retractable cable, claiming it has been tested to work accurately over 30,000 times.

The brand provides an adhesive, which allows you to stick the camera to your screen while in a conference, and easily remove it once the meeting is over. The camera itself is 1080p, 30fps, and 70-degree FOV, which MetaAxon says is ideal for video conferencing.

The light, camera, and microphone on the Meca 3-in-1 webcam

In addition to the camera are the microphone and ring light. The omnidirectional microphone features a privacy shutter. Meanwhile, the ring light, which takes up a considerable amount of the system, can also be turned on and off manually. There is also an adjustable software setting for brightness and color temperature.

The Meca webcam supports a USB 2.0 port; however, the brand said it hopes to provide backers with an OTG-C adapter. System-wise, the webcam works with Windows and MacOS.

Prices for the Meca webcam include super early bird prices of $89 per webcam and $168 for two webcams. Early bird prices are $99 per webcam, $188 for two webcams, and $445 for five webcams.

As always, Kickstarter projects are never guaranteed, and you’re always encouraged to follow our recommended crowdfunding guidelines before shelling out any cash.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Computing

Obsbot Tiny Review: Bringing A.I. Smarts to the Webcam

“The Obsbot Tiny is a unique webcam that could have benefitted from a larger sensor.”

Pros

  • Subject tracking works well
  • A.I.-driven pan, tilt, and zoom
  • Noise-cancelling microphones
  • Innovative gimbal design

Cons

  • Image quality suffers in low light
  • Maximum resolution of 1080p

Webcams have become an integral part of our lives — especially during the past year and a half — allowing us to collaborate and communicate from afar. While most webcams try to differentiate in terms of video and microphone quality, Obsbot is taking a radically different approach.

Relying on the tried and proven 1080p video standard, the $199 Obsbot Tiny is a personal home webcam that infuses artificial intelligence smarts, a dual axis gimbal, and subject-tracking capabilities into a truly powerful solution that’s typically found in larger, and oftentimes more expensive, conference room products.

It promises to be a smart tool for creators, with more natural panning, tilting, and zooming capabilities that will make your videos appear dynamic.

Design

Obsbot Tiny powered on with LED lighting

In a space where most webcams haven’t changed much over the years, Obsbot’s take is a surprising breath of fresh air. Instead of relying on an unassuming single-piece enclosure that houses the image sensor and microphones and a stand that clips to most monitors, Obsbot instead gives the traditional design an extreme makeover. With the Obsbot Tiny, what you’re getting is a cross between a a traditional webcam and a gimbal, like DJI’s Osmo series.

At a glance, the Obsbot’s design, while refreshing, may seem a bit overkill. Monitors, after all, don’t need the stabilization mechanism of a gimbal, as they’re meant to be stationary pieces of technology, and most people aren’t conducting important video calls from a loud train or a turbulent airplane. However, in this case, the gimbal isn’t designed for stabilized video feeds, but rather for controlling the cam.

The Tiny relies on artificial intelligence to drive the motor in the two-axis gimbal, allowing the cam to pan, tilt, and zoom (PTZ). This makes it one of the most — if not the most — compact PTZ desktop webcams on the market today, and the feature here rivals much bulkier and expensive videoconferencing equipment found in office conference rooms.

In fact, this design makes the Obsbot Tiny resemble DJI’s Pocket 4K with its handle chopped off. The Tiny comes with a magnetic base, allowing it to be attached to most metal surfaces, and a magnetic mounting clamp so it can attach to laptops and monitors with ease. Creators looking to use this on a tripod can also rely the threads on the bottom of the Tiny.

Obsbot Tiny on MacBook Pro

Like many modern webcams, the Obsbot can record videos at FHD 1080p resolution, but the downside is that you’re limited to 30 frames per second — other fps formats aren’t supported. Digital zoom is supported, and the maximum zoom is 2x, which gives you some flexibility to pan and zoom for tighter shots if you’re willing to sacrifice some image quality in the process.

The camera has omnidirectional microphones with noise cancellation technology, which worked surprisingly well when we tested the unit at home and in a more quiet cafe during the afternoon.

Magnetic mount for Obsbot Tiny.

