The Microsoft LifeCam HD-6000 shoots in 720p HD at frame rates of up to 30 frames per second (the best high-definition webcam in our rankings, the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C910, supports up to 1080p capture). The Microsoft Webcam has an autofocus feature, and its built-in image optimisation technology helps keep colours bright and vivid in different lighting environments. The camera itself has 360-degree rotation. You can capture still images in high definition, too, so long as your computer meets the basic system requirements.
The LifeCam HD 6000 is square and lightweight with a visible wide-angle lens - an ideal design for laptop use. It swivels across a full 360 degrees and can tilt slightly upward or downward. A clip on the bottom of the unit attaches it tightly to the top or side of your open laptop, but it won't fit on most freestanding LCD monitors. A button at the top of the Microsoft LifeCam HD-6000 unit turns it on and activates Windows Live Messenger, Microsoft's recommended video messaging system. (You can use the webcam with other services, such as Skype, too.)
The bundled Windows Live software isn't preloaded on to the Microsoft LifeCam HD-6000, and the camera doesn't automatically turn on when plugged in. As is the case with its sibling, the LifeCam HD-5000, you must first install Microsoft LifeCam software and Windows Live Messenger from the included CD-ROM - a process that took us about 10 minutes on our desktop and close to 20 minutes on a laptop. The software will prompt you to plug in the LifeCam HD-6000 via the attached USB cable when the software setup is complete.
To support high-def video chat with the Microsoft LifeCam HD-6000, your PC must run Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or higher, with a 1.6GHz Intel dual-core or higher CPU, and at least 1GB of RAM. You'll need a CD-ROM drive to load the included Microsoft LifeCam software (alternatively, you can download the software from the web). Because it lacks an onboard video processor, the LifeCam HD-6000 does not support HD video chat via Skype.
The only way to adjust the Microsoft LifeCam HD-6000's settings is with Microsoft LifeCam software, so if you're plan on using this device with AIM, Google Chat, Skype, or even Windows Live Messenger, you'll have to fiddle with the settings before you initiate chat. The Webcam shoots at various sizes and levels of image quality, from 160 by 120 to 1280 by 720 HD.
The Microsoft LifeCam software permits a number of other image settings for the Microsoft LifeCam HD-6000. The webcam automatically adjusts to the amount of light present to provide the most vivid colour possible; but you can turn off the TrueColor feature that automatically adjusts the image and then manually adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, sharpness, white balance, and background composition to achieve the optimum image. You can also zoom in or out with the desktop controls located in the main window of the LifeCam software. Once zoomed in, you can pan left, right, up, or down to focus in on a specific object. Unfortunately, you can't use zoom in HD mode.
In our tests, certain items appeared to be a little off-colour in HD mode. For example, the gray carpet in our office appeared to have tiny multicolored specks. We also noticed some pixelation and graininess in areas of a single colour. And finally, our faces seemed a little fuzzy until we manually adjusted the brightness, but in eliminating the fuzziness we made the image appear unusually bright and lit up. Overall, TrueColor made objects in the shot look much brighter than in real life - great for low-light settings, but less so in an already bright room. We had to adjust the brightness scale to a level considerably below the default setting.
The autofocus on this webcam was in continual action, updating and refocusing in response to every subtle movement. The people we chatted with found this to be very annoying - one moment we would look well-defined and normal, and the next we would be fuzzy and bright blue, even if we remained seated and scarcely moving the whole time. Our chat partners reported that they could hear us loud and clear when we were seated directly in front of the camera, but as soon as we turned our head or moved slightly to the side, they noticed an echo and had a harder time hearing us.
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