Best Webcam For Mac 2016

Posted By admin On 16.02.22
  1. Microsoft 2016 Mac
  2. Best Webcam For Mac Mini
  3. Apple
  • Our top pick, the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920, is being replaced by the Logitech C920S. Based on our initial look, the C920S matches or improves on the features of the C920 and has a similar price.

Your guides

  • Andrew Cunningham

  • Kimber Streams

After researching 19 top webcams and testing six, we think that if you need a webcam for video calls, streaming, or recording, you should get the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920. It takes better pictures and video than any of the other models we tested, beating even newer and more-expensive models. It has sharp, 1080p video at 30 frames per second with fast autofocus and quick, accurate auto white balance; it’s simple to install and use; and at around $60 it doesn’t cost much more than lesser budget webcams.

  1. If you want the best webcam for video calling through Google Hangouts or Skype, look no further – we have the best webcams on the market right here. So, sit back, relax and get ready to find the.
  2. In summary, the Logitech C920 is a very good webcam with a good quality image, the sound's a bit lacking so a USB mic would provide far better audio. The C920 isn't fully supported on the Mac OSX to date (Jan 2016) so you may encounter issues trying to use it with different apps so you may be better getting the older C910.
  3. Whether you want the best webcam that money can buy or a prefer a low-cost option, we have rounded-up some of the best webcams you can find for your Mac.

Our pick

For example, if you're using your webcam for a Skype call, but another app decided to peep through that lens, you wouldn't know. Also, there's no way to know when your microphone is being used either. But if your laptop’s integrated webcam is really bad (or broken, or in a dumb place), or if your desktop or display doesn’t have a camera, a USB webcam that sits on top of your screen is the best option. A stand-alone webcam can also provide better quality for video calls, recording videos, and streaming games, events, porn—you name it!

Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920

With the C920, you’ll get the best video quality at a good price.

Buying Options

The C920 has been around since 2012, and it doesn’t include fancy, high-end features like 4K video, 60 fps recording, or Windows Hello face authentication. But there’s still no better webcam for the basics, and price drops have only improved the C920’s value—you can usually find it for $60 or less today, a significant drop from the $100 it cost when it was released.

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Budget pick

Logitech HD Webcam C615

Turns out, you can take good video quality—in this cheaper, foldable package—with you.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $50.

If you need a less-expensive option, or something you can take with you, we recommend the Logitech HD Webcam C615. Its video quality doesn’t match the C920’s—the picture isn’t as sharp, the frame rate is lower at full resolution, autofocus is slower, and auto white balance isn’t as accurate—but the C615 is just as easy to set up, provides 1080p resolution, and has the best quality of any webcam under $50. Its mount also folds around the camera to protect the lens, making the C615 a better portable option than the C920.

Also great

Logitech C922x Pro Stream Webcam

The C922x has great video quality with 60 fps support, a tripod, and background replacement software.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $75.

If you regularly use your webcam to stream to sites like YouTube or Twitch, and want to be able to put smooth 60 fps video of yourself on top of your 60 fps game footage, you’ll like Logitech’s C922x Pro Stream Webcam. The C920, our top pick, is less expensive and our testers preferred its picture quality, but the C922x was a close second and it uses an identical microphone and monitor clip. It also supports smoother 60 fps video at 720p, it includes a tripod, and it supports (on Windows only) a background replacement feature that simulates a green-screen effect.

Everything we recommend

Our pick

Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920

With the C920, you’ll get the best video quality at a good price.

Buying Options

Budget pick

Logitech HD Webcam C615

Turns out, you can take good video quality—in this cheaper, foldable package—with you.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $50.

Also great

Logitech C922x Pro Stream Webcam

The C922x has great video quality with 60 fps support, a tripod, and background replacement software.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $75.

Best Webcam For Mac 2016

Why you should trust us

Andrew Cunningham has spent more than six years writing about PCs and other gadgets for AnandTech and Ars Technica, and before that he spent five years in IT helping people buy the best tech for their needs. Kimber Streams has written about tech for six years and been a PC expert for The Wirecutter for more than three years. Kimber has tested hundreds of laptops, even more storage devices, and way too many peripherals—including wireless mice, mechanical keyboards, and webcams.

Who this is for

Most recent laptops and all-in-one desktops have a decent—sometimes even great—built-in camera, so many people don’t need a stand-alone webcam. But if your laptop’s integrated webcam is really bad (or broken, or in a dumb place), or if your desktop or display doesn’t have a camera, a USB webcam that sits on top of your screen is the best option. A stand-alone webcam can also provide better quality for video calls, recording videos, and streaming games, events, porn—you name it!

How we picked

Five of the webcams we evaluated (from left): Logitech’s Brio, C922x, C920, C615, and C525.

We evaluated 19 current webcams for this update to the guide, including our previous picks, new webcams released since the last time we tested, and best-selling cameras from Amazon. To narrow the field down to six contenders, we compared the specifications of each camera; test data from the previous version of our guide; Amazon reviews; and reviews from trusted third-party sources like PCWorld, PC Magazine, and Laptop Mag.