The gimbal allows the cam to pan up to 150 degrees around and tilt up or down up to 45 degrees, adding the flexibility to get the perfect shot if you’re a creator looking to stream.

A single USB cable is all that’s needed to connect your desktop or laptop. Obsbot also included a DC port if your device doesn’t output enough power to the Tiny. In our testing, we didn’t need to resort to DC power on a variety of laptops from Apple, HP, and Lenovo.

Performance and image quality

Obsbot Tiny looks like a webcam mounted to a chopped off gimbal.

It’s easy to get excited about the Obsbot Tiny’s advanced capabilities in a space that has only seen iterative improvements, but you’ll have to really evaluate how you’re conducting your video calls or streaming sessions before you invest in the Tiny. Most people, for example, will be sitting relatively stationary at their desk during video calls, so the PTZ features won’t come into play at all.

If you’re prepared to convert your living room into a Shark Tank-like stage, complete with easels, a white board, and posters, then the Tiny will make sense. In this sense, the Tiny will make your home presentation look more like an Apple product announcement keynote, tracking you and your movement across your home “stage” to deliver a more dynamic video.

For its tiny size, the Obsbot Tiny works really well — the noise canceling omnidirectional microphone’s performance was solid. The party I was videoconferencing with noted that despite the background noise in a coffee shop, my voice was clean and clear, and distractions were minimized.

Video quality, for the most part, was proficient. At 1080p FHD, it was definitely crisper and less grainy than the 720p HD camera on my 2016-era MacBook Pro. In general, I found image quality to be about on par with what’s available on Windows laptops that have a 1080p webcam. That’s not exactly a huge compliment, as laptop webcams are notorious for poor quality.

Compared to a 4K webcam, like Dell’s UltraSharp webcam or Logitech’s highly rated Brio, the Obsbot Tiny’s video quality is definitely not as sharp. If you’re using the camera more for video recording — rather than streaming or videoconferencing — this shouldn’t be a big issue, as most calling services cap the upload resolution to 1080p or less.

Obsbot Tiny with magnetic mount clamp for monitors and laptops.

The biggest drawback with such an advanced webcam like the Obsbot Tiny is that the image sensor is small. This means that the camera doesn’t capture as much light as a larger camera, like a DSLR or mirrorless camera. In this case, this means that image quality quickly degrades in lower-light situations, and you’ll notice more graininess in your videos if you’re doing video calls in darker rooms. In brightly lit environments with adequate ambient lighting, this isn’t a concern, so office calls will be fine, but gamers and streamers who play in darker rooms may want to look elsewhere for a streaming solution. 

Due to the lack of HDR video support, if you’re sitting in front of a bright window, you’ll notice some blown-out highlights and darker areas in the frame will lose a bit of detail In general, white balance also suffers in challenging conditions, and you’ll find skin tones to be a little off when the camera is focused on your face.

A.I. smarts

Obsbot Tiny with USB-C and DC port for power.

A lot of the camera controls and settings can be manually tuned using software that can be installed on your PC. However, if you’d rather not man the camera yourself, you can rely on artificial intelligence to get the job done.

Like more advanced webcams, the Tiny can auto-track and auto-frame your subject, panning and tilting the camera to create a smooth video feed without choppy transitions. The feature works really well, though it may take a few seconds for the Obsbot Tiny to lock in and locate the subject. If you’re not jogging from one end of the room to the other– think small, steady pacing on stage — then the camera will be able to track without issue. The camera did struggle a bit with faster-moving subjects, like a baby running across the room.

Another A.I.-controlled element is gesture control. Rather than navigate the software or fiddle with the hardware, you can simply raise your hand, palm-side out with your fingers together, next to your face, and the camera will lock in on the target. The LED light strip on the base of the Obsbot Tiny will flash and indicate that it has locked on to you.

Once the camera identifies whom to track, it will use A.I. to pan and swivel the camera to wherever you are in the room by using the motors in the gimbal. In use, the motor isn’t loud at all, so that was a nice feature that minimized distracting background noise.

If you need to zoom, you can hold your hand up next to your face and use your pointer finger and thumb to form an “L” shape. This will trigger the camera to zoom in 2x for a tighter crop around your face.

