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A web camera was something I have happily lived without for many years on the computer and internet. However since I found out I was pregnant with our second son my mum who lives over one hour's drive away has being asking us to get one so she can see the boys growing up via Skype. It would also be good for my dad who lives in London so is again several hours away to also see the boys via the web camera too. My mum had only recently discovered Skype or I think we would of being nagged into getting one sooner hence our purchase of the Microsoft Lifecam VX-800 at our local Tesco's. As this web camera is the first one we have owned how it compares to others I can't comment. I think it is fairly safe to say that this is an entry level web camera priced at under £10. I was looking for something simple and straightforward to use and install as my computer skills are minimal. This camera seemed to fit those criteria as it is nice and simple to install. The camera is suitable for use with Windows software from Windows XP onwards. As we have a new computer this year with Windows 7 on it I knew it would be suitable for our computer.
To install the web camera all you need to do is plug in the USB cable and hey presto you are away. I can attest to its simplicity all it needed me to do was to indicate that I was happy to acknowledge this new device and it was up and running.
The camera fits nicely on the top of our flat screen for our desk top computer but the gap to sit it on the top of a computer screen is nice and wide so this would fit non flat screen computers too. Despite the camera holder looking a little fragile it is surprisingly robust and actually stands up well to some rough adjustments from our four year without any signs of damage in 6 months' worth of use. The camera also tilts and swivels very well to help you adjust it into place for use. Again this feature is still working well and is easy to use. I am able to tilt it whilst in use very easily so that the camera can focus on my young son's face for a more of a close up and even when being held in my hands still appears to give a good clear picture.
The camera has the feature of a built in microphone which given this was going to be used mainly for Skype calls to grandparents was essential for us as I didn't want a separate microphone. The microphone works perfectly and we never have had any issue with sound being picked up with the microphone from any one speaking in the area both around the computer and a good couple of meters away in the same room. This seems to translate down the airwaves to mean that both grandparents being able to hear everything clearly. The microphone gives no interference with the speakers either so I am happy with the sound quality.
Picture wise it has a 0.31MP camera, now what this means I don't know but the picture quality is very variable I find. With Skype calls I am able to see a small box on the computer screen of what my parents are able to see so this gives me a good indication of quality. It is able to cope well with movement and doesn't seem to have any fuzzy qualities when my sons or I move around and I can't see much lag in the picture related to movement. However the automatic low light adjustment is not very good or maybe it's just too sensitive. The reason I say this is when there is good light in the room very often the picture goes very dark as if it can't cope with the brightness. What I then need to do is to is just move it around slightly and then it is good for another few minutes then it will go dark again. Whilst this is ok for short 10 minute conversations with grandparents and children I don't think it is something which would lend itself well to a more business video call where fiddling about with a camera may give a less professional message. When it is dark in the room there the picture is not overly dark and it seems to cope well with soft lighting in a room equally it doesn't then become too bright to compensate. My parents have never complained that they can't see us clearly from the picture that is sent.
Overall this is a good little web camera it is easy to install for computer novices like myself and is well made. It has a good built in microphone that doesn't interfere with the speakers. The picture quality is variable and it doesn't cope too well with bright lights and seems to make the picture go dark. This is ok for short Skype conversations with families but if you are after a business web camera or one for frequent and long conversations then I don't think this is the one for you. At just under £10 I think it is worth the money but no more and for the variable picture quality it is 3 stars from me.