The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic forced businesses of all sizes and sorts and employees of every kind to rethink the ways they functioned and interacted. Working From Home (WFH) started as a stopgap measure—a way to address what everyone hoped was a short-term emergency—before things returned to normal. But during that time, tech vendors have delivered innovative new solutions that make remote communications easier and better than ever before. Dell’s new Pro Webcam (WB5023) is a good example.
Remote comms challenges and solutions
What communications challenges do remote workers face? For a considerable portion of the past three years, WFH comms solutions basically fell into three categories: state of the art products typically used for corporate events and by senior executives, standalone AV and lighting solutions purchased by managers and those who wanted to emphasize their professionalism, and commercial cameras and microphones integrated into PCs and laptops used by the vast majority of WFH and mobile employees.
To their credit, vendors have made remarkable progress with in-system webcams and microphone/speaker development, producing ever smaller and more portable solutions that deliver far better quality and performance than anyone might have imagined pre-Covid. However, the fixed placement of webcams (typically at the top of a laptop or standalone display) don’t deliver optimal lighting or easily support functions, such as white boarding and product presentation.
For the most part, alternatives included cheap (sub-$50) or pricey ($200+) standalone webcams, like Dell’s UltraSharp 4K. The former are seldom better than built-in solutions, and the latter are too costly for many to justify, especially since most video conferencing platforms don’t support resolutions above 1080p.
With its new Pro Webcam, Dell has created an easy-to-use solution that offers high quality features and flexibility for a bit over $100 (MSRP $134.99, currently selling for $109.99 on dell.com).
Dell’s Pro Webcam
Out of the box, the Pro Webcam is remarkably simple; a matte black cylinder a bit over 3 inches long and just under 2 inches in diameter that weighs less than 6 ounces. A non-detachable five-foot USB-A cable is fixed at one end and the other is covered by a magnetic lens cap. A built-in hinged clip for attaching the webcam to a display or monitor also sports a standard tripod screw mount so it can be easily repositioned or moved.
Technical specs include:
- Sony STARVIS sensor outputs with a range of resolution options, including 2K QHD at 30 or 24 fps, 1080p at 60, 30, or 24 fps and 720p at 60, 30, or 24 fps
- 65- and 78-degree field of view, up to 4x digital zoom and HDR
- Built-in microphone (note: the Dell UltraSharp 4K webcam does not include a mic)
- AI auto-framing that tracks the user’s face and keeps it centered
- Certified for Zoom and Microsoft Teams
Dell’s Peripheral Manager software can be used to adjust and fine tune settings, including configuration, AI auto-framing, zoom, autofocus, color and image options, and capture settings, including resolution and frame rate. The webcam also supports Face Detection Auto Exposure (FDAE) which balances harsh lighting for optimal image quality.
How does the Dell Pro Webcam perform? In my experience, it blends better features than budget webcams with simple management and ease of use. Some reviewers have complained about the Peripheral Manager software, but it met all my needs, and I found the controls better and easier to use than other solutions.
Are there any problems or shortcomings? One small issue was the webcam bouncing slightly when I moved or shifted my laptop though it stayed solidly attached. That obviously won’t be a problem for fixed displays or when the webcam is attached to a tripod. Additionally, the five-foot USB-A cable seems a bit short, but that can be addressed with an extension cable.
Beyond those minor points, the Dell Pro Webcam delivered significantly better options and performance than budget webcams at about half the cost of its UltraSharp 4K sibling. That makes Dell’s new solution a great, affordable solution for WFH employees, consultants, contractors and small businesses. Along with providing far more flexibility for remotely supporting workplace tasks and processes, the Dell Pro Webcam can also complement consumer use cases, including family video calls and discussions.
All in all, Dell’s Pro Webcam offers great quality and value for those working remotely and those who are at home for the holidays.
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