The Microsoft LifeCam VX-6000 is Microsoft's answer to higher-end Webcams, such as the Logitech QuickCam Fusion and the Creative Live Cam Voice. The LifeCam VX-6000 adds some interesting features that we've not seen before on a Webcam, including a call button that works with Windows Live Messenger and a blog option that works with Windows Live Space blogging tool. The LifeCam VX-6000's image quality and video effects, however, don't stand up to that of the Creative and Logitech cams. For users of Windows Live Messenger, the $99 Microsoft LifeCam VX-6000 is a good choice, but for superior image quality and more software options, the similarly priced Logitech QuickCam Fusion or Creative Live Cam Voice are better options.
The LifeCam VX-6000's small, ring-shaped base is stable and works for a variety of mounting situations. When collapsed, the ring is great for desktop mounting, and by unfolding the base into an L-shape hook, the stand can be securely mounted on a thin notebook screen or an LCD monitor. The stand also flips flat in order to hook onto the top of a CRT monitor. It's one of the more flexible and stable Webcams we've tested. The LifeCam VX-6000 is also easy to maneuver: the head swivels 360 degrees and tilts 45 degrees down and 90 degrees up. This adjustability is impressive compared with the Logitech QuickCam Fusion's, which only offers 90 degrees of vertical movement. A large button on top of the LifeCam VX-6000 works with Windows Live Messenger to launch a list of contacts you can call. Unfortunately, the button is so prominent and easy to activate that we launched the call center almost every time we adjusted the Webcam.
The Microsoft LifeCam VX-6000 comes with a single CD that includes drivers and software for taking pictures and video clips. To install the Webcam, you also need to install Windows Live Messenger (currently in beta)--the install wizard takes you to the proper page on Microsoft's site and leads you through the installation. Microsoft doesn't include excessive extras like Creative's Webcams do, but it packs the essentials all within the Microsoft LifeCam software: you can take still photos, shoot videos, and edit with either Windows Movie Maker or Microsoft Paint.
Like most Webcam software, the Microsoft LifeCam suite is easy to use. Three buttons on top of the screen let you choose from taking a still photo, recording audio, or recording video. On the left, a button launches a window that lets you choose video resolution. You can choose to capture photos in the same resolution you've selected for video or set photo resolution separately. Microsoft includes a dashboard that lets you add cartoon characters and backgrounds to the image; but the video effects aren't as impressive as Creative's or Logitech's. The dashboard also includes LifeCam navigational controls, such as pan and zoom. There's also a button at the bottom of the window that launches the Windows Live Space blogging tool where you can post pictures to your blog--a feature we haven't seen in any other Webcams. The blog button won't work until Microsoft updates Live Space, expected by June 15, 2006.