If you’re self recording a sales pitch or presentation, having a camera that can automatically pan, tilt, and zoom allows you to create a more compelling video. The best part is you don’t even have to have a cameraperson to do the work.

And though there isn’t a dedicated privacy shutter on this camera, you can put the camera to sleep when you’re done. With this mode, the Obsbot Tiny aims the lens downward to give you peace of mind that it isn’t recording when it shouldn’t be. The LED indicator strip will also indicate if the camera is in record mode.

Our take

The Obsbot Tiny delivers plenty of advanced A.I.-powered features in a compelling hardware package. Obsbot’s Tiny webcam brings premium PTZ features more commonly found on larger conference room video solutions to an affordable package for home use. It’s really only a good option for someone who needs that functionality, though, as the image quality isn’t the best.

Are there any alternatives?

There are plenty of capable 1080p and 4K webcams. Inexpensive webcams start at well under $100, but generally, you get what you pay for. At $199, the Obsbot Tiny competes against more premium webcams, like Logitech’s Brio.

The Brio costs the same as the Tiny, but sacrifices the Obsbot’s more advanced A.I. capabilities in favor of more advanced image quality. This means you’ll get better 4K resolution on the Brio — compared to 1080p — and HDR support.

How long will it last?

The Obsbot Tiny has a standard one-year limited warranty, but webcams are designed to last for many years of use. Unlike smartphones, a webcam isn’t a peripheral that’s designed for annual or biennial upgrades, and the Obsbot can potentially last five years or even longer. Unless the hardware breaks — given the gimbal mechanism, the Obsbot Tiny may be more prone to failure than other competing webcams due to the number of moving parts — the device should last you for many years to come.

Should you buy it?

Yes, though it really depends on the features you need out of a webcam. If you’re just using the Tiny for general video chats, then its advanced features may be overkill and you’re better off getting something with better image quality. But if you’re recording a sales pitch or a presentation, having an A.I.-powered cameraman makes it a unique tool.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Game

Elgato’s first webcam gets a lot of things right

Though it’s still best known for its capture cards, Elgato is working toward taking over your entire streaming setup. The past half decade has seen the introduction of the Stream Deck line for easily initiating macros during a broadcast; different kinds of lighting; and, last year, the company’s first gaming microphones. The one thing missing in this list was a webcam — until today’s introduction of the Elgato FaceCam.

Elgato FaceCam mounted on a monitor

Kris Naudus / Engadget

On its surface, the $200 camera is not that unique. It’s a chunky rectangular box that can be easily clipped on top of a monitor, or connected to Elgato’s multi mount system. It shoots 1080p at 60fps, with a Sony-made STARVIS CMOS sensor. It may not be 4K, but most streamers don’t need that kind of resolution right now. The FaceCam makes up for it with a robust suite of settings in its dedicated Camera Hub program. Yes, you’ll have to download another piece of software for this camera to run alongside Game Capture, Stream Deck, Wave Link (for the mics) and Control Center (for the lighting), which is a little annoying. Other companies bundle all their different drivers and settings into one tool, but I suppose keeping them separate probably makes sending out updates easier.

It's a me on the screen

Kris Naudus / Engadget

In the Camera Hub you’ll have easy access to things like contrast, exposure and white balance. (The latter two can be set to automatic so you have one less thing to fuss over.) The automatic white balance was a little warm for my taste, but it was easy enough to turn it off and knock the number down to a cooler 4000K. The software also comes with zoom options, but it’s nothing to write home about, as the camera is fixed focus. You’ll always be sharp as long as you always remain between 12 inches (30 cm) and 47 inches (120 cm) from the camera. That should take care of anyone working at a desk; anyone who moves further back would be better served with something a little more portable with advanced settings.

Elgato Camera Hub, close up to my chin

Kris Naudus / Engadget

The biggest draw of the Camera Hub is the real-time ISO reading, which makes it a lot easier to detect and react to changes in your lighting. Maybe your lights are too bright, or maybe the natural light from outside vanished with an oncoming thunderstorm (which is exactly what’s happening as I type this). The exposure and white balance can adjust automatically, or you can tweak the settings yourself on the fly. There’s a Stream Deck plugin available, which should make it possible to adjust the settings with the touch of a button. Of course, that’s dependent on you having smart lighting in the first place, like Elgato’s Key Light or Ring Light.

