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Philips ToUcam Pro

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      24.04.2001 19:37
      Very helpful



      Now that I have written, and you have hopefully read, my guide on how to purchase a webcam, how does my webcam fare? Well towards the end of February this year, I had about £60 to spend on a webcam and I didn’t know as much about them, well not as much as I do now. So my purchase was based on the technical specifications of the webcam and reviews in consumer sites like DooYoo etc (however I found these were opinions on out of date webcams, or by users who knew less than me). In case you have not read my guide on purchasing a webcam, webcams are those little egg sized cameras which sit nicely above a monitor (or wherever) and they are used to host live webcam broadcasts over the internet, to take still shots, or to record short movies. As I said (or implied) the Phillips ToUcam Pro costs £60 (well £58 from Simply computers and Dabs direct when I purchased it, but I also got quotes for £70 or £80) anyway this to you suggests that this is an average webcam then doesn’t it? ABSOLUTELY NOT. You get a webcam that matches the specs of >£100 webcams <Don’t be scared of buying one> Webcams are very easy to use, I ignored the manual (which is on CD, how greedy) and learned as I used it. On my guide I recommended a still resolution of a minimum of 680x480 pixels, and a video frame rate of at least 30 frames per second (fps) capable of at least a pixel resolution of its maximum. This camera more than achieves this (so does its little brother the ToUcam XS, which just manages), but it passes with flying colours, you can take 1.2 mega pixel stills and record footage of 60fps at low resolution, this knocks its rivals down hands down. Also, this has a 1/4' CCD sensor, which as I said in the webcam guide is superior, and is really the standard nowadays! Most webcams connect to your PC via a USB (Universal Serial Bus) port, and this one is no exception. When you buy a webcam it is also importa
      nt to know how long the cable is, I am not sure what your needs are but this cable is 2.95 metres long, I would prefer 3.5m, but 2.95m is acceptable. Also, some webcams include a microphone (built in), this has a digital USB microphone built in and it is satisfactory. I have used it to record footage and in “netmeeting” and it is very good, much better than having a separate microphone. Also bear in mind how it is going to be housed, some have a stand for your monitor or wherever and the camera fits nicely on top. This one is unique, you are supplied with one stand and the camera has feet, or more accurately, claws, it is so versatile that it can cling onto your laptop screen. Dooyoo has a picture of it on this opinion (or catrgory) so you can see what I mean. The shape of this is not the best, it is not the most compact or attractive webcam. I think you will agree that the styling leaves a lot to be desired, but for £60, you can’t have the world. From the statistics, this webcam is twice as good as its similarly priced rivals, US Robotics do one that has the same specs for £110, but that looks far more desirable. <Enough lies, damn lies and statistics, is this webcam any good?> If you are a demanding user and you have never used a webcam before, you will be disappointed. But if you are like me, somebody who wants a half-decent webcam that is better than the rest and costs less than the rest and is intelligent enough not to buy something costing the same but performs much worse, then this is one of the few webcams you should consider, I really think I made the right choice. The problem with any webcam is that it is overrated. When I heard the term “mega pixel” I drooled and thought I would get digital camera quality at a fraction of the price. I plugged in my webcam, changed the focus by turning the yellow hoop in front of the lens (yes webcams are manual focus) and I took my
      first snap, I was disappointed, the pictures were a little blurry and pixely, I expected clear smooth lines, I spent time adjusting the picture, there are millions of settings like “gamma”, “Brightness” etc etc and preset features like an “indoor mode”, “full auto”, “Flicker free” etc, all of them work, but I was still disappointed, I was expecting a little too much. Honestly, the quality is more than satisfactory, and the photos taken are indeed capable of being 1.2 mega pixels. As I said in the guide, if you want to take snaps, then buy a good digital camera, at least you can take that outside, but it will cost a hell lot more. The camera is also good at taking footage, I was not disappointed there, 60 frames is smooth, although once again, my expectations were too high. Also the design, which I thought was innovative, has become a hindrance, I wish there were more stands because I like a secure fixture, but I also would like to move it around. This webcam is also a lot more compact than I thought it would be, it comes with an egg shaped soft carry case, and it amazingly fits, (I won’t say it’s “cracking” but it is). It also comes with some great software, in case you do not have graphics applications and of course, that includes “Spotlife” where you can join an on-line webcam community, joining was easy and I was running a webcam for 20 minutes until the fun diminished. Beware, I have a very powerful PC and Spotlife crashes it when I close it in certain ways!!! Also when adjusting image settings on grahics packages the PC might crash too! I mentioned Netmeeting earlier, this is the videoconferencing programme that you can use if you have a hotmail account and if your friend also does. The service is absolutely free and if your friend has a webcam too, then you can participate in a live chat. As I said in the guide, it is bandwidth demanding,
      so don’t expect quality. The software comes with the CD in case it is not already on your PC. I said that this is the thing the webcam is most useful for. Well the ToUcam pro works fine for this, maybe not demanding enough on it. If Netmeeting is the only thing you will ever use, you really don’t need such good quality, maybe get a DSL or cable line for £30-£40 a month. I think I’m beginning to repeat myself, which is a good reason to try to stop and try to give you a more open review. Before I went to the shop, the choice was between this and a webcam by Kodak, the advantage was that that was portable, it was a digital camera too, but it was only something like 640x460 still resolution. Creative also do a portable one too the “Webcam Go Plus” that retails for around £110 and on paper, it is not better than the Kodak, but far better looking. <Conclusions> So to conclude, with this webcam, you have a complete package, one that is almost unbeatable on paper and it delivers, if you think the world of webcams, but have never used one, you may be disappointed, but you can do a lot worse. I think I have made the right decision, however, if that US Robotics one was the same price, I would have instantly opted for that. If you are sceptical about webcams, but want to share the fun (i.e. take restricted stills, email them and do conferencing) but have low demands, this is also the right webcam, but you might be better off with an inferior one, the ToUcam XS retails for less than £30 and £45 with a microphone. So before you buy one of the more popular Logitech or Creative webcams, look at this one, it probably costs less! Overall, this is outstanding for the price and not one to be overlooked. According to the Philips website, you get a 1 year "return to dealer" warranty (parts & labour). find out more at: http://www.pcstuff.philips.com/prd/product_list.jsp?Country_Code=PCStuff&ca


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