The Creative Live! Cam Optia may lie at the cheaper end of Creative's Live! Cam line-up, but we were pleasantly surprised by its performance.

Creative Live! Cam Optia is a budget webcam that provides relatively impressive image quality, smart face tracking, a useful software bundle and excellent plug-and-play functionality.

Indeed, the Creative Live! Cam Optia adheres to the UVC (USB video class) specification, which means it can be used by any UVC-supported OS - without drivers.

We liked the overall build quality of the Creative Live! Cam Optia. The combination of a manual focus ring and Auto Tuning technology, plus up to 270 degrees of vertical swivel and 15 degrees horizontal tilt, allows the Optia's 1.3Mp precision lens to capture half-decent images. And while the Creative Live! Cam Optia might look like a stapler, with its thick, acrylic casing and its 'multi-attach' base, it's a classy stapler that'll fit almost any display.

But the Creative Live! Cam Optia remains a budget model, and 1.3Mp is pretty standard; 1,280x960 still images are achieved through software interpolation, and face tracking is erratic. There's no built-in mic – Creative has bundled a handsfree stereo headset – and we weren't impressed with autoProducer's Advanced Video FX.

That said, video quality is pretty smooth at 30fps (frames per second).

Creative Live! Cam Optia: Specs

  • 1.3Mp camera (1,280x960 software enhanced)
  • 640x480 video at 30fps
  • smart face tracking
  • manual focus
  • software included: Creative Live! Cam Center, Creative Live! Cam Manager, Creative Live! Cam Console, Creative Photo Manager, Creative Photo Calendar
  • SightSpeed and muvee autoProducer
  • compatible with Skype, MSN Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger and Windows Messenger
  • handsfree stereo headset supplied
  • System requirements: 1.6GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor or equivalent
  • Windows XP SP2/ XP 64bit
  • 256MB RAM
  • 500MB hard disk space
  • CD-ROM drive
  • USB 1.1/2.0
  • 1.3Mp camera (1,280x960 software enhanced)
  • 640x480 video at 30fps
  • smart face tracking
  • manual focus
  • software included: Creative Live! Cam Center, Creative Live! Cam Manager, Creative Live! Cam Console, Creative Photo Manager, Creative Photo Calendar
  • SightSpeed and muvee autoProducer
  • compatible with Skype, MSN Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger and Windows Messenger
  • handsfree stereo headset supplied
  • System requirements: 1.6GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor or equivalent
  • Windows XP SP2/ XP 64bit
  • 256MB RAM
  • 500MB hard disk space
  • CD-ROM drive
  • USB 1.1/2.0

OUR VERDICT

For a budget webcam, the Creative Live! Cam Optia is a clever performer. Unfortunately, its style is weakened by the lack of a mic, and video suffers at anything less than 640x480 (which affects Skype and IM). Plus we're never keen on devices that rely on a hardwired USB cable for life support.

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