Webcams became overwhelming when millions of people began working remotely and communicating through video conferencing tools. For many people, this means the webcam on their laptop, a component that hadn't received much attention until recently. Your laptop's webcam resolution may be 720p at best, and the quality may be grossly poor.
I checked out a handful of popular, inexpensive webcams on Amazon to see if one was good enough for today's remote workforce, and I was pleasantly surprised by a few. The GoHZQ W8A was the best I've tested, and as we'll see below, it offers a much better experience than the webcam built into an otherwise powerful and high-quality laptop. But even those with the worst image quality turned out to be better options than anything your laptop has right now.
Laptop webcam comparison
I rely on an HP Specter x360 15 as the primary computer connected to two external 4K displays and some peripherals through a Thunderbolt 3 dock, including an ethernet connection to my router. It's a great laptop and productive setup that gives me a home office PC that will keep up with my needs. There is one exception, however: the webcam sucks.
I used the same laptop as a control device to compare it to the webcams in my summary. I took some pictures at the same time, in the same place and with the same lighting conditions as the other webcams. Here are the results:
A better lit image can be seen on the left, while the image on the right shows a darker light environment. Neither are that impressive though. There is an enormous number of artifacts in both images, the colors are muted, and details are missing.
Low-light performance is the obvious culprit, but even the well-lit environment resulted in a poor quality result. I'm not going to say that this webcam can't do any better in perfect lighting conditions, but these shots are representative of what I can expect when using this webcam for a video call and not spending a lot of time making adjustments.
The webcam of the Specter x360 15 is ready to use, so to speak, and would not portray me in the best possible light (no pun intended).
Even a cheap webcam can do so much better
Now consider the GoHZQ W8A, a $ 33 4K webcam that took first place in the roundup. As you can see below, there is very little artifact in light or dark environments, and the colors are bright and natural.
The subject's face is well-lit without being blown out, and there is plenty of detail thanks to the 4K resolution. Even the dark environment looks much better than the brighter environment represented by the Specter webcam.
Of course, I'd prefer to use the GoHZQ W8A for all of the video calls I make, whether personal or professional. And note that I can tweak this image just like I did with the Specter webcam, which gives even better results. But I wouldn't have to do that – this picture is fine.
The GoHZQ is the best cheap webcam I've tested so far, but even the weaker entries offer improved image quality over that of your laptop. The quality of the camera varies quite drastically depending on the model. So it's worth taking a look at my comparison to see what's on offer. But no matter what you get, it will be an upgrade.
The (small) investment is worth it
There are newer laptops with better webcams, 1080p resolution, and better performance in different lighting conditions. I'd bet even these webcams are challenged to keep up with the GoHZQ W8A, especially in the focus department.
But for any laptop made more than a few months ago, it's likely a lot better to spend a few dollars – only $ 33 in this case – to display itself in much higher quality. You look more professional and those on the other end of the connection can interact with you more easily.
The final result? There's really no excuse for using your laptop's inferior built-in webcam by default. It's worth upgrading, be it something from Logitech or Microsoft, or just a cheap one from Amazon.