A good webcam for most people should meet all of these basic criteria, which we used as guidelines for our research:

  • Price: You can get a great webcam for $50 or $60, so there’s no reason for most people to spend more. Even professional streamers or YouTubers with more demanding needs don’t need to spend over $100.
  • Resolution and framerate: A webcam should ideally support a resolution of at least 1280×720 (720p) streaming at 30 frames per second, the maximum resolution supported by most mainstream video chat services. We favored cameras that support at least 1920×1080 (1080p) video at 30 frames per second, which is useful for the streaming apps that support it and for video recorded locally. Some high-end cameras support 720p video at 60 frames per second, which makes for smoother video but isn’t necessary for most people.
  • Autofocus: For our main pick, we considered only those models that support autofocus, though we did consider one model without autofocus for our budget pick. This feature allows webcams to adjust their focus when you move closer to or farther away from the camera, or when you hold something up in front of it.
  • Automatic brightness and color correction: You should be able to manually adjust these settings if you really want, but any good webcam should give you a decent image without requiring you to fiddle with settings.
  • A decent microphone: Any webcam you buy should include at least one noise-cancelling microphone so that you can be easily heard when you’re chatting in a room with a little ambient noise (like a ceiling fan). But if you need better sound quality, you should consider our picks for office, gaming, or Bluetooth headsets with integrated mics.
  • A good clip/stand: Any webcam needs a clip that makes it simple to attach it to a variety of laptop screens and desktop monitors, and it should be easy to tilt the mic up or down to adjust the view. Stands that also allow the cameras to sit independently on a table or desk, that allow the camera to swivel, or that include a tripod mount are a bonus.

A few other things are nice to have, but most people don’t need to worry about these:

  • A glass lens: Glass lenses generally make for better picture quality than plastic ones. Most mid-level to high-end webcams have a glass lens, but ultimately the camera’s resolution, autofocus, and brightness/color adjustments have a larger impact on image quality.
  • A larger field of view: A larger field of view (measured diagonally) means the people you’re chatting with can see more of you and your room at once. But for video chatting, a larger view isn’t that important, and most webcams offer roughly the same field of view anyway. Almost all of the cameras we tested had a field of view between about 70 and 80 degrees; the lowest-end model had a 60-degree field of view and the highest-end model had a 90-degree field of view.
  • A longer warranty: Most of the webcams we tested had two- or three-year warranties. But overall, webcams are relatively simple, mostly stationary devices that don’t tend to break much.
  • Extra software: If you’re running Windows 7 or newer, or any recent version of macOS or ChromeOS, most webcams will work without any extra software. If the webcam does include optional software, it should be purely additive and easy to use.

Five of the webcams we tested met or exceeded all of our requirements, and they were all from Logitech: the Brio, C922x, C920, C615, and C525. We also evaluated the Logitech C270, which lacks autofocus but meets our other requirements and costs only $20. In a previous round of testing, we tested (and dismissed) Logitech’s C930e and Microsoft’s LifeCam Cinema.

How we tested

The $20 C270 has a small field of view and produces noisier, less-detailed images.

Logitech's C920 in a well-lit room. It does a nice job with exposure and white balance and captures a good amount of detail.

The C922x's images are similar overall, but our testers slightly preferred the C920.

Our budget pick, the Logitech C615, still takes 1080p pictures and video, but it doesn't do as good a job with detail or color.

Logitech's C525 produced images that our testers considered 'fuzzy' and 'grainy.'

Logitech's Brio costs three times as much as the C920, but our testers generally preferred pictures and video taken by the C920.

The $20 C270 has a small field of view and produces noisier, less-detailed images.

Logitech's C920 in a well-lit room. It does a nice job with exposure and white balance and captures a good amount of detail.

Once we narrowed down the field, we took multiple pictures and videos with each webcam under controlled conditions so we could compare them directly. For our 2017 tests, here’s what we captured with each contender:

  • A still photo in a room that was well-lit with both sunlight and overhead lighting. These are typical conditions for most webcams, so they give us a good idea of how you’ll look when you record video or chat over Skype. The mix of different light sources can also trip up a camera’s white balance.
  • A second still photo in a well-lit room, but seated in front of a window. This shows us how the webcam handles different light levels in the same shot.
  • A video shot in the same well-lit room. Again, this is close to ideal for most webcams, and it shows how detailed and smooth their recordings are and how their autofocus features work in typical conditions.
  • A video shot in a dimly lit room. Most webcams struggle in low light, but that doesn’t keep people from using them without good lightning.
  • The same two videos at 60 fps (for the Logitech C922x and Logitech Brio, the only two cameras we tested that support this feature).
  • An audio sample in a room with a ceiling fan on high, but otherwise quiet, to test mic quality and noise suppression.

We then had seven Wirecutter staffers compare the images and videos from the different cameras, without knowing which was which, and rank their quality from best to worst. We used that data, our findings from the previous version of this guide, and notes from other professional reviewers to settle on our picks.

We also downloaded and used Logitech’s webcam software for the cameras we tested. All of these webcams are automatically detected by Windows 10, macOS, and other modern operating systems; Windows 10 downloads and installs the necessary drivers for you. But features like background replacement require Logitech’s software.

Our pick: Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920

Mini

Our pick

Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920

With the C920, you’ll get the best video quality at a good price.

Buying Options

The Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 is the best option for most people who need a stand-alone webcam, thanks to its superb image quality, ease of setup, and helpful (but optional) software. Its video—1080p at 30 frames per second—was crisp and clear in our testing, and the autofocus and auto white balance features worked better than those of any of the other webcams we tested. Logitech introduced the C920 back in 2012, and there’s still nothing better for the price.

When comparing pictures taken by the six webcams we examined, our testers consistently ranked the C920 first, beating out even newer and more expensive models like the C922x and the Logitech Brio. The C920 produces sharp, 1080p-resolution video both locally and streamed through services such as Skype, Google Hangouts, and Zoom (though many services default to, or max out at, 720p to save bandwidth). They did think that the C920’s audio sounded muffled compared with the other webcams we tested, but the camera’s noise-reduction feature works well and the sound is still perfectly fine for casual chats and virtual meetings.

