Now that laptops and monitors with 4K resolutions are widely available, Logitech is upping its webcam game. The Logitech Brio 4K Pro Webcam ($199) is the first mass-market 4K webcam and the first to use HDR for accurate colors. The webcam has a 90-degree lens for wide-angle shots and software that lets you pan, zoom and replace the background behind you, green-screen style. It even has an infrared camera that you can use for Windows Hello facial logins.
Unfortunately, the Brio's clip is a huge step down from those on previous models, and it doesn't hold the camera tight against displays. Moreover, the privacy clip is loose and left adhesive residue on our review unit. If you can put up with those annoyances, the Brio takes the best shots you'll get right now, as long as you can find software that supports 4K.
When you put the Brio on top of your monitor or laptop lid, you'll notice its 4 x 1.1 x 1.1-inch black-plastic frame and a friendly, oval design centered on the 4K lens. That makes it smaller than the 5.1-inch-long Razer Stargazer. Outside of the device's shape, the Brio is pretty plain. There's a Logitech logo printed in gray, and not much else.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Lips
I'm happy to report that the cable on the Brio is detachable, so you can replace it with the connector of your choosing. The included cable measures 4.9 feet long and has a USB Type-A connector to link to your PC or laptop and a USB Type-C connection to attach to the camera. You can swap out this cable for a USB Type-C cable of your own. I found this particularly useful, as the laptop I tested the Brio with had only a single USB 3.0 port, and I was using that for a flash drive.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Lips
Unfortunately, the Brio is a big step down in build quality. Logitech webcams typically have some of the best clips in the business, because they are made of hard plastic that locks them in place against your screen. The Brio's arm is made of a flimsy rubber material. You need to bend the arm to just the right position before placing the attached foot against the back of the display, or else you'll knock it off the next time you move your computer.
Whether I used a laptop or an external monitor, the Brio wobbled with just a touch. It even fell off a laptop a couple of times when I was carrying it around. Once connected, the Logitech C930e, C920 and C922 held onto monitors and lids with a near vice grip thanks to their sturdy, two-part arms.
I understand why Logitech made the change: This arm is detachable and pulls out to reveal a tripod mount. It's a cleaner look than the C930e, which has the tripod mount on the arm. Removing the arm also lets you leave the camera sitting flat on a shelf. But the most noticeable result of the change is just how easy it is to knock this thing over.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Lips
The Brio comes with a privacy webcam cover, which I appreciate, but that, too, is shoddily made. Our review unit had some adhesive on the inside of the cover, which made it stick to the front of the camera, but the back of the clip was loose and easy to knock off when I opened and closed the cover. The C930e's cover clips on securely to both the top and the bottom for a snug fit.
It's almost as if those details -- the clip and the privacy cover -- were afterthoughts.
Logitech also includes a drawstring carrying case in the box, which is a nice addition for travelers who are using the Brio on the go and don't want to jam it into a bag without protecting it.
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Picture and Sound Quality
The Brio takes the best-looking pictures I've seen from an external webcam. They're wide-screen, with accurate colors and nice, sharp details. Logitech's webcam uses its RealLight 3 technology with HDR (high dynamic range) to adjust to any environment, and it took great shots under the fluorescent lights of our office and in our lab, which is full of natural light.
My blue sweater appeared exactly as it does in real life, and the camera caught every little hair on my head. Thanks to the wide 90-degree lens, it caught more of the background than usual, including the mountainous piles of boxes, which looked sharp in my test shots. The only time the Brio fell to its predecessors, the C930e and the C920, was in complete darkness. When I was lit only by the monitor of a laptop, I was almost impossible to make out, rendered as a ghostly apparition in the darkness.
The dual omni-directional microphones produce clear sound. It was nice and loud, and when I tried recording at my desk, I heard myself over everyone else talking, including a loud meeting occurring in our open-layout office.
4K Use Cases
Right now, there aren't many ways you can use the Brio at its full 4K resolution. There aren't a ton of apps and services that stream in 4K, and you need a 4K monitor to truly appreciate the picture. I called my colleagues in Skype for Business and HipChat, and although they admired the white balance and 90-degree camera angle, they saw me in only 1080p -- not 4K -- because Microsoft's app doesn't support 4K. Google Hangouts also lacks the ability to display content in ultra-high definition.
In theory, you could live stream 4K to YouTube if you had enough bandwidth. You could also record locally in 4K and upload later to platforms that can handle video at that resolution. For video chatting, enterprise app Vidyo is the only software that supports 4K that we could find. (I can't blame you if you don't want to overturn your entire workflow for Vidyo.)
But until apps and services that support 4K are available widely (and lots of people own 4K monitors), the ultra-high-resolution aspect of the camera will not be immediately useful, and the wide-angle lens and RealLight 3 with HDR will shine instead.
Software and Infrared
The Brio uses the Logitech Camera Settings app to adjust image brightness, contrast, white balance and color intensity, as well as lets you pan and zoom. Additionally, it can switch the Brio's 90-degree field of view to a more limited 78 or 65 degrees, for when you don't want to show so much of your office in the background.
The Camera Settings software doesn't install automatically when you plug in the Brio. Instead, you'll have to go to Logitech's website to get it.
There's an optional background replacement feature powered by Personify. Logitech says that feature is in beta and won't always work perfectly, which is why it's not built directly into the app. Instead, you need to download an extra driver to get it to work.
There's a really cool new feature that blurs the background, which is awesome if you're in the type of office where sensitive documents are just left on desks all willy-nilly. There are a bunch of other preset backgrounds, Chromakey (green screen) for game streaming and the option to add any custom background you want.
The camera can support varying frame rates depending on which resolution it's capturing (though that control is based on the software you're using). It can record 4K video at 30 frames per second, 1080p at 30 or 60 fps, and 720p at 30, 60 or 90 fps. In the Windows Camera app, a video recorded at 90 fps in 720p was far smoother than 4K video, even if it wasn't as detailed.
The Brio uses an infrared camera to support facial recognition to log in via Windows Hello, which works great no matter the lighting situation in your room. I used the Brio to successfully unlock a computer in both bright light and complete darkness.
You should get the Logitech Brio 4K Pro Webcam if you have the budget and you want to be ahead of the curve. Right now, there's limited utility for 4K video, but the HDR functionality means you get the sharpest, most-color-accurate photos I've ever seen on a webcam. You'll look great, but you'll look better when your friends have 4K displays with software that supports 4K video chats.
Unfortunately, Logitech seems to have forgotten about build quality with the Brio. The clip doesn't fit monitors and laptops as well as prior generations, and the privacy camera is a residue-laden afterthought.
Most people who are in the market for a new webcam now should go with the $60 Logitech C920 or the $93 Logitech C930e -- the company's much cheaper consumer and enterprise versions, respectively, that both shoot awesome 1080p video with excellent sound. Both also have far better clips, and the 930e comes with a superior privacy cover.
If you're a YouTuber who wants to live stream super-sharp video in the highest resolution you can, the Brio is for you -- but you should use a tripod instead of the lackluster clip. But everyone else should wait for a future revision of the Brio. By the time that comes out, 4K will be far more widespread, and hopefully, you'll get better hardware.