/> ED I T O R S C H O I C E IN N O V A T IO N A W A R D
X

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Blue Microphones Eyeball 1.0 - web camera review: Blue Microphones Eyeball 1.0 - web camera

Donald_Bell.jpg

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.

6.3

Blue Microphones Eyeball 1.0 - web camera

The Good

The Eyeball Webcam from Blue Microphones has a compact retro design and above average sound quality.

The Bad

The Eyeball's built-in camera doesn't hold up to the competition, and it's awkward to mount on your computer monitor.

The Bottom Line

The Eyeball Webcam is a cool-looking piece of gear for people who use VoIP or video chat services on-the-go, but there are better choices for the home.

Design
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.


If you're going to use the Eyeball on top of a larger monitor, you'll probably need to secure the Webcam with the included rubber flap.

Performance
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.

We're glad to see that the Eyeball works seamlessly with both Mac and Windows machines, but we were a little disappointed with the video quality. In general, the Eyeball tends to render images at a noticeably higher contrast and with less subtlety than other cameras. We've included comparison shots below, showing the Eyeball against the Logitech Pro 9000 and built-in Macbook iSight camera.


On a Mac with a built-in iSight, the Eyeball camera (left) doesn't offer much of an improvement, unless you find its exaggerated color and contrast personally flattering.


Compared against the Logitech Pro 9000 (right), the Eyeball had a hard time capturing detail at longer distances, such as the trees in the window or the checkered blanket at the center of the photo.

The differences aren't dramatic enough to recommend against the Eyeball--in fact some people might prefer its more saturated look--but we wouldn't say video performance is the product's strong suit. But in spite of its lackluster video performance, the Eyeball's sound and style may prove hard to resist for those who prize portability over image quality.

6.3

Blue Microphones Eyeball 1.0 - web camera

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 6