The Consumers Electronic Show (CES) ushers in the New Year by giving one a bird’s eyes view of what products will be available in the months ahead. Some of the electronic products offered cover the gamut of being mundane while other products are innovative. Take for instance, the slick and futuristic looking Boynq Alibi Computer Speaker Webcam and Microphone. We jumped at the opportunity to put this gadget to the test.
Dubbed, the Alibi, this USB plug and play combination computer speaker, webcam, and microphone, aims to add a bit of style to the way one uses a webcam. What makes this webcam different from other web cams is that the web cam is enclosed inside of the body and is released by pressing on top. Hence, the web cam pops out and the speakers are turned on as well (this is the on/off button). This webcam can also manually tilt and swivels around. The microphone is located to the right of the web cam lens (it’s a small slit), and the speakers are housed on the bottom of this unit (four stands prop up the body of the web cam, thus allowing the sound to emit from the speakers). The volume “control ring” button for the speakers is located in the middle of the webcam and is smartly labeled “volume”, and minimum and maximum buttons are clearly but cleverly marked. Also, the packaging for this web cam is the best marketing presentation that I’ve seen in awhile.
Weighing less than one pound and measuring 0100 x 210mm, this USB powered combo speaker, webcam and microphone can be tilted 25 degrees and rotated 300 degrees and has enhanced 5 Watts RMS full range speakers, includes echo cancellation technology which enables echo-free conversations, has a directional microphone and is magnetically shielded against high frequency (mobile phone) interference and it is compatible with all versions of Windows Operating System (except NT) and Mac OS 8.6 and later. Additionally, the Alibi is available in the following colors: green, orange, pastel purple and blue. The Alibi comes with a USB 2.0 cable that plugs into the lower base of the unit and leads directly into a computer’s USB port and microphone and volume jacks. The Alibi is constructed of durable plastic with soft and reserved undertones and gives off an air of industrial art with a save the environment appeal.
At 1.3 mega pixels (640×480) I found the Alibi to be the industry standard at best. When I used it with Skype and MSN (per the box documentation and downloadable online manual), I was able to use some of the enhanced features embedded into the aforementioned programs such as enhanced VoiP. The overall video and record playback quality was average at best (nothing to write home about) for a product of this price point. However, the quality of the audio during voip/chat was very clear and the people that I chatted with were able to hear me very clearly.
The speakers provided a puny and tiny sound with audio from music and movies, and the sound was very distorted and cracked when the volume was cranked up to the maximum. Suffice it to say, at 5 Watts, if you’re looking for a dynamic sound, you will be hard pressed and very disappointed to say the least. I thought the sound was a bit muffled because of the location of the speakers which are on the bottom of the unit.
All in all, operating the Alibi was a fairly easy affair; Windows XP Professional noticed the drivers right away. A search on Boynq’s site provides an n operating manual for download in addition to firmware and drivers for Windows 2000 Professional Operating System. The firmware addresses and resolves some stability and functionality issues (the firmware comes in the form of a zip file and it is strongly suggested to read the “installation” instructions beforehand because you’ll be lost without them).
Admittedly, I was looking for something a bit more technically innovating in terms of the operation of the Alibi. It would have been fun to give this unit some kind of “motorized” feature (for example, enabling the head of the web cam to be controlled by a software or hardware feature) and to have this functionality control the swivel of the unit too. While I was very impressed with the “cool” looks of the Alibi, I was disappointed with the speakers; moving the speakers to the side of the unit where the round design buttons are located would be a boon (and while they’re at it, how about increasing the wattage) in the next incarnation! At $69, the price and the over-all quality of the unit don’t measure up and there are other webcams (albeit they don’t have speakers) that are a tad economical. The Alibi most definitely will make a good novelty gift for some. However, I think Boynq should consider going back to the drawing board incorporating a few more technical changes. Thus, once this is done, I think they will get a few more fans who wouldn’t mind spending extra money for something that is truly an all around tech savvy gadget!
The Good: Innovative design, speakers on unit, average quality web cam, tilt and swivel feature and quality craftsmanship.
The Bad: Puny sound from speakers, slightly over-priced, no distinguishing and creative features that will distinguish itself from other web cams.