Best Gear for Online Classes or Meetings in 2023: Webcams, Lights, Mics, Tripods and More
Zoom call for work? Remote school session? Big presentation? This gear will enhance all your video chats.
Updated Aug. 9, 2023 5:52 p.m. PT
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James BricknellSenior Editor
James has been writing about technology for years but has loved it since the early 90s. While his main areas of expertise are maker tools -- 3D printers, vinyl cutters, paper printers, and laser cutters -- he also loves to play board games and tabletop RPGs.
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6 years working professionally in the 3D printing space / 4 years testing consumer electronics for large websites.
Justin Jaffe is the Managing Editor for CNET Money. He has more than 20 years of experience publishing books, articles and research on finance and technology for Wired, IDC and others. He is the coauthor of Uninvested (Random House, 2015), which reveals how financial services companies take advantage of customers -- and how to protect yourself. He graduated from Skidmore College with a B.A. in English Literature, spent 10 years in San Francisco and now lives in Portland, Maine.
Videoconferencing on Zoom, Google Meet and the like is no longer novel. Many jobs, whether you work from home or in an office, require daily videoconferencing. And if you're learning online, having a good videoconference setup can make your life much easier.
Upgrading your audio and video tech is fairly easy from a technical perspective, however, and relatively affordable -- and it will dramatically improve your production values in virtual meetings. Here at CNET, we've been in a hybrid workplace for many years, and taking video calls, engaging in online learning, and presenting to our teams are a daily part of life. We've become experts on what gadgets and gear make life easier.
We've compiled a short list of the best gear for video chats: home webcams, lights, mics and more that'll enhance your video chatting. This list has plenty of input from CNET's on-camera video team, all of whom have worked from home.
When you're presenting a meeting or actively participating in one, you need to be front and center on the screen. The Dell Pro webcam uses some clever software to keep you centered in the frame as you move around a whiteboard or wheel around your office.
The image is crisp too and looks cleaner than almost any other webcam I've used. I'll admit it works much better on a Mac than a PC, but on a PC it's the very best webcam you can use right now.
Not all conference calls involve sitting down in front of a laptop. Sometimes you're the person giving a presentation and you need a little freedom of movement. A lavalier mic connects to your collar -- or to your shirt using a magnet -- and wirelessly streams to a small control unit attached to your laptop or phone.
The Lark Max comes with two mics, with noise cancellation and a controller unit that'll easily connect to your iPhone, Android or laptop (via USB-C). The sound quality is excellent, though you'll need to speak a little louder than with a desk mic. The drop in volume is well worth it to have the freedom of movement and the sound quality you get from the Lark Max. As an added bonus, the case also charges the mics and controller so you'll have them ready to go when you need them.
Lighting makes all the difference to the look of your video when you're on a conference call or presenting. You can get by without a 4K webcam, but if you're sitting in a dimly lit room, everything will look bad.
Lume Cube has a fantastic light bar that sits on the top of your monitor and can be used to light up your face, as well as your desk, if you're presenting. It has a clever dial on the end that lets you select different brightnesses as well as the color temperature for that sharp white or warm yellow tone.
Nothing can torpedo an online meeting quicker than background noise and audio that's cutting in and out, and your laptop's lousy built-in microphone may be the culprit. Once you've added a decent webcam to your setup, you'll be in better shape -- but a standalone microphone will make you sound clear, rich and full. This Blue Yeti model has long been a staple of podcasters and streamers, and it's what I use when I record audio or participate in a high-stakes video chat.
Yes, it looks like something you'd see in a 1940s radio station, but the audio technology is 100% modern. It has three capsule microphones, four pickup patterns (for different kinds of recording) and just enough controls to help optimize the way you sound without overloading you with super technical features.
It's hard to multitask on a web conference: Opening and closing apps, resizing browsers and windows, all while you're talking to your boss on your Google Hangout or Zoom call -- it can all be a bit much. One solution is to offload all of your audio and video recording tasks to your phone -- which may have a better camera, video quality and mic technology, anyway -- freeing up your laptop to take notes, consult documents and spreadsheets or whatever else. (Here's how to do it.)
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Watch this: CNET video team share home setup secrets