The 7 Best Webcams to Buy in 2017

Say goodbye to that grainy video during conferences and gaming sessions

Webcams are pretty straightforward products. They don’t usually offer a whole lot of bells and whistles since they tend to serve a fairly singular purpose: you use them to stream video—whether for online gaming or for video conferencing on Skype, Zoom or Google Hangouts. Most people don’t have any need for high-end hardware or design, and so innovation in the space is rather limited. It’s one of those situations where simple is better. Why fix what isn’t broken? If you’re looking to pick up a new webcam, check out this guide for a list of the best ones by category.

A lot of webcams eschew hardware in favor of rudimentary functionality. While high-end specs may be unnecessary for most users, they can certainly come in handy, especially if the addition will only cost you an extra $15 or so. Enter: the Logitech C920. This webcam is every bit a camera, capable of providing HD stills and video for a variety of purposes, making it a versatile webcam for gaming, blogging, conferencing and even creative purposes. It shoots and streams in Full HD (1080p) at 30 fps (although some models may shoot 1080p at slower frame rates), records stereo (two channel) audio, and can capture still images at 15 megapixels. This is comparable to most high-end smartphone cameras. It also features a tripod-ready universal clip that fits to laptops and LCD monitors, a 360-degree swivel base and an articulating support.

Here’s a stylish little webcam that should satisfy anyone on a tight budget. The Docooler’s 12-megapixel camera shoots high definition and true color images, which means you can use this thing as a still image or video camera. It has a built-in sound absorption microphone, a stylish exterior design and a fully rotational support. It can swivel 360 degrees left or right, and tilt 30 degrees up and down. It works with both laptops and desktop computers and plugs straight into your USB port.

One of the most common uses for a webcam is video blogging, chatting, YouTubing and other social media purposes. If you’re an avid YouTuber or video blogger, and you’re looking for a somewhat stylish but still affordable little webcam, check out the Logitech HD Webcam C525. Another Logitech cam, it records smooth 720p HD video, snaps impressive eight-megapixel still images, and includes a number of nifty features to enliven your blogging applications. It has a one-click upload button, which can immediately send your streams to Facebook and YouTube. It also has an autofocus feature, automatic light correction for difficult light conditions and a built-in noise-cancelling mic. It can even record in the 16:9 widescreen format, and the swiveling base allows you to rotate the cam 360 degrees left or right. It’s stylish, affordable and primed for the social media landscape.

A lot of folks depend on standalone webcams to provide a more high-res video conferencing experience. They either don’t have a dedicated cam on their computers or do not appreciate the sub-par image quality it provides. If you find yourself in this camp—constantly using Skype or Zoom or Google Hangouts—consider investing in the Microsoft LifeCam. It records and streams 720p HD video and allows recording in the 16:9 widescreen format. It features a passive noise-canceling microphone, TrueColor technology for bright and colorful video feeds and a universal attachment base for connection to any laptop or desktop computer.

Wide-angle webcams offer a somewhat niche appeal, but there are certainly reasons to look into buying one. Maybe you want to live stream a musical performance, record an entire family at Thanksgiving dinner, or stream some momentous landscape from your laptop. If you find yourself in one of these or some other camp, check out the Genius Ultra Wide Angle Webcam. It captures Full HD (1080p) video at a wide angle of up to 120 degrees, giving you an unparalleled perspective for a wide variety of conditions. It also captures 12-megapixels still images, rotates 360 degrees and tilts up and down with the laptop or desktop connection. It even features a glass lens that offers manual focus capabilities.

When building your dream gaming PC, a webcam is probably an afterthought. Luckily, the Logitech C615 offers the best image quality available for under $50. You can record HD 1080p videos and video chat in 720p, making streaming and monitoring game feeds a breeze. It has 360-degree full range of motion and lets you pan and tilt manually.

The solid frame rates will keep your fellow gamers happy, and if you’re gaming on the go, you’ll appreciate its light .55-pound weight and fold-and-go portability that protects the lens when you toss it into your bag. It’s simple to set up on Windows, OS X and Chrome OS — just plug and play; no additional software is necessary. Amazon reviewers also praise its quality microphone and flexible mounting options, but complain about its short cord length. If that doesn’t bother you, the Logitech C615 will do the trick.

If you’re a high-energy business type or active Skype user, but you’re trying to spend as little money as possible on a new webcam, you may want to check out the Logitech C270 instead of the Microsoft LifeCam. Logitech is one of the top brands in webcams, having a hold on most of the top-selling products. But there’s a reason for that: they make quality, dependable webcams. With 720p video calling and recording and a modest design, the C270 is a solid option for any Skype session, Google Hangout or Zoom meeting. You can snap really basic three-megapixel still images, and it features a built-in noise reduction mic. It does not swivel left or right but it does tilt and articulate vertically.

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