The C920’s autofocus works quickly, and the camera does a good job of adjusting its exposure and white balance—even in rooms with a mix of sunlight and warm overhead light, or when you’re sitting in front of a bright window. It did just as well as or better than the more expensive C922x and the Brio in these tests. By comparison, the less expensive C615 produced darker, less detailed images with too saturated colors, and the C525’s pictures in front of the window were underexposed, making the rest of the room too dark. The C920 does struggle in a dimly lit room—the frame rate drops as the camera adjusts its exposure settings to keep you visible, and you’ll see more image noise and less detail—but none of the webcams we tested did particularly well in low light.

The C920 can sit on top of your monitor, or independently on your desk.

Like the other webcams we tested, the C920 works right out of the box on Windows, macOS, and Chrome OS—just connect its USB-A plug to your computer (directly or via an adapter) and launch your video-recording or video-chat software of choice. If you need more control, you can manually adjust exposure, gain, brightness, contrast, color intensity, white balance, and focus using the Logitech Webcam Controller software for Windows or the Logitech Camera Settings software for Mac.

The C920 has a large, 78-degree field of view (only the Brio’s was significantly larger at 90 degrees), and Logitech’s software allows you to zoom and pan—say, to keep your lovely face in frame without showing off your messy room.

The C920 sits on top of your screen: A fold-out foot braces against the back of your laptop or monitor, while a plastic tab sits in front to hold the camera in place. The C920’s large front tab provides stability, but if you’re using a laptop or monitor with a superslim bezel (like the Dell XPS 13 or HP’s Z27n), the tab blocks a small sliver of the screen. Alternatively, the base of the clip is sturdy enough to sit the camera on a desk by itself, or you can use the webcam’s standard tripod mount if that better fits your use.

In addition to the software settings, you can physically tilt the webcam up or down to control what’s in frame. The C920 doesn’t, however, let you swivel the camera left and right. This isn’t a dealbreaker, because you can always slide the webcam around or change the framing within the software, but if you need that feature, take a look at our budget pick.

The C920 is universally loved by reviewers. Tom Marks of PC Gamer tested at least 11 webcams and crowned the Logitech C920 the best of the lot, saying, “Time and time again, the C920 impressed me not just for the quality of its image in ideal conditions, but its consistent quality in all settings.”

Laptop Mag named the Logitech C920 one of the five best webcams in 2017, calling it “an easy favorite” that takes “sharp, color-accurate, and crystal-clear” images. The C920 has the best meta rating on Engadget, and is the top seller on Amazon with a rating of 4.4 stars (out of five) across more than 8,000 reviews.

Long-term test notes

More than a few Wirecutter staffers use our top pick, the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920, as their primary webcam. We continue to recommend it based not only on our formal research and testing but also on our extensive experience using it every day. Kimber Streams, an editor for our PC coverage who worked on this guide, said, “I've likely taken over a thousand video calls on this thing, and it's great. It's never acted weird or given me a hard time about anything.” Another editor, Andrew Cunningham, told us that he has been using the C920 even though his iMac has a built-in camera, saying our pick has “better detail, auto-exposure, and auto-white balance.' Andrew added, 'I use it for Zoom work calls and also for Skype/Hangouts to do podcast recordings and live-streams.”

Budget pick: Logitech HD Webcam C615

Budget pick

Logitech HD Webcam C615

Turns out, you can take good video quality—in this cheaper, foldable package—with you.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $50.

If you don’t want to spend more than $40 on a webcam, we recommend the Logitech HD Webcam C615. Its video quality, autofocus, and auto white balance aren’t as good as the C920’s—most people should spend the extra $20 or so to get that better performance—but the C615 is just as easy to set up and has the best video quality of any webcam we tested under $50.

The C615 is capable of 1080p video, but to match the C920’s 30 fps you need to go all the way down to 640×480 resolution. In our tests, the C615’s images and video were darker, softer, and less detailed than those captured by the C920. Our testers preferred the C920, C922, and the expensive Logitech Brio, but they still liked the C615 more than the other budget webcams we tested, Logitech’s C525 and C270. Testers also universally preferred the C615’s microphone to the one on either the C920 or the C922x, which they thought sounded muffled compared with the other cameras. (You’ll want a headset or a separate microphone for anything beyond basic chatting with any of these webcams.)

Like the C920, the Logitech C615 is easy to set up on Windows, macOS, and Chrome OS—just plug it in and it works without any additional software. The same apps (Logitech Webcam Controller for Windows and Logitech Camera Settings for Mac) work with the C615 if you want manual control over the framing, exposure, brightness, contrast, color intensity, white balance, or focus.

The C615’s folding stand protects the lens, and it’s a nice feature if you frequently travel with your webcam.

We do like the C615’s clip better than the C920’s. You can still perch the C615 on top of your screen, on your desk, or on a separate tripod for use. But the C615’s front tab is smaller than the C920’s, so it doesn’t block screens with super-thin bezels. The C615 can also swivel from side-to-side or tilt up and down, while the C920 can only tilt, and you can fold up the C615 when not in use, with the stand protecting the lens if you want to throw it in your laptop bag.

For streamers: Logitech C922x Pro Stream Webcam

Also great

Logitech C922x Pro Stream Webcam

The C922x has great video quality with 60 fps support, a tripod, and background replacement software.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $75.

The C920 is all most people will need for casual chats, video conferences, and even professional or semi-professional video recordings and streams, since it’s a 1080p webcam with sharp image quality, good white balance and exposure settings, and fast autofocus. But for regularly streaming video for an audience on sites like YouTube or Twitch, we really like Logitech’s C922x Pro Stream Webcam. It looks almost identical to the C920, and if you’re just using Skype or Google Hangouts, the image quality is similar. The extra $20 to $30 in cost buys you support for 720p 60 fps video recording and background replacement, as well as a tripod.

