So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Microsoft LifeCam Show
Pretty but pricey pictures.
- Excellent image quality, versatile mounting options, nifty 3-D features, glass element wide-angle lens
- Prohibitive asking price, incompatible with Macs, glass element wide-angle lens
The Microsoft Lifecam Show is a solid webcam offering let down by its exorbitant price tag. With the exception of its inferior stand, the Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 will do everything just as well for a more reasonable price.
Price$ 179.95 (AUD)
Despite the proliferation of webcam-equipped notebooks, Microsoft has continued to harry the market with a steady stream of portable Lifecams. In the past year alone, we’ve reviewed the LifeCam VX-6000, the Lifecam NX-3000, the LifeCam VX-7000 and the LifeCam VX-5500, all of which are still available. Now, Bill Gate’s minions have added a fifth model to this overcrowded line-up: the unimaginatively named Lifecam Show.
So, does the Lifecam Show bring enough to the table to justify its existence? With improved optics, an intelligent redesign and advanced 3-D software features, it’s certainly a lot better than Microsoft’s previous Lifecam model (the VX-7000). Or at least, it would be if it wasn’t for the mental price tag.
With an RRP of $179.95, the Lifecam Show certainly takes the biscuit when it comes to sensible price points. It’s actually $30 dearer than what the VX-7000 originally cost — thus breaking the convention of more affordable upgrades. We doubt many people will willingly spend this much dosh on a webcam, especially in these economically murky times. By contrast, the average Net-sharing camcorder (which can also double as a webcam) will only cost a few dollars more, with some models actually being cheaper (Creative’s Vado Pocket Video Cam (pink), for example).
Price-gripe aside, there is very little wrong with the Lifecam Show: from build quality to video performance, it ticks every box. We were particularly impressed with the 3-D face-tracking application and the trio of versatile mounting attachments. In short, there’s a lot to like.
Having been built specifically for use with laptops, the LifeCam Show retains the same tiny dimensions as its predecessor, although its shape has been completely revamped. (It now looks a bit like a miniaturised computer mouse.) The three different mounts include a large magnetic stand aimed at desktops. The variety of attachments is a huge improvement over the typical 'universal' clip offered by most webcams. Whether you primarily use a notebook or a CRT monitor, there’s an option to suit your particular setup.
We found the LifeCam Show’s image quality to be exceptionally solid in most environments — which is just as well given its price. The redesigned sensor offers a maximum resolution of 2 megapixels: almost double that of an average notebook webcam. If you’re into posting blogs or video diaries online, the device comes with a recording mode that can capture video at a resolution of 800x600. It will also take still images at up to 8 megapixels (using interpolation software).
The Lifecam Show comes with a glass element wide-angle lens, which is both a curse and a blessing. While it captures wonderfully crisp images, the rectangular frame reveals too much of your surroundings, dwarfing your face and shoulders. (On the plus side, this does make it easier to fit additional family members into the shot for group catch-ups.)
As with the Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000, the Lifecam Show sports some amusing 3-D face-tracking software, allowing you to deform your noggin or add silly effects like 'taches and hats. This is all built directly into the Lifecam dashboard, making it easy to select effects.
Being a Microsoft webcam, the LifeCam Show is naturally geared towards Windows Live Messenger, which it will ask you to install during the set-up process. However, the device works just as well with nearly any chat application (including Skype), so there’s no need to stick to one service.
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