Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 Webcam
Having returned home after a stint in Shanghai, I was eager to purchase a web camera to keep in touch with good friends. I was aware of Logitech's reputation in PC peripherals so their webcams were scrutinised along with Microsoft and Creative's offerings. During my research, what quickly became apparent were empty promises appearing in webcam marketing literature. Don't be seduced by `HD video calling' - the call may well be HD resolution but at slide show speeds for both participants. There is a valid reason for the implementation of HD, as the improved optics help refine standard quality calls. Still, don't purchase one on the basis of its HD offering as you'll get nowhere.
I settled on the Quickcam Pro 9000 because of its fair price point and overwhelmingly positive reviews. Most criticism centres on its bundled software suite but as I have dealt with the abortions that are Creative's supplied software, little fazes me. I have no use for the software suite anyhow and in the end, simply installed the webcam's driver and got underway.
Skype (4.0 beta at time of writing) is my VoIP client of choice, and picked up the Pro 9000 effortlessly. The image produced, at 640x400, is sharp and responsive. Colour and lighting are reasonable, although the sudden appearance of a bright colour can throw the latter off. I noticed this whenever I waved my bright blue foam roller at the webcam - the colours would dim upon its appearance and brighten conversely. It is not a major issue for me but I could imagine distracting scenarios - e.g. if somebody wearing bright clothes kept entering and exiting the webcam's field.
The sound quality is truly excellent. I've never had a single complaint on the volume or clarity from my chat partners - simply superb work there by Logitech. I have not used it to dial a mobile/landline number but I suspect there'd be no audio issues. My only gripe is the subpar design for the mount that secures the Pro 9000 to a monitor. The webcam doesn't rely on a clamp or clip but a simple, stiff hinge that keeps the it stable on top of a LCD monitor. Such a mechanism may work universally for any monitor (it's dubbed the universal clip) but a sturdier implementation would be preferable.
One Skype issue I have is the camera blinks off in the initial minute of a Skype conversation before restarting at a lower resolution, but I suspect this is down to CPU/bandwidth limitations. Though I can not take advantage myself, the camera can turn on Skype's high quality mode - much improved resolution and frame rate - when paired with a dual core processor. Something I'll look forward to in the future.
I will draw your attention to an oddity may impact your decision though - search on Google for "Are there two hardware versions of QuickCam Pro 9000 ?" and the second link points to a Logitech official forum thread stating there has been an undisclosed hardware update to the webcam this year. According to the thread (whose comments haven't been verified), the newest Quickcam Pro 9000 revision produces sharper pictures. These newest revisions have an orange ring instead of red when turned on. Unfortunately, a purchase and subsequent install is the only way to find out. Hardware lotteries are always annoying and I hope sellers clear out their red ring inventory soon. In any case, even if you have the older model, take heart as you already own an excellent webcam.