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Webcam With Built-In Skype – Best Solution?

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 by | Filed Under: App Reviews, Hardware & Peripherals, Multimedia, Software Reviews, TV Tech
 
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I recently had someone ask me for the best video conferencing/Skype setup for a small office that uses Skype. Upon searching the internet, the choice seemed quite easy: A Logitech TV Cam HD.

The Logitech TV cam comes with Skype built into the device, so there is no need for an additional computer. The product initially appears to be the perfect solution for a small office or living room at home. The camera plugs straight into a Plasma, LCD or LED TV, and there you go, you can sit your whole family down in the living room or your staff around the meeting room table and talk through your large TV. Not bad, huh? Or is there more than meets the eye?

Although this solution seems quite simple and hassle free, you may end up finding you lose more than half the functionality you previously had with your small PC camera. But exactly what features could you lose when using one of these devices? Well, let’s first have a look at some of the key features you might use for your Skype calls or a video conferencing system and then determine whether a Logitech Skype TV cam is the solution for you.

Skype Feature List

  • Video and Voice Calling 1-to-1
  • Instant Messaging
  • Screen Sharing
  • Group Calling – Video (conferencing)
  • Group Calling – Voice  (conferencing)
  • External Microphone
  • Screen Sharing

Well, you might find it hard to believe but the Skype built-in software is NOT capable of over 85% of these features! In fact, it really only fully supports one of these features (Video and Voice Calling 1-to-1). Check out the article below by Skype to see this.

Skype Support Article

Does this mean you should avoid buying the device for your home or small office? Well, that’s up to you, but I can think of many environments (whether it be at home or in the office) where such a device is the ideal solution.

Most of the features listed above (excluding instant messaging and external microphones) are only available with the Skype premium account, so if you are only using the free version of Skype, this device could just be the right camera for you.

But don’t decide just yet, because one of the other disadvantages of the Logitech TV Cam is that you cannot connect external speakers or a microphone to the device. You can only use the speakers on your TV and the microphone that is built into the camera.

So, if you simply want a video conferencing system where you can make 1-to-1 calls to your family or clients using the free version of Skype and the built-in speakers (on the TV) and microphone (on the webcam), then it is the perfect solution.

NOTE: The device has two inputs on the back, one for HDMI (to connect to your TV) and the other is for an Ethernet cable if you do not have WiFi (otherwise you can just connect to the internet using the inbuilt WiFi).

If however you are using a Skype premium account, then I would advise looking for a different device as your premium services will not work with these devices. I would recommend purchasing a mini PC (a small PC that takes up little room and won’t break the bank) and place it under the desk or behind the TV so it is not visible. Asus has a good range of these PC’s available at good prices (see here) that attach to the back of your TV so no one would even know it’s there. The PC then connects up to your TV and web cam (including other external devices such as speakers and microphones) and acts as the Skype/video conferencing unit, providing you with all the features of your Skype premium account.

The other advantage of this setup is that the PC can also be used as a media center for playing all your movies, music and photos through your TV.

In conclusion, here is what I’d say about the two solutions mentioned above.

Logitech TV Cam Solution

A good solution only if you will be using it purely for 1-to-1 video and voice calls with a free Skype Account and will not be using external speakers and/or microphone

Mini PC Solution

A good solution if you are using a Skype premium account or you would like to use Instant Messaging with your free Skype account

You may also choose this solution if you’d like to have the advantages of a media center as well

I hope you found this article useful.

-Sam

 

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