The one piece of hardware in laptops and monitors that has largely gone unloved is the webcam. Usually, that’s because a stock 480p or 720p webcam is good enough to capture your face for video chats. But, times have changed, and there are now a lot more uses for webcams — besides teleconferencing, they’re used for tutorial videos, live streaming, and even by remote doctors to look at medical charts or scans.
That means webcams that can stream finer detail are needed, and 720p won’t cut it. There’s also the matter of lighting — everyone who’s tried to have a video chat next to an open window on a sunny day knows all about that problem. So, to draw out those details and prevent video chats that make you look shrouded in shadow, we’ve seen a lot of higher-end webcams. Logitech is pretty well known for those, but they’re taking it to the next level with Brio.
The Logitech Brio is a 4k HDR 13 MP webcam. 4k is awesome, but it’s probably overkill — to take full advantage of that, you’d need a video chat or streaming client that can support 4k streaming (YouTube recently enabled 4k streaming), and you’d need the person on the other end to have a 4k display. For most of us, it’s the HDR part that will really impress. Brio by default automatically adjusts to high-contrast lighting using Logitech’s RightLight 3 technology, so light coming through a side window won’t darken the rest of the image. Because the video is being streamed at such a high resolution, that means video gets streamed clearly and in detail. It’s possible to turn HDR off, though, if looking like a Sith lord in your bedroom is the kind of look you’re going for.
Because of the paucity of 4k support among video chat and teleconferencing apps, that’s more of a forward-looking feature. More exciting is that Brio can stream and record 1080p video at 60 frames per second. Not only does that make video smoother, it allows viewers to slow down recorded video to catch more detail. Combined with HDR and the higher resolution image, that opens up a lot of options. Doctors with high-end equipment across the board can clearly see medical charts, while people recording YouTube tutorial videos can show their viewers a higher level of detail.
Those streamers and doctors will also find 5x zoom handy, along with pan and tilt. Logitech claims that at 5x zoom at 1080p will only lose a little bit of detail. That’s a great feature for teleconferencing, especially if the presenter has whiteboard notes they need to show to remote participants. But, this is where Brio falls a little short right now. The only way to pan, tilt, and zoom is the physically make adjustments on the camera, which can be a little difficult while recording or streaming. The good news is that Logitech has created an API for Brio, which means developers of video chat and teleconferencing software can add pan, tilt, and zoom controls that can be accessed on the computer.
Logitech has also added an IR sensor, which makes Brio compatible with facial recognition features. That means it can be used with Windows Hello to log into your PC just by putting your face in front of the camera. It’s not as huge of a deal for the everyday person, but for businesses concerned with data security, it beats passwords.
The one major shortcoming is the lack of a wide-angle lens. Brio maxes out at 90 degrees, and can only be narrowed to 78 degrees or 65 degrees. It’s cool that you can change the field of the view with a switch on the webcam, but some businesses might opt for something like Panacast, which also does 4k (but not HDR) and has a 180-degree field of view. Then again, Panacast is $1,000 and Brio is $200, so you’ll have to really, really want that wide angle video feature.
A lesser shortcoming is audio, although for $200, we’re not too surprised that premium audio features are missing. Brio does have an omnidirectional dual-mic array, but there’s no directionality, and it can’t be used to filter out background noise. It’s also only useful if you’re near the webcam — if you’re farther than four feet away, Logitech recommends using an external audio recorder or mic.
Starting today, Brio will be available at Best Buy and online for $200, and Logitech does plan to sell directly to businesses, as well. The camera will ship with a detachable USB 3.0 cable (a USB 3.0 or faster is needed for 4k streaming), a carrying bag, a clip, and a privacy shutter. If you want to use it with a tripod, there are threads on the bottom of Brio, too.