Most people don’t need a webcam than can do 60 fps. Most webcams, including our top pick, record and stream video at 30 fps, and if you use your webcam only for chatting, meetings, or basic videos and streams, that’s more than enough. Chat services like Google Hangouts and Skype usually default to 30 fps video to save bandwidth (and most don’t support 60 fps video at all), and 60 fps files are twice as large as 30 fps videos because they’re capturing twice the number of frames.

A 60 fps webcam is primarily of interest to people who frequently stream using live video services like Twitch, which can stream 1080p videos at up to 60 fps. For streamers who overlay video of themselves atop 60 fps game footage, having a webcam that can also record at 60 fps makes for a smoother, nicer-looking stream. And the C922x comes with a tripod, which gives streamers more flexibility than the normal C920-style clip allows.

The C922x also includes software that tries to separate you from your background, creating a green screen-style, background-replacement effect without the added cost, equipment, and space you’d need for an actual green screen. Removing the room behind you means that your webcam overlay takes up less space—it’s just you, not you and everything behind you—and obscures less of whatever is streaming underneath.

The C922x and its background replacement software did a decent job with my face, hair, and torso, but I’m missing a shoulder and it’s pretty bad at arms and hands.

The Windows-only ChromaCam software that the C922x uses for background replacement actually works with any webcam, including the C920. The version Logitech includes with the C922x offers the same features as the $30 Pro version—it removes the ChromaCam watermark and lets you insert your own, and it lets you load custom background images and PowerPoint presentations.

In our testing, the feature did an okay job distinguishing my torso, head, and hair from the rest of the room as long as the light was good, but it had trouble recognizing or separating my arms and hands from the background, and it sometimes included the back of my chair, too. When we used the ChromaCam software with our top pick, the C920, the background replacement effect seemed to work about as well as it did for the C922x, so you’d probably be better off paying for the Pro version of ChromaCam instead of upgrading to a C922x just to get this feature.

The C922x’s design and clip are largely identical to the C920’s.

For everyday use, the C922x works just about as well as the C920; our testers slightly preferred the C920’s pictures and video in our tests, but the C922x was almost always a close second. The exposure, color, and level of detail captured by the two cameras are similar overall, and most testers still preferred the C922x to the more expensive Logitech Brio.

The C922x is also easy to set up, and, as with the C920, you’ll need to install extra software only if you want to control the exposure and white balance settings manually—or if you want to use the ChromaCam software for background replacement. Both the Windows and Mac versions of the Logitech Camera Settings app for the C922x require you to open a separate app like the Windows Camera app or Photo Booth to preview your image as you adjust it.

Professional reviewers like the C922x, though they agree that it’s identical to the cheaper C920 in most ways. PCWorld says, “By most measures [the C922x] is the same camera Logitech launched in 2012,” but “it’s still one of the best webcams around.” Laptop Mag says that the background replacement software and included tripod make the C922x a better choice for gamers than the C920, but “if you just need a great webcam or don't care about background removal, the Logitech C920 is a better deal.”

Should you be worried about privacy?

You may have noticed other people (including tech luminaries) covering their webcams with tape to protect their privacy. If you’re shopping for a webcam, you might be wondering—is this something you need to be worried about? To get more information, we spoke with Stephen Checkoway, who co-authored a research paper on webcam spying back in 2013.

“I don't want to sound alarmist and webcam-based spying is not the most serious privacy threat facing computer users, but it is a real and serious issue,” Checkoway wrote. “There are Internet forums devoted to using remote administration tools (RATs) to surreptitiously take control of people's (frequently young women's) computers and spy on them.”

Almost all webcams, including every webcam we tested for this guide, have indicator lights that turn on when the webcam is active. But these aren’t foolproof, since it’s possible to disable the indicator light on some webcams. Logitech’s software for the C920 and C615 lets you control whether the light comes on when the webcam does, and if Logitech can do it, spyware makers can do it too.

If you decide to cover your webcam, you’ve got a few different options, including tape, Post-It notes, and stickers—Slate writer Jacob Brogan recommends painter’s tape or Washi tape, both of which are effective and easy to remove but don’t leave a sticky residue—or covers made for specific webcam models. The popularity and longevity of the C920 mean that there are multiple covers made just for it.

“Any of these will prevent recording video,” said Checkoway. “But one must be aware that preventing video recording is all that they do. In particular, they do not prevent audio recording.”

Luckily, there’s one totally foolproof way to keep all of our picks from recording video and audio without your knowledge, and it’s the one that Logitech itself recommended to us: Just unplug the webcam when you aren’t using it.

What to look forward to

Razer released a new webcam that features a simple, but effective, advantage over our current picks. The Razer Kiyo adds an adjustable ring light to a Razer webcam lens, ensuring that anyone in front of the Kiyo will be properly lit. Based on test images we’ve seen from Kotaku, the arrangement looks promising. The Kiyo is marketed primarily at professional gaming streamers, which might explain why it’s almost twice as expensive as our current pick. We plan to test whether the additional functionality is worth the price soon.

Webcams that use Intel’s RealSense 3D camera technology differ from regular webcams because they can sense depth. They can separate things in the foreground of a picture or video from things in the background, and they can do it much more consistently and reliably than Logitech’s current background replacement feature. They can also use 3D facial recognition to log you in to your computer via Windows Hello (some other webcams, including the Logitech Brio we tested, use a simpler IR camera for this), and they support hand- and finger-tracking.

Models that use RealSense are already available, but they’re either significantly more expensive than the Logitech C920 (like Razer’s Stargazer or Creative’s BlasterX Senz3D) or intended for developers (like Intel’s own SR300). They’re also considerably more bulky than any of our picks. If and when these cameras become smaller and cheaper, they may become compelling alternatives to traditional webcams. Until then, they’re overkill for most people.

