Once upon a time, a good webcam used to matter only for business travel, long-distance relationships and other geographically challenged communication. Now so many of us are socializing from afar and working remotely that this once afterthought product has been thrust into the spotlight. If you’ve bought a new laptop in the past year, chances are its webcam is good enough for your needs. But older laptops and cheap laptops and Chromebooks may still be cutting corners on the webcam to keep the price down. And if you use a traditional desktop you haven’t got a webcam. Hence, the booming market for them.
Streamcam vs. Facecam vs. Kiyo Pro: The best webcam for…
It’s not that difficult to find a decent webcam: Market-leader Logitech makes most of the most popular name-brand models on the market, notably the $90 C920x and basic, education-focused $20 C270 and you probably won’t go wrong just picking one that falls within your budget. Once you venture beyond known brands, however, you can get lost in a sea of commodity models.
You have to look good on a webcam today
Improving your environment with good lighting or a better angle can frequently enhance the quality of your webcam video more than upgrading the camera itself. Keep in mind, however, that the best camera won’t necessarily deliver great video and sound on the other end; that can depend upon the quality and consistency of your network connection.
We’ll update this list regularly with more advice and picks as we test webcams, so stay tuned. And for more advice, scroll down below our recommendations.
Nexigo N60 1080p 30fps webcam
Best webcam under $50
I had my doubts about this at first: There are so many small, unfamiliar brands on Amazon that it takes a lot more than a 4-plus star review to pique my interest. But I was quite surprised at how good this basic webcam is for just $40, much of which has to do with the software. It also supports Macs, something the camera it replaces doesn’t. (It’s the Creative Live Cam Sync 1080p V2, which remains a fine choice for Windows at an attractive $35 to $40.)
There’s only so much you can do with the image quality on a basic 1080p 30fps webcam, but the Nexigo still delivers better video quality than many 720p laptop webcams, with relatively solid white balance and autoexposure, even across various lighting conditions. Don’t expect great 1080p picture quality at full-size viewing or in low light, though. There you can see noise and softness, though it’s no worse than most 1080p webcams under $100. Scaled down to typical laptop viewing size, it looks good.
Nexigo’s software isn’t pretty, but some of it’s a lot more functional than much of what I’ve used. For instance, the manual white balance actually works well along a continuum rather than just giving you a choice between too pink or too green. It also allows you to save presets for all the adjustable settings. It doesn’t currently work with MacOS Monterey, so I couldn’t test that, but the company promises an update to support the latest version of the OS within the next couple of months.
It’s got a built-in mic, though the audio is disappointing. The mic performs noise cancellation, but you can’t turn it off or adjust it, and I heard quite a bit of popping and tinniness on my end.
The build feels about what you’d expect for a cheap webcam, plasticky but not fragile, and the mount supports tilt and swivel. Nexigo includes the typical loose cover. I hate those and have already lost it. Other trade-offs for the price: a captive USB-A cable and nonremovable mount. It also has a 110-degree field of view, which is kind of wide for your usual webconferencing. You can zoom digitally, but as with any 1080p webcam, that gets ugly fast.
$40 at Amazon
Razer Kiyo X
Best webcam under $100
Razer replaced its Kiyo with the Kiyo X at a lower $80 base price, a level that the Kiyo used to drop to when on sale. It did so by cutting out the ring light (which is useless) and the mic (the built-in mic in your laptop is better than most webcams’, anyway), as well as switching to a simple nonswiveling mount. There isn’t a lot to differentiate these entry 1080p 30fps from each other, but Razer’s stands out a bit for its accurate white balance and decent exposure — as long as your lighting doesn’t vary wildly. It’s new, so the price is still sitting at $80, which still feels high given how stripped down it is, but it’s bound to drop during the holiday shopping season and may be worth waiting for if you’re not desperate.
$80 at Amazon
$80 at Walmart
$80 at Best Buy
Best webcam for frequent movers
The 1080p Obsbot Tiny, a refined version of the Obsbot Tail that began life as a Kickstarter a couple of years ago with a different focus, replaces the Anker PowerConf 300 as my pick for the peripatetic. Though it’s larger overall than most webcams, it’s smaller than it looks and it’s worth the extra bulk for the built-in gimbal that lets it tilt and rotate to track you. That means it can cover you over 180 degrees without requiring zooming out until you’re just a tiny head in the frame. And it tracks quite well. It also has limited gesture controls — to control face lock for tracking and to zoom — which come in handy. The design is great as well, with a magnetic attachment to the mount and a large LED that not only tells you if it’s on, but that indicates if it’s currently focused on anything. Instead of a cover, you can tilt the camera down, so you don’t have to worry about losing a cap.
It has all the essentials covered as well, including solid video quality and a surprisingly good mic (though it lacks features you might be used to from the mic in your laptop or headset, like noise cancellation), as well as a lightweight utility to control the camera position and zoom in software.
There are some aspects I don’t like as much. In software you can zoom continuously between 1x and 2x, but the gesture control only takes you all the way in or out, while 1.5x is probably your best general choice. And since it’s 1080p, the 2x digital zoom doesn’t look great. While the auto white balance and exposure works pretty well, it doesn’t handle low light as well as the cheaper Anker, which can also do 1080p at 60fps (the Tiny is limited to 30fps). The latter wouldn’t be as much of an issue if the utility had some image controls, but the Obsbot relies entirely on Windows’ meh settings dialog, and even then only supports white balance and exposure. You can change aperture, but that setting doesn’t seem to do anything on any webcam I’ve tested thus far.
Because it’s so tall, you may not like mounting it on top of a big monitor, though I’ve got it perched on top of a 32-inch without issue. And it’s actually a benefit if you’re using it atop your laptop, since the way most people use their laptop cameras, it sits well below their eyeline.
$199 at Amazon
$199 at B&H
Best webcam for portrait-orientation video
This tiny webcam is designed for streaming (in case the name didn’t give it away) but it has some perks that make it appealing for general-purpose use. You can mount it horizontally or vertically, which makes it nice for video chatting with folks on phones or for shooting quickie TikTok or Instagram videos. It shoots in 1080p at 60fps, which can frequently give you better looking video than 30fps. Plus it’s tiny, so it can fit in more cramped spaces.
Read more about the Logitech StreamCam.
$130 at Amazon
$120 at Walmart