We usually don’t give much thought to external webcams these days, and why would we? Laptops don’t need them, and even for desktop users, there are an increasing number of monitors with built-in cameras.
But, generally speaking (and especially for laptops), those webcams aren’t very good. Even the latest MacBook Pro only has a 720p webcam, and while there are some new, top-of-the-line Windows laptops with 1080p IR webcams, the average laptop has 480p or 720p.
Is that a problem? Well, it depends. Streaming and video is pretty lucrative, whether you’re streaming yourself playing a video game, creating makeup or repair tutorials, or just ranting about something. Back when the webcam was just for video chatting, an expensive camera didn’t make much sense, but it could be a worthy investment now.
Logitech has a good argument with their Brio webcam. It’s a 4K HDR 13 MP webcam with an IR scanner, which makes it the most fully-featured external webcam on the market now.
You might be thinking 4K is overkill. You’d mostly be right, but as it turns out, 4K isn’t nearly the best part about this webcam. There’s a lot more here to like to make the Brio a really good investment for budding streamers and YouTube stars.
The Logitech Brio works out of the box — just plug the USB Type-C-to-USB Type-A cable into a USB port (must be USB 3.0 to stream in 4K) and it should work. Key word there is should — Windows 10 has had a brief and tortured history with webcams, with updates occasionally breaking and restoring compatibility. It’s an annoying headache, but it seems to be directly related to Windows 10 — I had some compatibility issues with third-party applications (including anything browser-based, like Facebook and Google Hangouts) before the Windows 10 Creators Update, but I had zero compatibility issues with Windows 7. We just have to hope that Microsoft gets this straight sometime in the near future.
If you get lucky and Windows 10 doesn’t put up any roadblocks for you, the Brio really is a fantastic webcam. While 4K certainly grabs attention, it’s not that big of deal — only YouTube and a handful of other programs can support 4K streaming, and for something like video calls, it’s not necessary.
If you’re going to get this webcam, HDR should probably be the main reason. Logitech has used their RightLight 3 HDR technology, and it’s as good as advertised. If you’ve ever tried to use a webcam while sitting next to a sunlit window, you’ll know that results in you looking like you’re lurking in the shadows. Not so with Brio — HDR can adjust lighting differently in different areas of the image, resulting in a clear, well-lit image. The comparison shots, taken in identical conditions, will give you a good idea of what I mean.
It’s not necessary, but you can opt to download some basic control software from Logitech’s website. The software can be used to adjust camera settings and to pan, tilt, and zoom. Logitech has added 5x zoom, so if you make something like repair tutorial videos, you can zoom in on small parts without losing any detail.
The software can also be used to adjust viewing angle. Unfortunately, your only options are 90 degrees, 78 degrees, and 65 degrees — no real wide-angle options. Another optional driver will get the Brio working with Windows Hello using the Brio’s IR sensor.
The Brio also has an omnidirectional dual-mic array. It’s not bad, but it can’t filter out any background noise — if you’re interested enough in streaming or high quality video chatting to consider the Brio, you’ll probably want to get a more sophisticated external mic to go with it.
Like usual, Logitech has added tripod threads on the bottom of the camera, along with a clip for monitors. The clip doesn’t work all that well for laptops, especially if you move the laptop around a lot, but it works just fine for monitors. And, in a sign of the times, Logitech has also thrown a privacy flap into the box — it’s just a simple piece of black plastic you can flip down to physically block the camera and foil any would-be hackers. Effective!