Exposure, ISO 426

Kris Naudus / Engadget

There’s a definite sense that you’re meant to go all-in on Elgato’s streaming lineup, probably best evidenced by the lack of a microphone in the FaceCam. The company says it didn’t bother since most gamers tend to use headsets anyway, but let’s face it: Elgato would rather you pick up one of its Wave:1 or Wave:3 mics. They do indeed sound great, but they’re not my preferred microphones thanks to some issues I had with getting the Wave:3 to work while I was wearing a headset — yes, even one made by Elgato’s parent company Corsair.

Elgato Camera Hub, hey look it's me

Kris Naudus / Engadget

For the most part, the FaceCam has a lot fewer kinks. My biggest problem was plugging it in, as it must be plugged into your system directly and not via a hub. And that’s tough with many modern laptops, which may only have two USB-C ports. The FaceCam comes with a USB-C to USB-A cord, and the company recommends you use the included wire instead of providing your own. I was forced to search around for a converter dongle. While I commend companies for finally embracing USB-C in their gaming accessories, we need some solutions on the software side to ensure that they can actually be used with hubs. My Logitech C920 works with a hub and it comes with a built-in mic, so it’s likely to remain my default webcam for most purposes.

Elgato FaceCam mounted on top of a monitor

Kris Naudus / Engadget

Still, the FaceCam is off to a promising start. The video quality is crisp and free of noise, and when it’s not there’s a built-in filter you can enable. I haven’t needed it to, though, as the camera has handled my Google Hangouts and Zoom calls with ease. The price is a bit steep, but still on par with Logitech’s Brio 4K and Razer’s Kiyo Pro, both of which cost $200. What your money gets you here is the assurance that it will work seamlessly with your Elgato Stream Deck — a piece of equipment that, right now at least, has no real competition.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Categories
Computing

The Elgato Facecam is a Webcam For Content Creators

The company behind popular streaming accessories like the Stream Deck XL is back with another new accessory. Launching June 15 is the Elgato Facecam, a Full HD 1080p webcam built from the ground up with features designed just for content creators.

Priced at $200, the Elgato Facecam isn’t your average webcam. It sports a premium design and tons of advanced imaging features that ensure you look good during your Teams and Zoom calls. What makes it so special is its high-quality lens and DLSR quality sensor, as well as onboard configuration flash memory.

Elgato is using an eight-element fixed-focus lens with an f/2.4 aperture and a focal length of 24mm. This maximizes the image perimeter sharpness, reduces aberration, and enhances contrast and sharpness, even reducing lens flare. As for the sensor under the lens, it’s a Sony Starvis CMOS sensor, helping get to the webcam’s 82-degree diagonal field of view.

For those unfamiliar, this sensor is used in Dell’s Ultrasharp 4K webcam. It also is a sensor that is used in the cameras of filmmakers as well as photographers.

Interestingly, for those situations where the surroundings around you might getting too hot, the webcam even has a heatsink to keep the webcam cool. Elgato also thought about storing your settings. The webcam sports onboard flash memory, so that you don’t need to constantly change settings when you plug and unplug the webcam between different PCs.

One of the best features of the Elgato Facecam is the processor that is tucked inside it. Thanks to an advanced image engine, you can use the Camera Hub software to tweak exposure compensation, white balance, shutter speed. Facecam also provides the ISO readout from the sensor, so you can know how to tweak your lighting around you. Elgato claims this is the first for a webcam.

The Elgato Faceam doesn’t have a microphone on board, as it is expected for creators and professionals to use a dedicated microphone. And, the webcam caps out at 1080p and doesn’t do 4K imagery. Elgato says this is because “Facecam is laser-focused on providing the best possible Full HD 1080p image at a smooth 60 frames per second.”

Elgato Facecam connects to PCs or Macs via USB-C and can clamp on top of a display or attach to a tripod via a one-quarter-inch thread. It supports uncompressed resolutions of 1080p at 60 frames per second or 30 frames per second. It also does 720p at 60 frames per second or 30 frames per second. For the lower end, it can handle 540 p at 60 fps or 30 fps.

