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The best webcams for 2020

Best webcams for 2020
Here are the best webcams for streaming and keeping in touch with the world. (Image credit: Future)

Finding the best webcam is a case of picking one able to do it all. And, while things have been tough during lockdown, webcams are finally filtering back into stock now too. Whether you're recording yourself streaming for twitch, conferencing with friends and/or colleagues on Zoom, or creating YouTube videos for fame and fortune, the best webcams will have your back. Whatever the reason you need a cam in your life, we've put together a list of top webcams which will have you looking your best, regardless of your audience.

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Shopping for the best webcam for you can be tricky, because different uses require different technologies. The ones we've listed in this guide record and stream at 60fps at either 1080p or 720p, which should cover the vast majority of uses. Other features to keep an eye out for are built-in light or HDR recording, but the latter is often not practical because of the larger file sizes that come with a 4K recording.

If you're simply looking for the best picture quality at a reasonable price, the Logitech C922 HD Pro is a solid choice. Alternatively, the Razer Kiyo comes with its built-in light, so it's a good option if you don't have the space for mounted key lights. On the higher end of the price scale, the Logitech StreamCam sits at number one on our list because, while it's undoubtedly flashy, it's also incredibly versatile and boasts superb picture quality.

The list below contains our picks of the best webcams, along with our thoughts on each webcam. If you're working on your streaming set-up, it might also be worth checking out our guides for the best capture cards as well as the best microphone for streaming.

Best webcams

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1. Logitech StreamCam

Best webcam for streamers

Display resolution: 1080p | Recording resolution: 1080p 60fps | FOV: 73 degrees | Special features: Portrait / Landscape Rotation

Great picture quality 
Excellent face tracking
Good low-light Camera

Logitech has managed to dethrone one of its own webcams, the C922, from its consistent top spot with its new StreamCam. Its picture quality and ease-of-use is why it ranks so high on our list. 

The StreamCam was designed with content creators in mind, as it can easily switch from landscape to portrait by merely rotating the camera. The smart autofocus and exposure take a lot of the guesswork out of setting up the perfect shot. Logitech essentially made a better, upgraded version of the C922. The fact it records at a steady 1080p/60fps means this webcam will help produce some genuinely great looking video. The StreamCam manages to hold its focus consistently, even in low-light environments—you know what I'm talking about you bedroom streamers.

Even though the StreamCam is one of the pricier non-4K options out there, the picture quality alone is worth every penny, especially if you're serious about your game streams or video content.

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2. Logitech C922 HD Pro

The best webcam for most people

Display resolution: 1080p | Recording resolution: 1080p 30fps | FOV: 90 degrees | Special features: Dual microphones

Excellent picture quality
Good low-light performance
Great Price

Most readers can stop here. Unless you're looking for specific features in a webcam, then there is no better value than the Logitech C922 HD Pro. Its sharp 1080p images, paired with a wide field of view and great autofocus, make it a fantastic choice for video conferencing. Lowlight performance is great as well; the noise level didn't shoot through the roof when I turned off a few lights. White balancing was accurate most of the time, although the default saturation can make the scene look a little washed out in bright lighting conditions.

Most of the settings can be adjusted through Logitech's Camera App, a separate download. Streamers should also appreciate C922's excellent compatibility with the background replacement app, ChromaCam. All in all, the Logitech C920 performs its core duties exceptionally well and won't break the bank. 

For streamers, the C922 is a versatile webcam that will help make you look you're best when livestreaming to your legion of rabid followers. 

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3. Razer Kiyo

The most versatile webcam

Display resolution: 1080p | Recording resolution: 1080p 30fps, 720p 60fps | FOV: 90 degrees | Special features: Built-in ring light

Ring light is amazing for low light
Inherently boosts saturation

The most dominant factor in image quality is lighting. Having good lighting can reduce the need for exposure compensation and curb noise. The Razer Kiyo has a ring light baked right in, making it suitable for any lighting condition, even pitch black. The light's intensity can be adjusted by turning its dial in its outer circumference, giving you full control over how brightly you want your face to appear. If you like streaming horror games in the dark, then the Kiyo is the webcam for you.

The Kiyo's 1080p sensor boasts excellent sharpness and captures plenty of detail. Autofocusing is speedy, and its white balance is on point too. Out of all the webcams I've tested, the Razer Kiyo has the highest color saturation. When the lighting is good, it can help add a great deal of vividness to your images. In darker scenes, however, the saturation boost can make images look pastel-like. The lack of a driver software means you'll have to readjust the color profile for every app individually, and as that's something you'll want to do, that is a bit of a pain. 