The competition

We disqualified the Logitech Brio because it costs more than three times as much as the C920, and because our testers almost always preferred images and video taken by both the C920 and C922. That said, the Brio is the only webcam we tested that can record 4K video—but only on computers with seventh-generation or newer Intel Core processors or modern dedicated graphics cards. The Brio also has a built-in infrared camera that you can use to log into Windows 10 using your face via Windows Hello, and it has a USB-C port instead of a built-in cable so you can use whatever type and length of USB cable you want. It records 720p video at 60 fps, works better in low light than our picks, and supports background replacement. It’s a great webcam—it’s just too expensive, and most people don’t need its extra features.

The Logitech C525 is a cheaper version of our budget pick, but it doesn’t support 1080p video, uses a plastic lens instead of a glass one, and doesn’t include a tripod mount on its foldable clip. Our testers found its images “grainy” and “fuzzy” and generally preferred the C615. We think the C615 is worth the extra money even if you’re on a budget.

We tested the Logitech C270 to find out how a $20 webcam would far against more-expensive models. It consistently placed dead last in our image-quality tests, it lacks autofocus, and its small field of view is claustrophobic compared with the views of the rest of the cameras we tested.

The Logitech C930e (also called the Logitech Pro Webcam) is a more expensive version of the C920 that’s aimed at business uses rather than home use. It has a wider, 90-degree field of view, meant to capture large meeting rooms for video conferences; this isn’t something most people need.

The Logitech C310, Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000, Genius WideCam F100, Creative Live! Cam Sync, and Creative Live! Cam Chat all lack autofocus, which is a necessary feature for most people.

The Microsoft LifeCam Studio has poor reviews, and PC Gamer recommends the Logitech C920 over it.

The Brother NW1000 is more expensive than the Logitech C920 and has few—and lukewarm—user reviews.

The Gucee HD92 720p and HD92 1080p, the Havit HV-N5086, the eStorees USB HD Webcam, and the Cimkiz USB 2.0 HD Webcam are all listed as best sellers on Amazon, and they’re all available for $30 or less, but they all lack autofocus and come from no-name companies unlikely to offer good support if you need it.

Footnotes

  1. The Mac software doesn’t show a preview when you’re adjusting settings, so you’ll have to use macOS’s Photo Booth app or other video software to test your tweaks.

    Jump back.

Sources

  1. Stephen Checkoway, University of Illinois at Chicago, email interview, July 21, 2017

  2. Guillaume Bourelly, Logitech, phone interview, July 24, 2017

  3. Tom Marks, Best Webcams 2017, PC Gamer, July 28, 2017

  4. Andrew Freedman, Best Webcams, Laptop Mag, February 17, 2017

  5. Linus Tech Tips, Logitech C922 Webcam Exclusive First Look, September 29, 2016

Improve Your View: The Right LCD Monitor

The monitor you're using right now might have come bundled with your desktop PC, or maybe you bought it back when 1,024 by 768 was considered 'high resolution.' Since you spend a huge part of every day looking at your screen, it pays to be picky when buying a new one—this is tech you buy that you'll stay with for years to come. And nowadays, you get a lot for your monitor money. Even many low-end panels utterly blow away models from a decade ago.

Gaming screens, business monitors, pro-content displays: The prices for panels even of the same size vary widely, as does the quality of the screen itself. Let's take a walk through the latest trends in display technology, as well as the specific features to look for when shopping for your next desktop monitor. We'll top off the discussion with our 10 current tested favorites.

The Basics: Pricing, Panel Types, and More

Regardless of the type of monitor you're in the market for, some general factors are worth considering. Here's a rundown of the key areas to keep in mind.

Price

Monitor prices depend on the target audience, size, and features of the display. For around $100 to $150, you can pick up a no-frills 22-inch or 23-inch model, but don't expect niceties such as a wide variety of portsand a height-adjustable stand at this price. But these panels do use LED backlighting, require little power, and are often bright. Performance is adequate for most entertainment or basic business and productivity purposes, but not well suited to tasks where color and grayscale accuracy are key.

At the other end of the spectrum are your high-end models that are geared toward graphic design professionals and photographers. Most of these are 27-inch to 38-inch high-end panels that support 4K (3,840 by 2,160 pixels), capable of displaying four times the resolution of a typical full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel, or '1080p') monitor. Moreover, they offer such features as a highly adjustable stand, a range of ports including HDMI, DisplayPort, and USB (often including USB-C), and a wealth of advanced image settings, including calibration hardware and software. Expect to pay $1,000 and up for a fully loaded, high-performance 4K or Ultra-High-Definition (UHD) monitor like this.

Bottom line: Be prepared to pay for extras, but don't overspend on features you will never use.

Panel Size

Desktop monitors generally fall between 14 and 38 inches, although for those with wide desks, the past year has brought the first 49-inch displays. (The smallest ones will be USB-connected panels meant for mobile use.) The size of the panel is measured diagonally.

While it's always nice to have as big a viewing area as possible, it may not be practical, given your desktop space constraints. Plus, the bigger the screen, the more you can expect to pay. A 24-inch monitor is a good choice if you wish to view multipage documents or watch movies but have limited desk space. But there's nothing like watching a movie or playing a game on a large screen, so if you have room on your desktop, a 27-inch or larger display delivers a big-screen experience for a reasonable price. If space is not an issue, consider a massive, curved-screen model to bring a true movie-theater experience to your desktop. If you're looking to replace a dual-monitor setup with a single display, check out one of the ultra-wide, big-screen models. They are available in sizes ranging from 29 to 49 inches with curved and non-curved panels, have a 21:9 (or wider) aspect ratio, and come in a variety of resolutions, including Wide Quad High-Definition (WQHD) and UHD.