Editors’ Choice




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Computing

The Best Webcam Covers To Protect Your Privacy in 2021

Computer privacy is serious business, especially since hacking attempts can take control of your built-in webcam and even turn it on without your permission. It’s a fairly common tactic for ransomware and other malware, and the webcam on your desktop or laptop usually doesn’t have a physical cover to help protect against these things. Phone and tablet cameras may be similarly at risk.

A great solution to that problem is a small webcam cover that can physically block your camera lens and then allow you to uncover it when necessary for video chats (while you use some trustworthy antivirus software for additional protection). But quality and compatibility are very important for these covers, which is why we’re picking out the best ones, starting with the excellent Cimkiz pack.

Note: These covers don’t work on pop-up webcams — but then, a pop-up cam takes care of the problem by itself. You can also check out our favorite external webcams, which usually come with their own built-in cover options.

Cimkiz WB01 and WB02-2 Cover six-pack

These little covers have a particularly durable adhesive that’s still designed to peel off if necessary but keeps a firm bond for the long term and is designed for desktops, laptops, phones, and more. We also really like that the pack comes with two different color options, black and silver, for better matching a variety of computer models. They are also quite thin for covers, only 0.027 inches thick, which allows laptops to fully close without problems.

Trobing Webcam Cover six-pack

We like this matte Trobing cover for one reason in particular: It comes with minimalist little troughs in the slider that allow for easier gripping. So many webcam covers skip this important step and are therefore difficult to shut unless you have sturdy fingers — and this, in turn, raises the chances of accidentally peeling off the cover. Trobing fixes this problem by making it easy to generate a little friction. While it’s not as thin as our top pick, the covers are only 0.03 inches thick, so they shouldn’t get in the way no matter what device you use them on.

Targus Spy Guard

If durability is your primary concern, this Targus cover is built for extra solid, reliable protection. It also has a unique design that makes the cover very easy to operate without fear of accidentally tearing it off or having it slide open again without you noticing. The cover comes in a one-pack, a three-pack, and a 10-pack. The three-pack model has three different colors in it so you can mix and match depending on your device’s color. At 0.05 inches, it’s not especially thin, but it’s still a great pick if you are more interested in tough protection.

Cooloo Webcam Cover six-pack

If time is of the essence for your office, check out Cooloo’s superthin six-pack. Cooloo’s design may be basic, but it checks all the necessary boxes. At just 0.027 inches, they’re the same thickness as our top pick, so they’re very nonintrusive. These covers are also compatible with laptops (including MacBooks), tablets, and more. They’re not recommended for use on phones, however.

Supcase Webcam Cover six-pack

Supcase’s covers aren’t as subtle as some of their competitors, but they’re extremely functional and have the advantage of being available in two different sizes. Perhaps you aren’t sure what size webcam cover you need for your particular webcam. In that case, Supcase has you covered by supplying two sizes (max and small) to ensure you’ll get the right one for your device. These covers are expected to be compatible with most laptops, smartphones, desktops, and more. They’re pretty thin, about 0.02 inches (o.5 mm), so they shouldn’t get in the way of you closing certain devices.

camJAMR  Online Privacy Stickers

Privacy stickers are the best option if you don’t want to mess with the complexity of applying sliding covers. You can find them in several sizes and designs, and you can keep them over your webcam for extended periods of protection.

But don’t worry — the adhesive in the camJAMR stickers lets you stick and unstick them hundreds of times, so you can remove the stickers easily when you want to use your camera. Plus, the sticker has a handy pull tab that makes removal easier than you think. This particular offering on Amazon comes with three packs of stickers for a total of 51 stickers of various sizes.

In general, we’d recommend looking at non-sticker options if you use your camera a lot, but stickers are a great alternative if you go for long periods without using your device’s camera.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Computing

Razer Blade 15 Gets Even Thinner, and Now Has a 1080p Webcam

Razer has announced an updated version of its popular Razer Blade 15 gaming laptop, and the improvements it has made sound impressive. It features Intel’s new 11th-gen H-series 8-core processors. For the first time, Razer is even including an option for the Core i9-11900H in its top-of-the-line 4K OLED configuration, but that’ll cost you a whopping $3,399.

