13 Webcams Reviewed

Microsoft LifeCam VX-5500

Software

As with Microsoft's other webcams, a bundled software package allows you to capture photos at 1.3 Megapixels and save videos at a maximum resolution of 640 x 480 pixels.

On a more fun note, Microsoft has increased the number of effects you can apply, so you can now sport a virtual hat or don a wig should the mood suit you.

It's amusing for a while, but nothing particularly new compared to what some other manufacturers are already offering.

This Microsoft LifeCam VX-5500 is a close relation of the LifeCam VX-5000, and there's really very little between the two models. The same 640 x 480 pixel sensor is included, along with autofocus and a very similar design.

What has changed, though, is the base, which now takes up less space when folded away without being any less useful when you need it.

This useful stand, and the excellent audio and video quality it offers, are what we liked so much about the VX-5000.

Video

It seems Microsoft was right to stick with a winning formula, as the VX-5500 delivers video every bit as well as its predecessor: there's no jerkiness, and movements aren't followed by ghosting, either. When using it for a face-to-face conversation, the VX-5500 is sharp enough to show even the slightest details.

As with most webcams, the VX-5500 finds it harder to capture as much detail in darker rooms. Turning up the sensitivity is one possible solution to this problem, but it comes at the price of lowering the camera's responsiveness to movement. A better idea is to make sure you have an alternative light source, such as a desk lamp, standing by.

Although some scenes tended to be overexposed in automatic mode, we found that this could easily be remedied in manual mode by modifying a few settings.

Audio

The sound quality is excellent, and a sensible system uses data from the autofocus to adjust the sensitivity of the microphone depending on far away you are. But this becomes problematic the further away you move, however, as ambient noise that would otherwise have been ignored begins to be detected as the mic becomes more sensitive.

Sitting around a meter away from the VX-5500, though, the sound is perfectly clear with no unwanted interference.

Microsoft LifeCam VX-5500
PlusesMinuses
  • Refined, elegant design
  • Autofocus
  • Good audio and video quality
  • Solid base
  • Compact size
  • Not many new video effects
  • Struggles in dark rooms
  • Much like its predecessor the VX-5000, the VX-5500 is an excellent webcam which produces almost perfect audio and video steams. Our only caveat would be that an extra light source might be needed in a dark room.