Last year brought to light the technical need to take our webcam and microphone setup much more seriously than ever before. Despite the ubiquity of webcams built into laptops or as accessories, many of us quickly realized an undeniable truth: most webcams suck. Dell’s latest UltraSharp webcam seeks to solve many of the most glaring problems associated with video conferencing by raising the bar all round with a sleek body design and improved 4K resolution.
When looking at the Dell UltraSharp webcam, the original Apple iSight webcam from the early 2000s surely comes to mind. They share a similar cylindrical aluminum case, although Dell has given their webcam a bit more girth and a gunmetal finish – a commendable job that avoids the cheap plastic feel of the competition without being too heavy. When pushed for a comparison, the Dell UltraSharp webcam looks and feels like a cut section of a mountain bike frame, with a comfortably matte finish and just enough weight to communicate an upgrade.
When attached to our Surface Studio 2 desktop or something slim like Dell’s own Latitude 7320 Detachable, Dell’s 3.54 ″ L x 1.65 ″ W cylindrical design gives it a distinct presence on top or side when on a tripod is mounted. The combination of well-balanced design and monitor bracket results in a very stable setup, which can, however, wobble on a very slim monitor.
It would be remiss on our part not to mention that, to our chagrin, the Dell UltraSharp webcam’s 4K is currently not compatible with M1-powered Apple computers. Another important feature is missing: built-in microphones. Dell says they purposely left an audio line in for privacy and avoiding accidental moments when they didn’t realize it was on. While those who already have USB-powered microphones won’t overlook the omission, as built-in microphones are generally below par, it’s worth noting that it’s uncommon to see a video device with no sound as an option.
While there is no microphone, Dell paid special attention to the form factor mounting options, which, like most monitor-mount webcams, extend outward and then horizontally across. The bottom of the webcam has a recessed magnetic connector with which the monitor bracket supplied can easily and securely click into place. An intelligent and optimized solution that can also be expanded to include a tripod mount that is supplied. The mount itself is angled up or down to ensure a secure fit on most monitors and allow for relatively easy adjustments.
The latest video recording accessories from Dell offer 4K video (3840 x 2160 resolution) at film-like 24 frames per second or up to 30 frames. Downgrade the video to 1080p or 720p video and options for 24, 30 or 60 frames per second are unlocked. Finding that the “4K” resolution of all webcams today is more of a suggestion than a spectacularly high-resolution experience, the Dell UltraSharp webcam is a more than modest improvement over something like the Logitech Brio, another popular 4K webcam.
Not only is the image objectively clearer, but also better at smoothing out the harsh shadows / contrasts caused by imperfect lighting (e.g. auto focus and auto white balance are a given, but the addition of HDR is an upgrade. Most of the fine-tuning will be Provided via the Dell Peripheral Manager, where resolution, HDR activation and other functions can be adjusted to personal preference.
Even so, the webcam is still too short compared to using an Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy device, or a connected digital camera for video chatting, but given the price difference between an accessory for $ 199 and a cell phone for $ 1,000 this is totally to be expected digital camera. Keep the expectations realistic and note that the Sony STARVIS CMOS 8.3 MP sensor can only do limited magic inside, but is an improvement over the options of the last generation.
Instead of a physically adjustable rotating base, the Dell UltraSharp webcam has an additional trick up its sleeve: AI auto-framing. That means the webcam can track your head when you move or adjust positions, a nice trick for anyone using their webcam for online presentations or workshops that require some movement. The effect occurs with a fairly slow motion that is panned at a leisurely pace, but it can also be turned off.
Like any webcam available today, the Dell UltraSharp webcam works best with adequate and adequate lighting. So remember to invest in inexpensive external lighting as well. Still, Dell’s webcam is a confirmation that most of us can’t zoom, hold, or google meetings in perfectly lit conditions, and more than close the gap between a good-quality webcam and a great video experience for under $ 200 – without microphone.
To learn more about the Dell UltraSharp webcam, visit dell.com.