Aside from the updated processor, Razer has made some other noteworthy changes with this update. First, the chassis is even thinner than before, now measuring at just 0.62 inches thick. That’s only 0.05 inches thinner than the previous version, but in an already thin gaming laptop, every tenth of an inch counts. Razer repeats its claim that the Blade 15 is the thinnest RTX gaming laptop, stating that it is 17% smaller in volume than the MSI GS66 Stealth.

Then there’s a feature that almost seems too good to be a true — a 1080p webcam. Without increasing the size of the small top bezel, the Razer Blade 15 is among the first to jump from 720p up to 1080p. MSI and Lenovo have jumped on the train, but haven’t put 1080p webcams on flagship laptops, which usually feature a thicker bezel.

Fingerprints have been one of the lingering complaints about the matte black finish of the Razer Blade 15. In this latest iteration, Razer has finally done something about it. The new model uses a “fingerprint-resistant coating,” which Razer says will help reduce fingerprints. The company didn’t explain what exactly this coating consists of or if the surface of the laptop would feel different.

The latest Razer Blade 15 also includes an HDMI 2.1 port for the first time. A newer trend in gaming laptops, this new port standard allows variable refresh rate on newer televisions and monitors over HDMI.

The laptop still comes in a number of display and GPU configurations, all under the label of “Advanced Edition,” which highlight the company’s latest innovations and designs. You can also opt for the much cheaper Razer Blade Base Edition, starting at just $1,300. The latest improvements don’t apply to the Base Edition.

The starting Advanced Edition configuration still costs $2,299, which comes with a 1440p 240Hz screen, an RTX 3060, and a Core i7-11800H. All configurations come with 16GB of dual-channel RAM (now clocked at 3,200MHz) and a 1TB SSD. All configurations other than the cheapest also offer a secondary M.2 slot for user-updated storage expansion.

The new Razer Blade 15 is available for pre-order on May 17, and will begin shipping in June.

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Computing

The Best Webcam Apps for Android and iOS

The great work-from-home experiment of 2020 left millions of us in dire need of a webcam. Instead of splurging on one of the best webcams, we’ll show you how to use your smartphone or one you already have lying around your house. Your smartphone can function as a webcam quite easily, and there are a few apps that will help you get this done. We’ve put together a quick guide on our favorites. Here are the best webcam apps for Android and iOS.

EpocCam was first published in the app store almost a decade ago, but has really gotten its shine in the last year. This app from Elgato (now owned by Corsair), helps you use your iPhone as an HD webcam and microphone on both Mac and Windows. Once you’ve installed the corresponding drivers, EpocCam will allow your phone to be recognized as an optional webcam within apps like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and more. You can connect your phone to your computer via either Wi-Fi or USB and EpocCam will make sure your computer recognizes it.

iOS

Similar to our first entry, DroidCam lets your PC recognize your Android phone as a webcam for use in video-conferencing apps. The free ad-supported version of DroidCam supports standard definition webcam streaming and connects over USB or Wi-Fi. DroidCam also offers a paid version called DroidCamX brings a greater depth of functionality than just creating a connection between your phone’s cameras and microphones and your desktop. DroidCamX brings some tech commonly found in full-service webcams to your device. DroidCam adds video smoothing, noise cancellation, IP webcam access, and a USB-only mode for extra privacy and security. The paid version is $5.

Google Play

iCam for iOS goes beyond the traditional webcam use case and lets you remotely enable and monitor the cameras of your varied iOS devices. Whether you’re creating a makeshift security system or setting up a pet cam, iCam will allow you to view and record from your iOS device’s camera. The app and corresponding desktop software for Mac and Windows let you store motion events in the cloud to protect against loss or theft of your devices. iCam sells a number of cloud storage monthly packages starting at 5GB for $5. For an extra level of access you can log in to any of your iCam enabled cameras for any Java-enabled browser, ensuring you can check on your setup from anywhere in the world. iCam also offers a pro version with improved bandwidth, video quality, and numerous additional features.

iOS

Whatever your need or smartphone platform may be, from a work from home webcam setup to a full-fledged home security system, or just a way to keep an eye on your loved pets when you’re abroad, these apps will help you get the job done. Before you hit your local electronics store or Amazon for a pricy new webcam, take a look first at the high-definition camera sitting in your pocket.

