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HUE HD Webcam

Date: October 16, 2007
Author(s): K. Samwell

Webcams come in various shapes and sizes, but HUE’s HD webcam is unique. Besides being offered in six different colors, it has a bendable arm that allows for precise positioning. Or so we thought…



Introduction

Note: This page was written on 11/16/07 as a response to a newer sample that was received. Pages 2 and 3 are from the original review.

We here at Techgage, recognize that flawed products happen, a bad production run, damage in shipping, or just human error can cause a device to not function as intended.

A lot can be said for a company that cares about how their products are presented. Shortly after the initial review for Clique’s HUE Webcam was posted the product management division of Clique Communications contacted us, expressing concern that the item received was obviously and unacceptably flawed. They have since sent me a replacement webcam and update software, and so I am adding an addendum to the previous review with the new camera and software details.

Software Updates

The drivers are now updated, and the software is in version 1.1, a .1 step up from last time. There were no Windows Logo verification testing issues this time, which is nice. I understand it’s not critical, but error free installation is always a positive sign. The visual look of the installation software itself has not changed, however allowing the app to take you to Clique’s product site, does so in a browser that is not your default browser.

Now something I completely did not notice the first time around, was Clique’s Greetings, which is a web based communication portal, integrating your webcam, and allowing you to send a video greeting. This does not appear to allow real time chat.

The reason I missed this the first time around, is any time installation software asks if I want to view the company website, the answer is no, because chances are I’ve already been there or I wouldn’t have downloaded or purchased their software.

So lets try this with AMCap again. Success! Narf! (Sorry having those two nearby does something strange to me.)

Now we have a comparable image available. This camera shows absolutely no signs of the lens flaws that caused little bright spots to appear on the images produced by the previous version. (Pinky really does have eyeballs, they’re just hidden behind his nose.) The focus adjustment is smooth and the image is relatively clear. As stated earlier, production errors can occur and the issues with the previous camera lens were obviously a production line defect and not representative of the intended quality of the product.


Note: This image is a little blurry due to compression.

Hardware Updates

Now another issue I had with the previous version had to do with the stiffness of the ‘neck’. Let’s address that. If you recall, I previously attached the old camera to my monitor, and with dismay and some hilarity, watched as it drooped to faceplant onto my desk.

Here goes! I’m plugging it in now… and… wow, it held position without issue. It didn’t even waver a millimetre! Several positions tested and they all appeared to hold, I was able to move the camera towards me without fail, up down, you name it, it held its position. I have to admit, I’m surprised. Initially feeling the ‘bendiness’ of the two cameras, this one did not feel any different but its performance says otherwise. I was completely unable to attain any of these positions with the previous and apparently defective one.

And lastly, how does this hold up in its base? I still think the base itself is under-weighted, both weighing in at approximately 22grams (my scale is analog not digital but they appear to weigh the same amount). The following image shows the absolute extreme I could push the newer camera neck. (Even then it fell about half a second after I snapped the pic.)

In an extreme example, if you were to attempt suspend this camera from a shelf above your PC, you’d simply need a single ‘sticky dot’ to ensure it did not come crashing down on to your keyboard, but as mentioned that would be extreme. Most users are going to sit this beside their monitor (or plug it into their monitor or laptop) and use the neck to adjust for a perfect picture of themselves. It allows for quite a bit of tweaking to get yourself or your subject centred vertically and horizontally, and that’s worth mentioning.

I’d like to thank Ray Minchew, Director – Product Management for addressing the concerns we had about this product and allowing us to review an item that is more representative of the final product as intended. This tells me that the company cares about their products and the people who use them.

Previously I rated this webcam as follows:

With an overall average rounding up to 6/10.

Knowing now that the product I initially reviewed was manufacturally flawed, and having reviewed a production release of this camera that is more representative of the cameras on the market, those ratings have obviously improved.

With an overall rating of 8/10, adding bonus marks for the care and concern shown by the company.

I’d still like to see a heavier base but overall this product is much better than initially reported, and while we still have the original review for you to read, please know that I gave this new camera a fair chance, putting it through the same tests as the previous product and found significant improvements.



Original Review Introduction

I love getting boxes of goodies in the mail. This was no exception. I opened the HUE Webcam box with glee and anticipation of wonderful things in store…

Like many other birthdays and gift exchange holidays, I oohed and aahed at the shiny contents, carefully read the instructions to make sure I wouldn’t break my new toy, got everything setup and plugged in, ready to go, still a-twitter with excitement. It wasn’t until I actually tried to use the item as intended that I found a less than stellar item within that shiny package.

Let me start from the beginning (as opposed to the middle I guess). Upon opening the box, I was alerted to the need to install the software before plugging in the camera. I heeded the multiple warnings and installed the software, only to find that it would not let me specify WHERE to install the software. I’m a stickler for organization, I know where everything is and I like to keep it all on a slave drive, with little or nothing on the master drive other than the OS. However, this forced itself to install at some mysterious location it did not share with me, much to my irritation.

The second surprise, which to some may not be such a big deal, came in the form of an error message on install. In my humble opinion, this does not bode well.

This thing is not making friends so far. But I also concede not everything is perfect. So speaking of which, let’s move onto the camera device itself.

