Skype has dominated the consumer communications segment for years and after Microsoft's acquisition and recent integration with existing Messenger and Facebook accounts it seems the platform is not going to be out of customers anytime soon.
But consumer habits are changing. Tablets are invading the personal compute space, and more social communications are the norm. After years of seeing USB-connected Skype handsets, followed by LAN-connected Skype handsets that put lots of emphasis on voice, it is good to see a product that brings quality video calls to the mix and to the lounge.
The Logitech TV Cam HD for Skype is an easy to use Skype client and hardware rolled out all in one. It looks remarkably like those professional videoconferencing systems from big name that seem to invade boardrooms and meeting rooms around the world. But it works at home, with a simple TV set.
Things you need to use the Logitech TV Cam HD for Skype: a TV with HDMI input. Things you don't need to use the Logitech TV Cam HD for Skype: a computer or tablet. It's that easy.
The design is pretty clean and thanks to a flexible "arm" the hardware supports a variety of setups: on top of a TV, below it, on an angle pointing upwards or even set on top of a tripod.
Connections are also pretty easy to manage: in the back of the unit you will find a power inlet that looks remarkably like a USB plug, HDMI output to plug to your TV or stereo system and an ethernet port if you want to wire it to your home network. This last item is actually option if you have good WiFi coverage in the lounge.
In my case I am using the Logitech TV Cam HD for Skype via WiFi just to avoid one more cable (even though I have a hub with available ports just behind the TV). And it works just as well.
The very small remote control has only a few keys: Zoom In/Zoom out/Home/Back/Ok and a directional pad. With this remote you can configure the Skype account using an onscreen keyboard, connect to a protected WiFi network or manually configure the LAN settings if needed.
The Zoom keys in the remote control give you control over the video and when zoomed in you can use the directional pad to pan and tilt the video to focus on someone during the conversation.
The Carl Zeiss optics and the camera electronics combined produce a clear and sharp HD video (1280 x 720p). You can see yourself in the full screen video preview in the settings menu.
Four noise cancelling microphones on top of the unit help capture the sound even when you are sitting far away from the TV, while minimising ambience noise interference. And they work pretty well too.
Incoming calls are announced by either a ringing sound on your TV (if it is on) or a the unit's own little speaker. Next to the camera lens there is a little envelope icon that lights up if you miss a call or video mail.
Because the Logitech TV Cam HD for Skype is geared towards voice and the lack of a full keyboard makes it difficult to type anything long the device is not suitable for text messaging. You really use it for video or voice only conversations.
The user interface is clean and clear - huge icons and avatars make it easier to select people to connect to, even if you are seating at a good distance from the screen.
People you call will be seeing you in full HD if both your connection speed allow for this. Understandably you can only see the other party's video at the quality they can produce. If they are using a low resolution laptop built-in camera then they will see a good quality picture of you but there's nothing that the Logitech TV Cam HD for Skype can do to fix that.
As a communication tool this device can surely work well to bring high tech communications to the lounge. Family members can easily talk and see each other even without a computer and if both sides use high quality HD cameras, even better.
- No need to have a computer
- Camera allows setup in a familiar area where everyone can get involved in the video call
- Easy to use remote control
- High quality HD video calls for free
- Support for incoming voice mail messages only (no incoming video mail yet)