More and more people are using webcams to connect with others either for business or pleasure, so it only stands to reason that we should see more low-cost offerings that don’t skimp on features. Come along as we take a look at Genius’ $30 WideCam 320, which aims to cover these points, while offering users a look at the “bigger picture”.
With plenty of light, video on the WideCam 320 looks quite good even if I don’t, but there’s no webcam on the market today that can improve this mug. When moved into a low-light environment, the image quality drops as the camera tries to use the available light in the room to display the subject. A lot of the sharpness and clarity is lost and the amount of blur is increased when the subject moves, but this is to be expected.
The WideCam 320 gets the job done from a video stand point, but the audio is where things start to fall flat. No matter what settings were modified – such as microphone boost – the audio always came in extremely soft and muffled. Unless I began to really project my voice, which put me on the verge of yelling, the built-in microphone had a hard time picking up sound. To rule out a possible audio problem on my desktop, it was also connected to my laptop, but the audio levels didn’t improve.
Another problem that I ran into was that the mounting clip provided almost no resistance; the camera would not stay where it was placed. While mounting it onto a LCD monitor in the office, the camera routinely shifted position due to the weight of the USB cable. Tightening the screws on the clip only helped to a small degree and I found myself having to place it very carefully, hold my breath and hope for the best.
From a design perspective, I like that the WideCam 320 is quite small, which means it manages to stay fairly inconspicuous. This could be a big selling feature for someone who plans to hook it up to an HTPC in their living room and doesn’t want a camera that looks out of place.
This small, light-weight package creates a problem though as the camera simply wouldn’t stay where it was placed without some creative maneuvering. Adding some extra resistance to the points where the clip is adjusted would go a long way here.
Performance-wise, the video in bright light environments is good, but I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say it’s 8 megapixels good. The camera on my phone is only 5 megapixels and it does a much better job when there is enough light. Moving into low-light environments, the WideCam 320 holds its own and does a good job at using what light is available.
Normally I try to list any shortcomings while being as tactful as possible, but to put it bluntly, the audio on the WideCam 320 is terrible. No amount of tweaking would make the audio come through clearly, so that’s one half of the webcam equation that doesn’t add up.
The WideCam 320 doesn’t live up the claims on the box, but it’s the price-point that might woo prospective buyers so that they look past any performance problems. It’s retailing for about ~$30 US, which makes it very attractive. Couple this with the fact that it works with Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems, and it could be a winner for those who don’t need bleeding-edge video or audio.
There are better options out there for those who are able to spend even $20 more, but for those who want what I would call an entry-level webcam, the WideCam 320 from Genius might be worth a look.