Pixel Response Rate

Measured in milliseconds (ms), this is the time it takes for a pixel to change from black to white (black-to-white) or to transition from one shade of gray to another (gray-to-gray). The faster the pixel response rate, the better the monitor is at displaying video without also displaying artifacts, such as ghosting or blurring of moving images. Monitors with a fast 1ms (gray-to-gray) pixel response are very good for gaming, but even monitors with a higher 6ms (gray-to-gray) pixel response can display games without much blurring or ghosting.

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Most users won't notice input lag, which is the time it takes for the display to react to a command, but hard-core gamers consider this a key factor when choosing a monitor and typically seek out the fastest models available. The fastest monitor we've seen has a lag time of less than a millisecond, but for everyday use, you can get by with up to around 25ms before lag becomes a problem.

Native Resolution

This is the maximum number of pixels a monitor can display, both horizontally and vertically. For example, a monitor with a 1,920-by-1,080 native resolution can display 1,920 pixels across the width of the screen, and 1,080 pixels from top to bottom. The higher the resolution, the more information can be displayed on the screen.

These days, most monitors in the 22-to-27-inch range have a native resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 and are referred to as full HD or 1080p monitors. You'll also see plenty of displays from 24 to 32 inches that offer a WQHD (2,560-by-1,440-pixel) native resolution. Stepping up to a UHD or 4K (3,840-by-2,160-pixel) monitor usually means a 27-inch or larger screen, although we have seen a few 24-inch UHD models. UHD monitors are ideal for viewing highly detailed images or looking at multiple pages in a tiled or side-by-side format.

Extra Features

If you have to share a monitor with a co-worker or family members, consider a model with an ergonomic stand that lets you position the screen for your most comfortable viewing angle. A fully adjustable stand offers tilt, swivel, and height adjustments, and you can rotate the panel for portrait-mode viewing. If you tend to attach and detach USB devices often, look for a monitor with built-in USB ports. Ideally, at least two of these ports will be mounted on the side of the cabinet, making it easy to plug in thumb drives and other USB peripherals.

Most monitors come with built-in speakers that are adequate for everyday use but lack the volume and bass response that music aficionados and gamers crave. If audio output is important, look for speakers with a minimum rating of 2 watts per speaker. As a general rule, the higher the power rating, the more volume you can expect, so if you want a monitor with a little extra audio pop, check the specs. Some monitors lack speakers altogether, but you can add external speakers that may give you better sound than typical monitor speakers. A display with a built-in card reader makes it easy to view photos and play music without having to reach under your desk to plug in a media card.

Finally, glossy-surfaced screens can provide very bright, crisp colors, but they may also be too reflective for some users. If possible, compare a glossy screen to a matte screen before you buy to decide which works best for you.

Display-Tech Trends

The key panel types used in desktop displays are twisted nematic (TN), in-plane switching (IPS), vertical alignment (VA), patterned vertical alignment (PVA), Super PVA (S-PVA), and multi-domain vertical alignment (MVA).

Up until the last few years, most desktop displays used TN technology. It is the least-expensive panel type to manufacture, and it offers superior motion-handling performance. But affordable IPS monitors are out in force; plenty of 27-inch IPS models cost well under $250 and offer very good color quality and wide viewing angles. VA monitors also offer robust colors, but viewing-angle performance, while better than on a typical TN panel, is not quite as sharp as what you get from an IPS panel.

Here in 2019, you'd be hard-pressed to find a desktop monitor that does not deliver a full HD image, at the minimum. To achieve this minimal mark, the panel must have a native resolution of at least 1,920 by 1,080 pixels, in a 16:9 aspect ratio to do it without stretching or cropping the picture. Graphic-design professionals who require a high degree of image detail should be looking further up the resolution stack, for a WQHD or UHD monitor.

In the not-too-distant past, most LCD monitors used cold-cathode florescent lamp (CCFL) technology for backlighting, but nowadays LED-backlit monitors are ubiquitous, and with good reason. LED backlight arrangements offer a brighter image than CCFLs do, are smaller and require less power, and allow for extremely thin cabinet designs. CCFL displays are generally less expensive than their LED counterparts, but they are few and far between these days.

Beyond that, we're now seeing monitors that make use of quantum dot technology to offer superior color accuracy, an increased color gamut, and a higher peak brightness than what you get with current panel technologies. Another new wave of monitors features organic light emitting diode (OLED) technology, which promises ultra-high contrast ratios, true blacks, and a super-fast pixel response. OLEDs have been slow to take hold in the market, largely due to their hefty price.

For laptop users who require dual-screen capabilities, a portable USB monitor might be a better fit than a full-size desktop panel. These lightweight devices use your PC's USB port as their source for power and to receive video, usually with the help of DisplayLink software. They are ideal for small office presentations and for extending your laptop's screen real estate, and their slim profile makes them easy to travel with. For around $200, you can get a 15-inch model that will let you double your viewing area while on the road.

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Types of Monitors

You can classify most monitors in one of five categories, all of which target different audiences: Budget, Business/Professional, Touch-Screen, General-Use/Multimedia, and Gaming. Prices vary within each category, depending on the panel technology used, the size of the display, and features.

Budget

If you're looking for a basic monitor for viewing emails, surfing the web, and displaying office applications, there's no reason to overspend on one with features you'll never use. Budget displays are usually no-frills models that lack niceties such as USB ports, card readers, and built-in webcams. Some cheaper models use TN panel technology and are not known for their performance attributes, particularly when it comes to motion handling and grayscale accuracy. That said, more and more, IPS panels have been infiltrating the budget zone at each screen size.