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Computing

Why the new Microsoft Surface devices don’t have a webcam shutter

Microsoft’s Surface cameras may now be among the best around, one of many premium touches in Microsoft’s new Surface lineup. So why don’t they have a physical privacy mechanism? Documented cases of hackers listening in on baby monitors has prompted some electronics manufacturers to build them in, from buttons that turned off the microphone in smart speakers, to shutters that slide over cameras. 

According to Stevie Bathiche, a Technical Fellow and an Applied Sciences Group lead at Microsoft, that’s because the Surface webcam already notifies you that it’s on, via a small LED light next to the camera itself.

Microsoft surface led light Mark Hachman / IDG

A small, bright LED lights up to let you know that your Surface camera is on.

That’s not been good enough for a company like Lenovo, which has built its ThinkShutter privacy shutter into members of its ThinkPad laptop family for some time. That shutters slides over the camera, physically preventing the lens from seeing the outside world. (A small red painted dot informs the user that the camera is blocked.) HP’s recent Spectre devices use a switch that physically uninstalls the camera. 

At Microsoft, the LED light suffices. In part, that’s because both the light and the camera are physically disconnected from the system—theoretically, at least, making them more secure. “The light is not software-controlled,” Bathiche said. “The light is controlled by the camera itself, which is detached from the system, which means if that light’s on, it’s sending data, period.

“It’s impossible for that camera to be on, without that light being on,” Bathiche said.

Windows will flag you when your microphone is on, by popping up a mic icon on your Windows taskbar. “That’s one of the things that we felt was important for customers to understand when the microphone’s on,” Bathiche said. Some business laptops, however, go a step further by providing a dedicated key on the keyboard.

Microsoft believes that a layered approach, with trusted, secure hardware working with secure drivers, on top of a secured software stack from the operating system through to the applications, provides enough protection against intruders trying to access your system remotely. And regardless of what Microsoft says, there’s still always tape.

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Tech News

Poly made a 4K auto-tracking webcam and a video call display with built-in lighting

If working from home and home-schooling have taught us anything over the past year, it’s that the webcam in your laptop probably isn’t doing your face any favors. Standalone webcams were in short supply in 2020, but we’re now seeing heavyweights from enterprise video conferencing weigh in with consumer-focused options, like the new Poly Studio P Series.

If you’ve not been in a conference room for a while, you’d be forgiven for not knowing about Poly. The company has until this point focused on business products for video and audio calls, but the Studio P Series – which includes both a webcam, a “Personal Video Bar,” and an all-in-one “Personal Meeting Display” – focuses on the remote worker instead.

Most straightforward is the Poly Studio P5 Webcam, which is intended to replace the janky camera squeezed into your laptop’s bezel. It has a 1080p Full HD resolution and supports up to 4x digital zoom, and has an integrated directional microphone for audio. There’s also built-in USB headset support, if you’d rather use a separate headset.

A privacy shutter is built-in, too, increasingly a point of concern given remote workers’ office space often overlaps with their personal space these days. It’s priced at $129 and is expected to go on sale in April.

If you want to go further, there’s the Poly Studio P15 Personal Video Bar. That’s $599, a whole lot to pay for a webcam, but it steps up to 4K video and improves on the audio side, too. The camera supports automatic framing, using smart cropping to always keep you in the center of the frame, and there’s a privacy shutter as well.

It’s flanked by a soundbar, including both a speaker and a multi-microphone array. The latter taps Poly’s NoiseBlockAI and Acoustic Fence systems, which focuses pickup on the person sat directly in front of the camera, while tapering off on sensitivity more broadly either side of them. The larger design also means space for both a USB 3.0 Type-C port and two USB 2.0 Type-A ports.

Finally, there’s the Poly Studio P21 Personal Meeting Display. That basically builds the features of the Studio P15 into a standalone display, with a 21-inch screen, microphone array, and a soundbar running along the bottom. There’s also a wireless phone charging pad in the base, and a privacy shutter for the camera.

Built-in lighting around the screen promises more consistent illumination, and the whole thing connects via USB and should work, Poly says, with any video app for PC or Mac. It’ll be priced at $815 when it goes on sale in April.

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