If you read my reviews of any laptop released during the pandemic, I called a webcam the worst part of the device. They are terrible in the age of Zoom and Teams. I don’t know where PC makers come from who find the courage to ship a $2,000 laptop with a 720p webcam. Perhaps because brands don’t see laptop webcams as an important part of the experience despite instilling a culture of professional video calling from home during the pandemic. And therein lies the problem.
Instead of waiting for a miracle to happen, I ditched my laptop’s webcam for video calling and upgraded to a Poly (formerly Plantronics) Studio P5 webcam. If you’re considering switching from a crappy laptop webcam to a real webcam, my experience might help you decide. Or at least give you a reason to question PC brands and find out when they’ll start using high-quality cameras in laptops. I’ll be the happiest person to see an improved webcam on laptops.
I hate my laptop webcam, and I’m sure you do too
Before the pandemic, I rarely saw myself doing video interviews unless the situation did not allow me to meet the interviewee in person. But Covid-19 changed everything and I had to use video for all interviews. Soon I started to realize how bad the webcam quality was on laptops. I’ve done everything – from adjusting settings to changing the lighting in the room to improve image quality and despite the brand’s overdose of putting AI into everything including the webcams, I was disappointed. I tried to find out the reasons why cameras are so bad on laptops. My confidential conversations with executives revealed that physics does not allow PC manufacturers to use high quality cameras in laptops. That’s why even high-end laptops from manufacturers like Dell and Lenovo use 720p webcams. In comparison, the front cameras of smartphones are constantly being improved and can record video in 4K UHD. Whatever the reason, I think PC makers need to find ways to design their laptops to allow them to install Full HD 1080p webcams. The hybrid work environment will continue to exist and video calling is the reality of the new real world.
Poly Studio P5 layout is simple
The Studio P5 packs a lot of power into a fairly compact package. It’s small, sleek and comes in a white finish. The lens sits in the center, which is mounted on a hinged monitor clip. The monitor clamp is adjustable and easily and securely mounts to my MacBook, iMac and Asus laptop. It can be rotated left and right on the clip, but has no tilt option available. When connected, a small LED light on the top of the webcam lights up when it has power and the lens is covered. And when active, it turns green to let you know the camera is on. A 3-foot cable connected to the camera end and USB-A on the other is included with the webcam. The rear of the camera detaches, where you can plug in wireless dongles for headsets, which is a useful and very logical feature, especially for users who have laptops with limited ports.
Setup and use
The Studio P5 is designed to be plug and play. Simply put, you need to insert the USB-A cable into your PC and the webcam works instantly. That said, Poly also offers an app (available on both Mac and Windows computers) that will let you tweak basic camera controls, such as the ability to calibrate brightness, contrast, sharpness, saturation, etc The app makes a lot of sense for large companies that want to install Studio P5 webcams on multiple computers in the office. This greatly facilitates the work of the IT department. I don’t think an individual needs an app, but yes, it’s always helpful to adjust settings and update firmware.
Is the Poly Studio P5 better than my laptop’s webcam?
Absoutely. Although the P5 is designed for use in office environments, anyone can use this webcam for video conferencing. It supports 1080p shooting, with a lens having an 80-degree field of view and an f/2.0 aperture. The level of quality you get with the P5 is much better than a laptop webcam. Details are crisp and colors look rich and accurate when I use the webcam for seated video calls in my bedroom and balcony. It supports autofocus, which means my face will still be visible even when I move a little in my chair. I also liked the webcam’s performance in low light.
I attend video calls at irregular times, sometimes post dinner, and my current laptop’s webcam was driving me nuts before the calls. Luckily, now that I’m using the Studio P5, I can watch video calls in a dark room with a lamp on next to my bedside table. While noise still creeps in, the camera quality doesn’t disappoint in low light. The P5’s microphone is impressive. In fact, I consider the P5’s built-in microphone the highlight of the webcam. The sound is clear, and while it picks up background noise, it does a great job of cutting out ambient noise. The only caveat to the P5 is that the 80-degree webcam field of view isn’t adjustable. However, the image can be digitally magnified up to 4x.
Should I buy the Poly Studio P5 webcam?
It depends. Poly load 9,440 rupees for a webcam and that might seem higher, but the image and video quality you get with the P5 is unquestionably better than your average portable camera. What I really like about the Studio P5 is the ease of use and simplicity. This is an excellent high resolution webcam that works for me, simply because it offers superior video quality in low light conditions and has an excellent microphone. It’s certified for Microsoft Teams and works with any video conferencing app, including Zoom. After using the Poly Studio P5, I certainly won’t go back to a laptop webcam unless PC brands commit to using higher resolution cameras in their laptops.