COVID-19 Pandemic Has Forced People to Videochat and Laptop Webcams are Still Awful



The COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to work from home, which means they have to use video chat to collaborate with their workmates.

Setting aside the need for Wi-Fi in your house or the type of video conferencing software to use, one thing is abundantly clear: Laptop webcams suck. Laptop webcams have CCTV like footage, which sucks.

It is even insane to think that we get amazing cameras on our smartphones and yet we still get terrible webcams on laptops. You might understand a $200 getting a terrible webcam, but a $700, $1000, $2000 or $3000 laptop is a whole different story. We have smartphones that can shoot 8K now and yet we are yet to deal with 1990 like footage from our laptop webcams.

Laptop webcam suck because laptop manufacturers do not have enough motivation to put decent cameras on laptops. I can count only a handful of computers that have decent webcams and that is a sad statistic.

Someone will say: “Wait a minute, yeah sure laptop webcams suck, but you can buy external webcams.” You are right, you can buy an external webcam that you can stick it on your laptop or desktop. However, it would be way easier if we had great webcams out of the box so that we don’t see the need to spend more money on an external webcam.

A lot of people are at home and they have to use their laptop webcams for videoconferencing purposes like work meetings and online classes. They will have to contend with potato quality footage of their colleagues and their colleagues have to deal with potato quality footage from their webcam.

It has been a mess for a while and it is actually better to video chat with your phone in some cases. However, if you really wanted to video chat with your laptop, you have very few options with great webcams.

So, which computers have great webcams?

This is mostly dominated by Microsoft computers. Microsoft is probably the only computer manufacturer right now that is taking webcams seriously. If you check out their lineup of Surface devices, all of them have great webcams out of the box, as it should.

These devices are:

  • Surface Pro tablet
  • Surface Pro laptop
  • Surface Book laptop
  • Surface Studio desktop
  • Surface Go
Microsoft Surface laptop

Microsoft uses a 5MP webcam for all of their computers and they are able to stream 1080p video. If you check reviews of these devices on YouTube from reviewers like Dave2D, you will realize that they rate these webcams highly. Every other laptop’s camera looks garbage in comparison.

iMac Pro

The other computer with a great webcam out of the box is the iMac Pro. It has a 1080p webcam and it takes better video calls than any other Mac currently. Apple started selling this computer in December of 2017 and it is quite odd that they didn’t see the need to refresh any of their computers from 2018. Webcam quality is still meh on Macbooks where they max out at 720p.

Shall we ever get great webcams on laptops?

It will be highly unlikely to see the kind of footage that we have on our smartphones on laptops.

The biggest hurdle is how laptop webcams are connected in a computer. They use an internal USB connection that is not as fast as the implementation on smartphones.

Smartphones (especially high-end ones) also rely on AI and special algorithms to take several exposures of a single shot and stitch them in real-time as you are shooting a video. This results in higher quality video. Laptops can’t do that right now and that is a major downside.

If I wanted a great webcam, which one should I get?

If you are serious about getting an external webcam and you like better than average quality video calls, you will find that the market is full of these products. 1080p video recording should be minimum in this case and you will be surprised that webcams are not particularly cheap.

It would be wise to go with trusted brands like Logitech but there are pretty good ones from smaller companies and check recommendations like this one done by TechRadar.

My favourite webcam from specifications alone is the Logitech Brio that shoots in 4K and in HDR.  It is $200 but I have seen full HD cameras that cost more, so it feels like a bargain of sorts.

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