Don't expect much in the way of flexibility. Most budget displays are supported by a rigid stand that may provide tilt adjustability but probably won't offer height and pivot adjustments. As with nearly all displays, costs will rise along with panel size. You can buy a simple 24-inch TN panel for between $130 and $150, while budget 27-inch TN screens are available for well under $200.

Business/Professional

This category includes a wide variety of monitor types, from small-screen, energy-conscious 'green' models for everyday office use to high-end, high-priced, 32-inch-and-up professional-grade displays that use indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) or advanced high-performance in-plane switching (AH-IPS) panel technology and cater to graphics professionals who require a high degree of color and grayscale accuracy. Business monitors usually offer ergonomic stands that can be adjusted for maximum comfort. Very often, they will offer pivot adjustability, which lets you rotate the screen 90 degrees for viewing in portrait mode. Look for a monitor with an auto-rotate feature that flips the image for you when you change the orientation. Other business-centric features include a generous (three-year) warranty with an overnight exchange service, built-in USB ports, and an aggressive recycling program.

A fully loaded model with a high-end panel is going to cost plenty, but for photographers and other graphics pros, it is money well spent. At the other end of the price spectrum are the no-frills, energy-efficient monitors; they don't offer much in the way of features, but their low-power characteristics can help businesses save money through reduced energy costs.

For more, check out the Best Business Monitors.

Touch-Screen

These are still uncommon, but with the advent of Windows 10, touch-screen desktop displays have gained some traction in vertical markets. You'll pay a bit more for touch-screen technology, but it's worth it if you care about the Windows touch experience. Look for a model equipped with a stand that lets you position the panel so that it is almost parallel with your desktop, if you need that kind of interaction. (Some touch models are designed without a stand, meant to be integrated into a specific environment with a custom stand or arm.)

General-Use/Multimedia

Multimedia displays typically offer a nice selection of features to help you create and view home photo and video projects. A good panel of this kind will usually provide a variety of connectivity options, primary among them HDMI, DisplayPort, and DVI; robust entertainment-class models will also include audio connections. At least two USB ports should be available, preferably mounted on the side of the cabinet for easy access; a USB Type-C port that lets you charge, say, a laptop from your monitor while permitting two-way data transfer is another big plus.

The monitor may also have built-in speakers. On a good multimedia panel, they should be a cut above the typical low-powered versions found on most monitors. If audio output is a deciding factor, look for displays with speakers rated at 2 watts or better. Other multimedia bells and whistles include a built-in card reader, which makes it easy to view photos and video directly from your camera's media, and a webcam for video chats and for taking quick stills and videos that are easy to email. (If you're a serious photographer, check out our picks for photography-friendly displays.)

Gaming

Displays for gaming require fast response times in order to display moving images without producing motion errors or artifacts. Panels with slower response times may produce blurring of fast-moving images, which can be distracting during gameplay. On smaller displays, the flaw may not be so noticeable, but when you're gaming on a screen that's 27 inches or larger, you'll want to keep blurring to a minimum. Look for a panel with a response time of 5ms (black-to-white) or 2ms (gray-to-gray) or less. Recent gaming monitors offer G-Sync (Nvidia) or FreeSync/FreeSync 2 (AMD) display technologies that reduce screen-tearing artifacts and provide an ultra-smooth gaming experience, but your computer will need a compatible dedicated graphics card to take advantage of that functionality.

A fast-emerging subcategory of gaming displays is the so-called 'high-refresh' panel. Some gaming-monitor makers offer displays that feature refresh rates above the 60Hz norm. They are geared toward esports aficionados or serious competitive gamers, who will use the panels in games that run above 60 frames per second for enhanced smoothness. (Depending on the games you play, you may need a high-end video card to see the benefits of a high-refresh display; see our guide to the best graphics cards.) These high-refresh monitors are offered in various refresh intervals ranging from 75Hz to 240Hz, with 144Hz being the most common flavor. These monitors often support FreeSync or G-Sync, as well. The ultimate gaming monitors are the 65-inch BFGD ('Big-Format Gaming Displays') whose development Nvidia has helped spearhead. These 4K giants are HDR-capable, have a peak brightness of 1,000 nits, support frame rates of 120Hz or more, and support G-Sync adaptive sync technology. The first BFGD to market is the HP Omen X Emperium 65 Big Format Gaming Display (BFGD).

Because audio is a big part of the immersive gaming experience, if you don't have a desktop speaker set already, consider a model with a decent speaker system. (Most in-monitor speakers are middling at best, though.) Alternately, a jack mounted on the side or the front of the cabinet for plugging in a gaming headset is practical if you tend to go the contained-sound route. A monitor with a USB hub to plug in several controllers is also desirable. For more, check out the Best Gaming Monitors.

How to Find the Best 4K Monitor

4K or UHD monitors aren't just for gamers. In fact, many prospective owners of 4K monitors are video editors or users who like to have multiple windows open side-by-side without adding a second monitor. If that's you, you don't need to look for a panel with lightning-quick response times, but you should pay attention to color gamut, contrast ratios, and size.

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A 27-inch 4K monitor (these start around $350) will generally allow you to fit three full-size browser windows side by side. Go any smaller than that, and the monitor won't be as useful for multitasking. Gamers, on the other hand, will want to look for a larger-screen 4K display compatible with fast response times and FreeSync or G-Sync compliance if their PC uses a video card that supports one or the other, since a higher resolution makes tearing even more distracting. 4K gaming displays also start around $350, but they can range well north of $1,000 for 32-inch models with GPU syncing and IPS.

Ready for Our Recommendations?

