With a picture that's usually grainy and lacking detail, your laptop's integrated webcam really doesn't cut it when you're streaming on Twitch, Skyping with grandma or dialing in to an important business meeting. In those cases, we highly recommend the $60 Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920, an affordable external webcam that produces detailed video and photos, and that provides software to fine-tune the picture even further. If you're looking for a great camera with a wide field of view for chatting, videoconferencing and streaming, this is one of the best choices out there.
You can't miss the C920 when the black, chunky device is attached to your laptop or monitor. At its widest, the webcam is 3.7 inches. But all that bulkiness houses a 1080p camera flanked on both sides by LEDs and microphones.
The camera has an arm that hugs the back of your monitor or the lid of your laptop. The C920 also has a hinge to adjust the arm's length and a rubber foot to hold the device in place. I had no trouble mounting the C920 on both my work laptop and external displays. If you'd rather not have the webcam positioned above the monitor, you can use the built-in tripod mount to attach the camera to any stand you want.
A 6-foot USB cord hangs from the back of the webcam, which should provide more than enough length to connect the device to your laptop or desktop.
Picture and Sound Quality
After using the Webcam C920, I'm not sure how I'll ever go back to a crappy laptop webcam. When I took still photos of myself in our brightly lit labs and a pitch-dark, windowless room, I was astounded at the 5-megapixel (5168 x 2907) camera's clarity, detail and color accuracy. In better-lit environments, such as under the fluorescent lights at my desk, I could easily make out individual hairs on my head and stitches on my shirt.
The camera allows you to video-chat at 1080p (Logitech notes that the webcam can support Facetime for Mac only at 720p), and the videos that I recorded came out crystal-clear. The colors weren't as accurate as in the photos, and lights were a tad too bright, but you could still make out a ton of detail in my face and the surrounding room.
The C920's 78-degree field of view is more than enough to squeeze a second person or large object into the frame. Most built-in laptop webcams capture only enough to show a single person's torso.
Logitech's business version of this camera, the $98 C930e, offers almost identical performance but has a 90-degree field of view and colors that are more vibrant but less accurate. A photo I took with the 930e made my light red shirt look more like a cherry red. A cheaper, 720p camera, the Logitech HD Webcam C310, was grainy in comparison and wasn't as sharp in low light.
Recorded with the C920's built-in microphones, the audio in my sample video was loud and clear, but a little flat. Though I recorded my chat in an open-office setting, there wasn't a ton of ambient noise from nearby co-workers. However, the C930e had superior noise cancellation, while the C310 didn't do much to dampen background noise.
The C920 is compatible with Logitech's Webcam Software for Windows. The company touts support for Mac OS X, Chrome OS and Android, but those operating systems don't offer this program. The app allows users to zoom in and out with the camera, as well as pan left and right. If you use this at a desk, you'll likely need to use it only once, but users on the go might find themselves relying on these framing options more often.
The software features a number of backgrounds and avatars to add a bit of fun to your videoconferencing. You can also use the C920 as security cam thanks to the motion-detection mode, which can come in handy if you want to keep an eye on your desk.
Unfortunately, I found the program as a whole to be slow and buggy, hanging between tasks like taking or viewing photos and videos. It occasionally crashed, too. I quickly discovered that different models of Logitech camera worked to varying degrees with the software. The cheaper HD Webcam C310 can't utilize face masks, avatars or other special effects. The enterprise-focused Webcam C930e isn't designed to work with the software; it refuses to take photo or video at 1080p with the app's built-in recorder.
The Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 is an outstanding replacement for your laptop's integrated webcam. It takes sharp photos and videos, which makes it ideal for teleconferencing and streaming. It's easy to set up on an external monitor or laptop screen, and it works well with Logitech's dedicated, albeit buggy, software.
If you want a better audio experience, you should consider the $98 Logitech Webcam C930e. This camera has better noise cancellation and wider viewing angles but doesn't work with the webcam software. However, with a street price of just $60, the Logitech C920 is the best external webcam for the money and one of the best at any price.