Philips ToUcam XS review: Philips ToUcam XS

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Philips ToUcam XS

(Part #: PCVC720K)
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2.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Excellent software bundle; very compact camera; cheap, cheap, cheap!

The Bad Poor video quality in all but the brightest lighting; lousy documentation.

The Bottom Line It's a cute little Webcam, and the price is hard to beat, but the video quality is likely to disappoint you.

5.0 Overall

At first glance, the Philips ToUcam XS PC Camera looks like a true bargain. Imagine paying less than $40 for a USB Webcam with a complete software bundle that includes games, videoconferencing, video mail, and even Webcam broadcasting software. Unfortunately, the adage about getting what you pay for is borne out here with the actual camera hardware, which barely qualifies as mediocre. At first glance, the Philips ToUcam XS PC Camera looks like a true bargain. Imagine paying less than $40 for a USB Webcam with a complete software bundle that includes games, videoconferencing, video mail, and even Webcam broadcasting software. Unfortunately, the adage about getting what you pay for is borne out here with the actual camera hardware, which barely qualifies as mediocre.

False first impressions
The ToUcam XS PC Camera's specifications seem good for a low-end device. This USB cam supports 30-frame-per-second color video at 352x288 or still images at 640x480. The driver software offers a wide range of adjustable settings, including automatic brightness and backlight compensation, as well as hue, contrast, saturation, sharpness, and so on. The egg-shaped camera sports a six-and-a-half-foot USB cable and an odd-looking tripod mounting system that lets you attach it to a mount above your monitor or hang it behind a laptop screen.

Unfortunately, the ToUcam XS doesn't deliver in the most important area--image quality. Under normal home-office lighting, the images it produced were very dark and muddy, even with backlight compensation and brightness turned up. Pointing another light directly at the subject didn't help much. An Intel PC Camera (which admittedly retails for double the price of the ToUcam) had no problems under identical lighting and placement conditions. The ToUcam performed much better under fluorescent lighting, so you might be satisfied if you plan to use it in a brightly lit workplace situation.

Software steals the show
It's a shame that the hardware doesn't work better, because the software bundle is impressive. There are four Reality Fusion camera games, including a very amusing video karate game. Videoconferencing is handled through a bundled copy of Microsoft's NetMeeting 3.01, and SpotLife software is included for broadcasting live Webcam shows. The simple VRecord utility lets you record video and audio to AVI files, and Ulead Photo Explorer 6.0 simplifies managing captured images. The VideoLink Mail software lets you capture compact, self-playing video files to send via e-mail. There's even a TWAIN driver for capturing images in third-party programs.

With a better camera, this would be an impressive package. As it stands, it's proof that some deals are too good to be true.

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