Your laptop's webcam is probably horrible. But after you've spent hundreds (or thousands) of dollars, you may not have much more room in your budget for an expensive external camera. The Logitech HD Webcam C310 is a $32 camera that provides sharp 720p video, but if you want ambient-noise rejection, full-HD video or easier mounting, you'll need to look at something a bit more expensive.
It's a webcam's job to look at you, but the C310 feels a bit like it's gawking. Unlike some of Logitech's other cameras, the 2.7-inch-wide camera juts out in front of the bezel on your monitor or laptop display. The front of the camera is a gunmetal-gray oval, while the back and securing arm are both black.
Unfortunately, the C310's mounting mechanism is less effective than the ones that keep other webcams, such as the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920, in place. The webcam features a hinge with a plastic arm to hold it on top of a screen. After a bit of fiddling, I got it tight on my laptop, but my external monitors, which have rounded backs, proved to be a challenge. The C920 has a third part, a rubber foot, that held it tightly against every monitor I tried it on. The top of the monitor is the only place you'll keep this camera. Unlike the C920 and some other webcams, the C310 doesn't have a mount for tripods.
A 5-foot USB cable protrudes from the back of the webcam, and the cord should be long enough to reach a port in most setups.
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Picture and Sound Quality
The C310 is fine for some Skyping with friends, but I wouldn't use it to stream on Twitch or YouTube, or to teleconference in a professional setting. Pictures I took with the 720p webcam were fairly sharp, but a little grainy. A shot I snapped while sitting in our well-lit lab caught my face and hair but didn't pick up the fabric in my shirt the way the C920's 1080p lens did. In a pitch-black, windowless room with only the light from my laptop, the picture was even grainer, and it didn't capture details in my hair or beard. More upscale models, such as the C920 and the C930e, did catch those details, although they weren't quite as clear as they were in bright light.
The webcam doesn't have a wide-angle lens, so you'll be the only one in the frame (unless you and your colleagues or friends are very close). The C920's lens has a 78-degree field of view, and while Logitech doesn't publish numbers for the C310, it's far less spacious.
When I recorded video, the C310 did a poor job of filtering out ambient noise. I could hear everything a colleague nearby said and did, including sound from her laptop.
Logitech's bundled Webcam Software lets you take precise control of the C310. Users can zoom in and pan in every direction to set up the frame however they so choose. The app also includes a motion detector, so you can set up the webcam as a security camera. Additionally, it allows you to snap photos and record videos directly to your hard drive if you don't have a separate camera app.
However, the software does lack some of the features you get with the C920 -- specifically, a series of avatars and face masks that are fun but not essential.
If you need a sharper webcam than the one that comes on your laptop but don't want to break the bank, the Logitech HD Webcam C310 is for you. At $32, it's cheap enough to be an impulse buy, and you'll have sharp photo and video quality, especially in good lighting.
To do better, you'll have to move up in price. Logitech's HD Pro Webcam C920 is $66 and offers much better image quality, with a 1080p resolution, improved ambient-noise blocking and a more secure arm to attach to monitors and displays. But if you want something better -- anything better -- than what came attached to your notebook, the Webcam C310 is one of the most affordable, no-frills points of entry.