Whatever your needs or budget, there's a monitor out there that's right for you. Below, check out the current best displays we've tested across the various usage cases we've discussed, at various price levels. We update this story constantly, but for the very latest monitor reviews we've posted, also see our monitor product guide.

Best Computer Monitors Featured in This Roundup:

Apple

  • Acer Predator XB3 (XB273K) Review


    MSRP: $1299.99

    Pros: Great color reproduction. Low input lag. Good price for the features you get. Gaming-friendly design.

    Cons: Limited number of ports. Black levels could be better. Moderate light bleed.

    Bottom Line: The Acer Predator XB3 is a nearly perfect compromise between the lowest and highest ends of the 4K 144Hz monitor market.

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  • Asus ROG Strix XG32VQ Review


    MSRP: $699.00

    Pros: Nicely curved screen. Support for Adaptive Sync (FreeSync). 144Hz refresh rate. Joystick control for OSD menus. Gaming modes and features galore. Smooth performance and good contrast.

    Cons: VA panel's pixel response can't match that of TN monitors. No built-in speakers.

    Bottom Line: The Asus ROG Strix XG32VQ gaming monitor combines a 32-inch curved screen, a zippy 144Hz refresh rate, FreeSync compatibility, and a raft of gaming features to nab our Editors' Choice.

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  • BenQ PD2710QC Review


    MSRP: $599.00

    Pros: Solid color and grayscale performance. Plenty of I/O ports. USB-C connectivity. Docking station base. Stylish design.

    Cons: Lacks advanced color settings. No swivel adjustment.

    Bottom Line: The BenQ PD2710QC is a stylish, versatile 27-inch monitor that delivers accurate colors and solid grayscale performance. It's a top pick for big-screen displays.

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  • Dell 27 USB-C Ultrathin Monitor (S2719DC) Review


    MSRP: $549.99

    Pros: USB-C port can charge devices, including laptops. QHD (ultra-high-definition) resolution. Good color accuracy and wide color gamut. Very bright HDR image. AMD FreeSync support. Smooth gameplay.

    Cons: Stand only supports tilt adjustment. Tiny, awkward control buttons.

    Bottom Line: The Dell 27 USB-C Ultrathin Monitor (S2719DC) is a good entertainment panel for video-watching or gaming, with a bright HDR image, accurate color, and a USB-C port that can charge a laptop and/or stream video or data from a computer.

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  • Dell UltraSharp 32 4K USB-C Monitor (U3219Q) Review


    MSRP: $1099.00

    Pros: Crisp, clear images. HDR color profiles fit well to their tasks. Solid color results in most tests. Exceeded brightness specs. Low input lag.

    Cons: Low DCI-P3 color accuracy.

    Bottom Line: Dell's UltraSharp 32 U3219Q is a big, beautiful 4K display aimed squarely at the business set, but it could still find a home on any gamer's desk with, we suspect, no complaints.

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  • LG 49WL95C-W Review


    MSRP: $1499.99

    Pros: Spacious 49-inch screen. USB-C port can charge devices, including laptops. Good color accuracy. Can handle HDR content. Powerful speakers.

    Cons: Skimpy one-year warranty. On the pricey side.

    Bottom Line: The LG 49WL95C-W, a business-centered 49-inch monitor, is a multitasker's dream panel, letting you manage and view several full-size windows on your screen at once.

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  • Samsung CHG70 27-Inch Curved Monitor Review


    MSRP: $499.99

    Pros: Good HDR performance in videos and games alike. Blistering refresh rate. Support for AMD FreeSync 2. Sturdy and ergonomic mount. Good color quality and image sharpness. Strong value for money.

    Cons: Viewing-angle range could be better.

    Bottom Line: Gamers and video hounds alike will thrill to the Samsung CHG70 27-Inch Curved Monitor's winning combination: its fine standard-definition and HDR image quality, wide color gamut, high refresh rate, and superior stand.

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  • ViewSonic VP2785-4K Review


    MSRP: $899.99

    Pros: 4K UHD resolution. Good selection of ports, including USB-C. Covers 99 percent of the Adobe RGB color palette and 95 percent of DCI-P3. Highly adjustable stand.

    Cons: No built-in speakers. HDR effect is relatively modest. No adaptive sync support.

    Bottom Line: ViewSonic's VP2785-4K is a prime-pick monitor for video editors, photographers, and other graphics pros, packing great color accuracy and factory calibration for a host of color spaces.

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  • HP EliteDisplay S14 USB Portable Monitor Review


    MSRP: $219.00

    Pros: Slim, compact, and light. One-cable setup. OSD is easy to learn. Clean design that matches up well with thin laptop bezels.

    Cons: Stand affords only one angle. Can't rotate screen to vertical orientation. OSD buttons are tricky to reach. Cover doesn't protect the back of the monitor.

    Bottom Line: HP's lightweight EliteDisplay S14 delivers surprising specs and sleek lines for a business-minded travel monitor. It's a nifty second-screen complement for a midsize laptop that has USB Type-C.

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  • HP Omen X Emperium 65 Big Format Gaming Display (BFGD) Review


    MSRP: $4999.99

    Pros: Astounding image quality. Size and refresh rate combo is unique for a 4K gaming monitor. Nvidia Shield streaming built in. Matching, bundled soundbar. Nifty proximity lighting on ports.

    Cons: Wildly expensive. Shield UI can be obtuse in places. Soundbar audio is ho-hum considering display cost. Meager default warranty.

    Bottom Line: The HP Omen X Emperium 65, the first Nvidia Big Format Gaming Display (BFGD), is an epic, extravagant high-refresh mega-monitor. It's impossibly pricey and far from flawless, but play on it is unmatched, if you have the monster PC to support it.

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