We're not wild about the design of Logitech QuickCam Pro for Notebooks, but its image quality is so vastly superior to that of other notebook Webcams that we're more than willing to make the occasional camera readjustment as needed. The thin clip and vertical orientation of the Webcam make it a challenge to keep the device securely fastened to the top of a laptop -- perhaps that's why Logitech includes a small, plastic stand in the box. Thanks to its 2.0-megapixel sensor, Carl Zeiss optics, and Logitech's RightLight technology, however, the AU$149 QuickCam Pro for Notebooks provides excellent image quality under a variety of lighting conditions. Should you need a Webcam more for casual video chats and less for recording your own videos, the Creative Live Cam Notebook Ultra is slightly less expensive and is much easier to keep anchored to your laptop.
Installation is straightforward. Install the bundled QuickCam software, then plug in the Webcam. An audio tuning wizard lets you optimise the volume for audio input (microphone) and out (speakers). You can adjust sliders for brightness, contrast, colour intensity, and white balance, but we found the best results by enabling RightLight and leaving it at that.
The Logitech QuickCam Pro for Notebooks sits 61mm tall by 30.5mm wide. The rubberised, spring-loaded clip on the back feels sturdy, but the rounded back and the nub on the front part of the clip makes better contact with the included 300mm stand than with any of the three laptops we used for testing. Slight adjustments to the laptop resulted in the camera drooping forward or listing to one side. Also, be sure to smile when you go to readjust the Webcam; a button at the top of the camera body lets you snap still photos and is almost impossible to avoid accidentally depressing when you reach for the camera.
The QuickCam Pro for Notebooks more than makes up for its clunky design with its stellar image quality. For starters, its 2.0-megapixel sensor is larger than the 1.3 megapixel sensors typically found on Webcams. Further, Logitech's RightLight 2 software does an amazing job of providing a great image under a variety of light conditions, including in low light where most Webcams struggle. We tested under bright lights, low light, and outdoors, and in each scenario, the QuickCam Pro for Notebooks provided the best image. Colours were vivid, and flesh tones were accurate. You can capture video as fast as 30 frames per second and at one of three resolutions: 320x240, 640x480, and 960x720. You can take still pictures at 1.3-megapixel and 2.0-megapixel resolutions. With software interpolation, you can take 3-, 4-, and 8-megapixel pictures at the expense of image clarity.
The Webcam's auto-focus feature does an admirable job of keeping you focused, but the face-tracking feature was a bit hit-or-miss. The Logitech cam does a better job than the Creative Live Cam Notebook Ultra at keeping a bobbing head in the frame, but the amount of swivel and tilt in the lens is limited. The integrated microphone did an average job at capturing audio; it was no better or worse than the Creative Live Cam Notebook Ultra in delivering clean audio.
Extras include an assortment of avatars ("hey, look -- I'm a talking alien!") and other video effects ("hey, look -- I'm wearing a funny hat!" to "hey, look -- I'm in a room with bubbles!") to jazz up your Webcam chats. Handfuls of each are included on the CD, with many more available on Logitech's site. A travel pouch is also included, which helps protect the lens when stashed in your laptop bag.
The bundled QuickCam software features a pleasing interface and is very easy to navigate. Large buttons are provided for recording video or snapping a picture, and changing the resolution of each is dead simple. Your recorded videos and photos are listed as thumbnails at the bottom of the QuickCam window. Videos are recorded as WMV files and are played back using Windows Media Player. While Macs should recognise this plug-and-play USB device, you'll be left without the services of the video (RightLight 2) and audio (RightSound) optimisation apps, as well as the video effects and filters.
Logitech doesn't bundle a video-messaging app, but it works with all the popular IM clients, including those from AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo and Skype, which we used for testing. The QuickCam Pro for Notebooks worked seamlessly with Skype -- once we realised we needed to close the QuickCam software. Sadly, the image quality degrades considerably when operating outside the QuickCam interface.