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.

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25 comments
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  • vaskodogama
    does really a webcam need to be reviewd? :D
  • Gutbop
    Yeah, I think it's a great review. I just purchased a 25.5" Asus monitor with a built in 2.0MP Bright Cam. My wife got on a video conference with her friends and loved it, so now I'm looking for one for her. By the way, how do these compare with my built-in Web Cam? I can't find any specs other than the 2.0MP.
  • Gutbop
    However... It would have been nice to have a price list (there's not even a mention of price in each respective camera's review), and maybe a summary at the end showing prices and ratings. And maybe a top pick in a couple of price categories.
  • vaskodogama
    hey man! I was joking, Great article! ;)
  • Tomsguiderachel
    GutbopHowever... It would have been nice to have a price list (there's not even a mention of price in each respective camera's review), and maybe a summary at the end showing prices and ratings. And maybe a top pick in a couple of price categories.

    Hey Gutbop,

    Check the right-hand side of each page for pricing info on the units. We use a search engine to display the price results because the prices for this kind of product are so variable across retailers.

    Thanks,
    Rachel Rosmarin
    Editor of Tom's Guide
  • hellwig
    Its a shame that only a single webcam seemed to come with security software (scheduled snapshots or motion detection). However, with free software such as Yawcam, I don't suppose its too big a deal.

    While I'm sure overall image quality has improved, these new cams don't seem to be any more functional than my 9 year old logitec QuickCam Express (the white golfball webcam). Sure some have face tracking (how well does that work with limited field of view anyway?), but the overall low resolution and general lack of autofocus on most of these cameras just doesn't justify an upgrade. Although the built-in microphones might be nice, sometimes you just need voice-chat, meaning a microphone built into the webcam might be unnecessary or redundant.
  • michaelahess
    I'd like to see more photos, quality is my number one concern. Also, how will any of these work in a meeting room environment. Is it plausable to use them for conference's? I guess audio would be the biggest issue with that.
  • crystalized
    no conclusion pages ? would've been nice to see what is the best webcam available on the market, what webcam has the best price/performance ratio, etc.
  • That Creative bundles home surveillance software hardly matters - the best-of-breed (for non technical users) is HomeCamera, and that's a free download from their site (www.homecamera.com).
  • JonnyDough
    Hey, I live in a college dorm and a few of my roommates don't have a PC. My roommates aren't to enter my room without permission/unless I'm there. I'm looking for webcam software that I can use to view my room but that I can leave on the screen because my one friend can and does use my PC sometimes for writing papers. I want to see who comes in my room, especially on the weekends when I often travel home. It would be cool if it would automatically boot as well from Windows Startup in case of a crash without a splash screen. I'd like it to be able to email me motion detected snapshots or something. Anyone know of any software that will do all of this?

    ~Jonny
  • JonnyDough
    Dangit, we need an edit button. What I wanted to ask is there a program that is COMPLETELY HIDEABLE that will do all that.
  • I agree with crystalized - a summary table or conclusion would have been nice for those not wanting to read every page.
  • Thunderfox
    Reviews? On my TGH? It's less likely than you think.

    I thought all they did was opinion polls.
  • What would have been nice is two identical sample photos taken with each camera. One in proper lighting conditions and one in dark.

    Without them, the review is rather useless for me. I mean, one sample photo included cheesy video effects. How am I to compare the quality of that one to another which has a normal shot. Not to mention the ones which don't have a shot at all.
  • mitcoes16
    i do like comparative tables, with actual prices, and, of course, Mac OSX, and Linux drivers and features for this systems. I use several OSs, and i do like products compatible with all of them, and if it possible with all the features at every system.
  • mitcoes16
    i do like comparative tables, with actual prices, and, of course, Mac OSX, and Linux drivers and features for this systems. I use several OSs, and i do like products compatible with all of them, and if it possible with all the features at every system.
  • joe 90
    oops
  • joe 90
    michaelahessI'd like to see more photos, quality is my number one concern. Also, how will any of these work in a meeting room environment. Is it plausable to use them for conference's? I guess audio would be the biggest issue with that.


    Hi Michael, we use a mixture of desktop and meeting room set-ups using Nefsis Video Conferencing. We find the L'tech Pro900 is great for small rooms (we did use the L'tech Sphere but had too many issues!). For larger rooms you can a Sony evi-d70 with a frame grabber (e.g. Osprey 100 - works well). Unfortunately it seems that there is a big gulf between top end webcams and meeting room based cameras. Anyone got any other suggestions?
  • What about the HP webcam? I have one, and it is great in dark & light. Autofocus is included, along with security software, et al.
    Why miss this one???
    Its also able to do 12MP stills as well... I don't get why this was forgotten in the rush to do Logitech & Microsoft (predominantly) webcams...
  • mrcomment
    I think that quick cam pro 9000 is the best choice today. You can compare it with other webcams at http://www.coolcheapest.com/Webcams/194--Logitech_QuickCam_Pro_9000_Webcam.aspx or find other webcams at http://www.coolcheapest.com/webcams.aspx.
  • mrcomment
    I think that quick cam pro 9000 is the best choice today. You can compare it with other webcams at http://www.coolcheapest.com/Webcams/194--Logitech_QuickCam_Pro_9000_Webcam.aspx or find other webcams at http://www.coolcheapest.com/webcams.aspx
  • In response to the security software for webcams, http://www.peekeez.com offers free remote viewing of your webcam. You can also record all your video remotely on the website, but that service costs $29 per month.
  • You can find all types of fun effects and activities for your webcams at http://www.SillyWebcam.com
  • Microsoft LifeCam VX-1000
    The camera used to be good, but now it's blurry, the colour is poor and it's totally useless to Skype or other video calls. The warranty is gone and now I have a piece of garbage around which I will have to replace. I know for sure that it will not be Microsoft again. I have a Microsoft mouse with the same problem. One year and I had to replace it.