Logitech has long been proponents of video conferencing. This is usually done either through a webcam that you plug into your desktop or a front facing camera found on most laptops, tablets and smartphones. Logitech takes a different approach with the TV Cam HD. This device is built purely for any television sets or screens with HDMI audio output. It is an all in one integrated package that combines the Skype with a HD camera and 4 microphones. The Logitech TV Cam HD retails for S$299.00.
The TV Cam HD is a rather large and heavy camera. You can set it on a flat surface or clip to the top of your television set. The sturdy hinge allows you to fit the camera on any bezel or vertically adjust the angle should you prefer to sit it on a shelf. The camera was easy to install and it felt solid and hefty.
There are 2 basic inputs. The first is micro USB power connector and the second a HDMI cable. The HDMI cable handles both video and audio signals. The third input is optional. Should you not have a wireless network at home, you can plug in a good ol’ fashioned RJ45 Ethernet port into the back of the camera. I tested the TV Cam HD with both wired and wireless connections and there was no distinguishable difference in quality.
The camera captures widescreen HD 720p video with Carl Zeiss optics lenses. There are 4 noise cancelling microphones and a built in ringer that activates even if the TV is off. The TV Cam HD basically has its bases covered for making smooth audio and video calls from your living room via your TV.
Controlling the Logitech TV Cam HD is done purely via a small remote. There are no confusing buttons and the entire layout is very intuitive.
While it would have been interesting to have the TV Cam HD have speakers on its own, utilizing the television’s larger speakers created better sound during audio and video calls. What I really wished was for the camera to run at 1080p instead of 720p. However, doing so would have placed higher bandwidth requirements. Considering that many current generation gaming consoles and other peripheral devices for televisions run at 720p, the lower end HD spec of the camera is not a major talking point.
The TV Cam HD feels solid and is very easy to install.
The TV Cam HD feels solid and is very easy to install. As Logitech targets this device for users who are not PC users, the setup experience is almost identical to that of setting up a console or a set top box. This is especially important as the main purpose of this device is to easily stay in touch within a laid back living room environment.
The setup that I used was a Samsung SyncMaster T260HD which is a combination of a television set and a 1920 x 1200 monitor. The video call made was over separate internet connections to my desktop PC in my room. The PC utilized a Dell Ultrasharp U3011 at 2560 x 1600 hooked up to a Logitech C250m web camera.
The TV Cam HD runs Skype native as its software platform and you have to complete a few simple set up procedures which includes entering a password if you are using Wi-Fi and tweaking the camera. The TV Cam HD allows digital zoom, pan and tilt which is a nice touch especially if you have a very large living room. You set the defaults here, test the connection and you are good to go.
You log in or sign up depending on whether you have a Skype account. After that, you are able to view your friends list and can add contacts on this page. Obviously you can make and take calls both audio and video at any time. Skype subscribers with paid accounts can also call land lines via the TV Cam HD. The key essence of this device is that it delivers a near complete Skype experience without the need of a PC or a mobile device. Logitech largely gets the experience right.
The device handles audio and video exceptionally well.
There are some caveats that are important. There is no way to communicate besides audio and video as text based instant messaging is not available on the TV Cam HD. This means that problems with audio and video might mean you have no way of telling the other party that you are facing technical issues. While a text based messaging capability will kill the living room TV experience, having this fundamental feature built in would have been nice. It is also because of this that typing is rather unpleasant on the TV Cam HD. The onscreen keyboard is a hassle to navigate and you are thankful that you will usually not see this after your initial setup. I would have preferred if Logitech expanded their TV Cam HD line up to include a text messaging option with a souped up remote that featured a mini keyboard. This would have delivered the full Skype experience.
Besides this, the device handles audio and video exceptionally well. I was astounded especially by the quality of the audio captured through its 4 noise cancelling microphones. Speaking far away from the TV was not an issue as the camera was able to pick up voice cleanly with great range. The video stream was smooth at 720p and did turn up the brightness to ensure a more distinct video feed. Colors were vibrant as well.
I have no complaints about the performance, Logitech delivers where it should and the TV Cam HD performs exactly as advertised.
If you want to hold Skype conversations without needing a PC or a mobile device, this is the product to get. The audio and video quality was top notch and the ease of setting up means that this product will fit anyone who has used a TV before.
Anyone who has used a TV before will find the TV Cam HD intuitive and simple. You don’t need the manual.
A very common case use will be to get this for elderly folks who prefer not to dabble in computers and mobile devices. It is rather nice to easily communicate on Skype without needing to run this through a secondary device. This is one of the best self contained Skype device built.
While the price of S$299 may be high, you get everything you need if you are a big Skype user looking for a great standalone audio and video calling experience.
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