The Logitech TV Cam HD brings Logitech into a market that is highly desired, but yet poorly served: Skype on the big screen. It is obvious that a lot of people would love using Skype on their TV, and the proliferation large and cheap LCD TVs only makes this idea more pervasive. Although many smart TVs now offer Skype as an integrated option, there are even more HDTVs out there that do not have the option.
Given that TVs can be used for many years, it’s unlikely that those people (probably you, since you are reading this) will upgrade their TVs just to video chat. That’s where the Logitech TV Can HD comes into play. It works with any HDMI-enabled television, can connect to WiFi or Wired Ethernet and promises clear video and good outgoing audio. In this review, we are putting the Logitech TV Cam HD to the test to see if it lives up to the sales pitch.
I am a webcam enthusiast, and I talk to my family on Skype a couple of times a week. I have tested a number of webcams and even bought a Tely HD skype camera for my parents. It is a device that provides the same service as this Logitech TV Cam HD. I also used Skype on the Samsung Smart TV Series 8000 (2012 model, dual-core), so I have some experience with Skype on many platforms.
What’s in the box
Logitech provides pretty much everything you need to get started: webcam device itself of course, but also an HDMI cable, the power brick, a small remote and the user documentation. I’m glad that Logitech didn’t cheap out on the cable because it’s extremely frustrating to have to get one from a different source.
The industrial design is quite elegant for this type of external solution. By elegant, I don’t mean small obviously because the Logitech TV Cam HD is much larger than camera systems that are integrated into modern TVs. However, just like laptop webcam cannot rival with stand-alone one in the PC world, no embedded TV Cam has the optical and audio (recording) qualities of this Logitech TV Cam HD.
On the other hand, I believe that most of the space is there to accommodate the four microphones found at the top of the TV Cam HD. If it was not for that, Logitech could reduce the size dramatically. Maybe there is also a desire to make the device bigger for esthetic reasons: to match the overall proportions of a big TV. In any case let us know what you think in the comments.
With a width of 9.5” and a depth of 2.5”, the webcam will be quite noticeable at the top of the TV, that’s why the nice facade is important to me. In the back, we can see the HDMI port, the Ethernet port, a microUSB connector (for power), a reset button and a small speaker for incoming call notification.
The retention mechanism relies of the fact that your TV has a hard edge at the top, and while this worked with most of the TVs that I have seen, an exotic design may be an issue. Just think about it before ordering this camera. Logitech has also included an option to attach this webcam to a tripod, which can be really need if you don’t want to put it at the top of a TV, or if you don’t need to receive video. The whole retention system folds neatly if needed.
Upon the first installation, there is a very simple step by step setup and the most important part is the network configuration. If you have wired Ethernet, just plug and you are done. If you have WIFI, you just need to punch the WiFi password and you’re done.
The second step is to enter your Skype credentials. If you don’t have an account, you can create one, but I typically think that it is easier to do so on Skype.com as adding contacts with the TV keyboard as a bit of a hassle. Anyway, you “can” do all that on the TV if you really want to.
There are also possible tweaks that you can do with the audio and the webcam image quality, but I think that most people will leave it alone.
Incoming video: when the conversation first starts, the image did appear a little blocky, but after a few seconds, it was great. That makes sense since image compression is based on the difference between subsequent frames. As time goes, there are less pixels blocks to move on the network because your call recipient doesn’t jump around (or maybe they are, haha). I’d say that for normal conversation, this is pretty much the best that I have seen in terms of stand-alone camera
Outgoing video: The webcam also does a very good job at capturing, compressing and sending video/ This is a shot of myself as seen on the call recipient’s PC on a 1.5Mbps/0.5mbps internet connection. It’s really good, and again it’s head and shoulders beyond that something like the Tely HD would produce.
Incoming audio: this mainly depends on the setup in the other end, but I can tell you that using the TV speakers is great. Overall audio quality was great, and overall, this should not be a problem. I really liked being able to use by TV soundbar which is much fancier than the integrated TV speakers.
Outgoing audio: from what I’ve been told by people that I talked to with this device, the audio often comes out a little soft. It may be because I tested it in a place with high ceilings, but the location of the microphone at the top of the device may have something to do with it. In the future Logitech may want to use a front directional microphone to make things easier. That said, no-one mention any echo from my TV speakers, so Logitech has done a good job with the ambient noise.
Overall User Interface
I found the interface to be quite simple to use, and anyone who has set up Skype before will be in a familiar place. If you plan on installing this for someone who’s not familiar with Skype, it can still work, but I really recommend keeping the number of contacts short so that everyone is on the screen (no scrolling needed). From there, it’s no more complicated than changing the TV channel, finding a contact and placing a call.
Performance trick: I have a lot of Skype contacts (70+) and maybe you do as well. If that’s the case, I recommend that you create a second account with less contacts. I noticed that stand-alone Skype devices don’t handle a large number of contacts so well, and although the Logitech TV Cam HD does a bit better than others, it can still be slowed down by a large number of contacts.
The Logitech TV Cam HD provides a very easy access to Skype and using on a large TV is pretty awesome. The overall package is quite good, and despite having bought a Tely HD last year, I can vouch that the Logitech TV Cam is a superior product in pretty every single aspect: industrial design, user interface and audio/video quality.
Now, I want to set your expectations properly: if you own a Logitech C920 or C910, you will not get the same outgoing video quality. Unfortunately, I can’t connect this webcam to a PC to make synthetic image quality measurements, so I mainly rely on what we can see over Skype.
In the end, the Logitech TV Cam HD is pretty much the best self-contained Skype camera that you can get today. It doesn’t require a computer and the interface is quite intuitive, especially if you limit the number of contacts. I hope that this review has given you a good idea of how it is to use this device in the real world. If you have a question or if I didn’t cover something important, please drop a comment, and I will do my best to clarify. Thanks for stopping by.