See and Say
One of the problems with using a TV, monitor or projector in the classroom is that they rarely have built-in Web cams for carrying out videoconferences or distance learning projects. Enter HP’s Webcam HD 5210, a standalone USB camera and microphone ensemble that makes everything come in crystal clear.
The HD 5210 may be bigger than other Web cams, but it can outperform them in most areas. The typical cheap Web cam or one in a notebook can show 640 by 480 resolution, which makes faces look pixilated and turns a class of kids into a blur. By contrast, the HD 5210 can record videos at 1,920 by 1,080 and stream video at 1,280 by 768. It can capture sharp still images at 13 megapixels.
As a video camera, it works with Skype, AOL Instant Messenger, Google Video Chat, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and other programs. A big bonus is that on the top of the Web cam there are quick launch buttons for capturing a photo or video as well as connecting with an instant messaging system of your choice.
Plus, the camera comes with software for quickie uploads to FaceBook, YouTube and Flickr.There’s also a slew of ArcSoft editing software as well as an excellent control center for the camera.
While most Web cams are either silent or have a single microphone that makes it sound like your classroom is in a cave, the HD 5210 has an advanced microphone array. Featuring a pair of microphones, the system has active noise cancellation to reduce hiss and background sounds, yet capture voices that are 20-feet away.
The best part is that the HD 5210 has one of the easiest installation routines around. It plugs into a PC with one USB cable for video and audio, and it comes with a CD that loads its software automatically. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work with Macs or Linux computers. Expect it to take 3 minutes to install.
Using a Lenovo IdeaCentre Q150 PC, the HD 5210 delivered clear and rich audio without any hum or static, while images were surprisingly sharp and clear with vivid colors. Thanks to built-in H.264 compression, its video output was smooth, without any dropped frames and in synch with the sound. I found that it works best when you use the latest version of Skype.
The Web cam comes with a unique wrap-around bracket that lets the device be hung from the top of a notebook, monitor or just placed on a tabletop. Once it’s in place, the camera can be tilted, panned or aimed. It has a surprisingly wide 75-degree field of view so that it’s perfect for use in a large classroom, playground or auditorium.
Unfortunately, at a time when school budgets have been pared to the bone, $100 is a lot so spend on a Web cam, particularly if the school needs dozens of them. Still, if you can squeeze the HD 5210 into your budget, it’s the best Web cam on the market.
HP WebCam HD 5210
+ Easy set up
+ Put anywhere bracket
+ Dual microphones
+ High resolution
+ Smooth video
- PCs only