13 Webcams Reviewed

Philips SPC 620NC

The webcam market is taking a significant blow, and there are two reasons for this.  First of all, more and more monitors and laptops have integrated webcams.  Second, we are of the strong opinion that most current webcams on the market, with a few exceptions, are more or less the same in that they offer a minimum of functions.  There is often no autofocus to do away with manual adjustment, poor night time rendering, and sound reproduction contorts voices.

It’s true that as we test more and more of these products, the situation looks a bit bleak.  And we can only ask when the webcam market will have more complete models competing to catch our eye instead of the current rather mediocre choices.

With the SPC 620NC Philips offers a small webcam with a classic design (all plastic, a bit light) with a fixation system that works on all screens but isn’t ideal for laptops.  The first apparent downside is the lack of autofocus (though there is face tracking).  However more importantly, how did this model fare for noise and contrast control, night rendering and sound reproduction?

Image quality

Rendering is more or less satisfactory but gradation in black colors was poor.  Overall, colors tend to lean towards blue-green, while in normal conditions with artificial lighting or daylight, images are pleasant.  There is good detail with a slight loss in darker colors.

At night, it’s another story.  The image is very dark and we barely recognized our conversation partner.  Yes, we have seen worse, but more importantly we’ve also seen better. Webcam manufacturers need to take into account that these products are also used at night.

Autofocus and face tracking

Focusing is done manually and this is true for the entire line of Philips webcams.  We can only wonder why autofocus has not yet been included.  Face tracking, the function which follows the user’s small movements, works well.

A little bonus

Phillips gives you the possibility of changing the background as well as several video effects.

Sometimes you sound like a cartoon character

While the voice of your conversation partner is recognizable, there are some words that come out sounding strange.  You sometimes get the impression you are conversing with Sylvester the cat and it’s slightly annoying.

Philips SPC 620NC
PlusesMinuses
  • Day time rendering
  • Satisfactory amount of detail in images
  • Fixation is a bit wobbly for laptops
  • Rendering at night
  • No autofocus!
  • Sound

It’s a classic webcam with a satisfactory image and sufficient brightness; however, the lack of autofocus, poor night mode and bad sound quality hurt its score significantly.

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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.