Now there’s the option to plug it directly into a laptop USB port, or using the generously long extension, plugging it into the back of a PC and using the base to support the camera itself.

So ok, I figured, why not just plug it into the USB port on my monitor? Makes sense right? (By the way, this shows up for me as a USB audio device.) Well, Robert Burns said it oh so well: “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Here is what I mean by awry…

Now ok, that made me snicker at first, and was a bit of a game but in the end, it just made me sad to see that poor little thing do a face-plant every time I tried to get it to stand up. Oh and I tried many ways to get that thing to stay upright, short of just taping it to my monitor, which would probably be the only option.

I finally gave in, and let it droop, curving the head up as much as possible so that it formed a sort of U-shape and even then, I found it would slowly want to return to its original position. Gravity does that.

Scrapping that idea altogether, I looked to the base that came along with the camera. Now this required the use of a USB extender, and I must say, the longest one I’ve ever seen, this thing is 6′ long, (a little less than 2 metres).

Now if that last picture seems a little lewd, it won’t take you long to find out that other people have dubbed the as a porn cam. I’m not going to touch that with a 6′ USB extender…

However those pictures are a good example of the only positions I could get the camera to stay upright while in the base. The base is not heavy enough to support the camera if it is tilted more that 15 degrees off the vertical to the sides, more towards the front and considerably less towards the back. Bending the camera over your keyboard no matter how you try to do it will just fall over.

You have to worry about the entire camera’s centre of gravity, meaning it has to balance or it will just topple on you. If the base had been heavier this would not have been an issue, and it wouldn’t have needed to be a brick either. Just making it weigh more than the actual camera head and neck seems to me to be an intuitive concept. Apparently I’m alone in that.

I finally settled on this:

It didn’t take up my desk space, kept in position while hugged against my monitor and gave a pretty decent direct shot.



Testing, Final Thoughts

You’re probably wondering about the performance of the camera itself. After all that drama with the positioning, I wasn’t hopeful. But I must admit, I enjoy being surprised on occasion.

Focus adjustment is very smooth and is positioned directly at the lens. This however is something I didn’t really feel I needed to do, I would have preferred a zoom feature here, instead of, or in addition to, the focus.

There’s an easy quick-pic capture feature used by pressing the button on the back of the camera head, however I found that since the camera head isn’t very steadily secured, that touching it and pushing that button, caused the head to move enough to mess up the shot.

The room I am in is lit overhead and the sun is out – the image is actually quite clear and very sharp. Wish however that I could zoom in without moving the camera. It does make me want to move my desk so that the window is not behind me as this does cause some odd effects. I must say this is much more revealing than looking in a mirror…

So here’s a picture of my Tachikoma, purchased from http://www.tfaw.com. Isn’t she cute!?

Now the original image when screen captured using the button, saves as a bitmap or a jpg. This gives you a choice between quality and file size. The same image as a bitmap was 901k and as a jpg was 22k.

With the lights out, the base is illuminated when the unit is powered. The ‘head’ is illuminated faintly when a webcam app is running, to let you know whether or not you’re being captured.

Even in a considerably dark room, this web cam works well in VERY low light. The only light in this room is the glow from my monitor, and yet myself, as well as a bit of the wall behind me are clearly visible.

Some strange artefacts on the image, as if the lens is dirty, yet it is not. Perhaps flaws in the lens itself, as they are static with the image. It is more noticeable in a dark back ground and almost looks as though it is a ‘bright’ spot. When I hold a piece of paper up, the spots are less noticeable, but still there. Actually I just did a little experiment. Moving the application window does not affect the location spots therefore it is not something on my monitor, or burned out pixels. Moving the camera around DOES NOT affect the location of the spots.

Mystery.

Here is an example of the artefacts:

They’re on every still image, always in the same place in the window, no matter where I move the window on my desktop or zoom or move or dance a jig. So there are the stills, lets look at some video quality. Due to overall file sizes, the videos are not included for downloading.

This is my stuffed Tachikoma with an LED badge scrolling the words “It’s my Birthday” (it’s not my birthday, I just can’t find the cable I need to change the text) The room is very well lit and there’s still some bloom effects on the LED, so much so that you cannot really read it, but there’s no stutter in the scrolling image. It’s as smooth as the real thing. I can compare the live image with the captured image and they’re identical. Impressive video, but I want to see how it looks in a darker room.

This is a small plasma display I reviewed in the ‘Spotlight on Brando‘ article. Geeky I know, but it’s hypnotic. I wanted to see how camera kept up with a very dynamic subject.

There’s still some bloom from the item itself, but just like the LED name badge, comparing the video with the live image is amazing. There’s no popping, no missed frames, nothing.

There are several capture options with this software, and while not the most intuitive, also not rocket surgery. I’m sure there are more dynamic and functional software options out there, so use whatever you’re familiar with.

Final Thoughts

So, what can I say that I haven’t already said? There’s an idea here that required better execution. Additions that would have been nice:

This is a $30 webcam, not a $100 webcam. For this price, I would expect wireless and something that would stand up on its own a lot better.

I’d like to find a way to give this item three ratings.

Which all averages to a rather unstellar, 5.6/10 so let’s be generous and just call it 6/10. I really wanted to like this webcam, I thought it was innovative and flexible. And while it has hints of both of these concepts, the final product falls quite short of its potential.

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