In today's world of instant-messenger video chat, YouTube video comments, and Skype video calls, your computer needs more than a quality USB microphone; you need a great camera, too. The Blue Microphones Eyeball ($99) offers the best of both worlds, combining an HD-resolution video camera and high-grade microphone into a stylish, pocketable USB Webcam.
In May of 2008, Blue Microphones introduced its Snowflake USB microphone, which offered a compact solution for recording and streaming audio on your computer. The Eyeball's design is nearly identical to the snowflake, with the exception of a black plastic backing and a camera lens that pops out from the side of the microphone housing.
Just like the Snowflake, the Eyeball measures 2.5 inches by 3.75 inches by 2.25 inches when folded up, and around 3.25 inches high when unfolded. A metal mesh grille covers the front of the Eyeball's spherical microphone, which rotates 360 degrees and includes a Mini-USB connection on the back. A removable plastic base acts as storage for the included USB cable.
While the Eyeball is easily one of the most unique-looking Webcams we've tested, it's not entirely practical. The metal construction--though high quality--makes the Eyeball a hefty and clumsy addition to your laptop screen or computer monitor. Should the depth of your computer monitor prove too large to fit in the Eyeball's 0.75-inch hook, a goofy rubber mat is included to help weigh down the otherwise top-heavy Webcam.
The Eyeball's audio performance was indistinguishable from the Snowflake, with 16-bit, 44.1KHz resolution and a clean, full sound that runs rings around any computer's internal microphone. With the Editors' Choice-winning Logitech Pro 9000 Webcam sharing the same $99 price tag, however, the Eyeball starts to lose some appeal.