The Microsoft LifeCam HD-5000 is the desktop version of the LifeCam HD-6000 laptop Webcam, with minor differences that account for the lower price tag. At $50, the true 720p high-def video and 16:9 wide-screen formatting are a guaranteed upgrade from most of the stock Webcams built into today's systems, and the LifeCam software boosts the entertainment value with clever 3D video overlays and effects. Its shortcomings include an auto-focus that struggles to maintain a solid picture and the video encoding is hungry for CPU processing. Minor issues aside, the LifeCam HD-5000 is a worthwhile aftermarket Webcam that deserves your attention.
Design and features
The LifeCam HD-5000 and the HD-6000 share a similar shape and size, featuring a glossy black housing and an integrated Windows Messenger button on top, but several minor differences are easily distinguishable. First, the laptop version is supposed to travel with your laptop so it's slightly smaller than its desktop cousin. In addition, the USB cable attached to the HD-5000 is 2 feet longer than the HD-6000 to accommodate the longer travel from a tower on the ground to the top of a monitor or desktop.
The most significant difference between the physical build of the two Webcams is the base connection. On the HD-6000 laptop version, a small clip unfolds to allow for easy mounting on top of a laptop display, while the HD-5000 instead features a flexible rubber foot to accommodate a thicker full-size display. Finally, the HD-6000 offers mobile users the capability to swivel the camera 360 degrees in a full range of movement; the HD-5000 is static. Both models, however, are exceptionally small and will fit comfortably in a laptop bag or carry-on.
To install the LifeCam HD-5000, you'll need to install the LifeCam software included with the box. Microsoft tends to intermittently update the versions as well, so we recommend checking for driver updates on the Microsoft Web site prior to using it.
We should also note that Microsoft recommends stringent system requirements. The operating system must be Windows 7, Vista, or XP (SP2). The processor should be a Intel Dual-Core 1.6GHz or higher with 1GB of RAM, or the recommended Intel Dual-Core 3.0GHz with 2GB of RAM, and it needs at least 1.5GB of hard-drive space. The reason for these standards is because both the HD-5000 and the HD-6000 eat up a large percentage of system resources to encode the HD video. We tested 720p recording with a 2.27 GHz Intel Core i5 CPU with 4GB of memory installed, and the CPU usage jumped to 65 percent. That's a fairly modest configuration, but older or slower systems can expect increased CPU usage, and thus slower performance. You might not care about the performance if all you're using is just the Webcam, but if you're following along on a PowerPoint presentation, a spreadsheet, or a Web page while video chatting, you'll want to ensure that you have a reasonably beefy PC to use with this Webcam. You can also try reducing the video quality settings. And as always is the case with Microsoft Webcams, the HD-5000 and its corresponding software won't work with a system running Mac OS.