Still, all things considered, the Razer Kiyo still has excellent image quality and is worth considering. The attached ring light adds an extra bit of flexibility, earning it the crown as the most versatile webcam.

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4. Logitech BRIO

The best 4K webcam

Display resolution: 4K | Recording resolution: 4K 30fps, 1080p 60fps, 720p 90fps | FOV: 90 degrees | Special features: Windows Hello compatible, HDR support, 5x digital zoom

Superb image quality
Supports HDR recording

As expected, the BRIO's high resolution bumps up the detail to a much higher level than any standard 1080p webcam. In addition, its 90-degree field of view can easily capture your entire room and any guests in it. So be careful, you will be in shot. 

White balance and saturation are both very good, as is its low light performance. The only slight detractor in image quality is its iffy auto contrast settings. Alongside the main color sensor is an infrared sensor, making the BRIO fully compatible with Windows Hello, Microsoft's facial sign-in feature.

In addition to its astounding capturing resolution, the BRIO is also the only webcam that supports HDR capturing. This means that viewers who have an HDR compatible screen will be able to enjoy richer, more vivid colors.

The BRIO has three major weaknesses, however: buggy autofocus, high price, and narrow niche. My test unit consistently had trouble re-focusing on objects farther away after locking focus on things up close. This was very annoying as I had to either adjust it manually or maniacally dance around hoping that it would eventually track me again. Considering 4K is its only major strength, the nearly $180 asking price is hard to accept. Lastly, widespread support for 4K streaming just isn't here yet. So, while you can still upload your 4K recordings to Youtube, it's impractical for conferencing or streaming as the stream quality would automatically be compressed.

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How we test webcams 

Discord's video conferencing feature has taken the world by storm. As such, we've included it in our testing software suite alongside Skype. In both apps, we test the video quality at the maximum supported resolution. For streaming and video recording, OBS is still our choice go-to app, while images are captured in the default Windows Camera app.

I used OBS to both livestream and record video from each camera, testing them both fullscreen and scaled down to a "facecam" size. I also used each manufacturer's webcam software to take the highest possible resolution pictures with each and manually adjust settings like white balance, brightness, auto-focus, and others where applicable. Each of these situations were tested with multiple lighting setups from overhead fluorescent bulbs to nothing but the glow of the monitor in front of me.

The process of selecting the right webcam is much like choosing a good camera. Most of the metrics we use to determine camera quality also apply to webcams. You should pay attention to the image quality, color accuracy, focus speed, and customizable features. Although many of us have dedicated microphones, the onboard microphone can come in handy too.

One of the greatest determiners of image quality is the amount of noise present in an image. When lighting is ample, most webcams have no trouble producing good image quality. The extra quality of the best webcams is more accurately reflected in low light, however, where the camera needs to digitally compensate for the lack of light. Generally speaking, more expensive webcams come with higher quality sensors and usually have less pesky color blots compared to cheaper ones.

The other crucial aspect is the color of the images. Before we even begin to examine the color quality, we should pay attention to the white balance. White balance gauges the temperature of the lighting from your surrounding environment and sets the white point accordingly. If the white point is incorrectly set, the image may be masked with a blue or yellow tint. Unless a tuning utility is included, the white balance is usually automatically adjusted by the webcam's processor.

Next is exposure, saturation, and contrast—all three are equally important. Exposure is the brightness of the image, saturation is the depth of the colors, and contrast is the difference between black and white. Brightness ensures that you can be seen clearly, while saturation and contrast make your images pop. Again, unless software is included, these settings are normally adjusted automatically by the webcam's processor. More expensive webcams are more adept at replicating the most accurate scene.

Software for webcams is just as critical—if not more so—than other peripherals. Although many streaming and conferencing apps have built in adjustment options, using the manufacturer's driver software allows you to adjust the settings globally.

Aside from the video quality, I also took a look at their ease of use. Each manufacturer has a different method of attaching a webcam to the monitor, so I tested them across different monitor shapes and sizes. I took into account whether the webcam cord was long enough to reach from the top of a monitor to a case underneath a desk. I tested how easy they were to angle, readjust, and if they would fall off or reposition themselves if I bumped the desk. I tested the plug-n-play nature of them and noted whether the webcams downloaded drivers or software automatically. Lastly, I recorded audio with their built-in microphones, but this was not a heavily influencing factor as a webcam should be bought with video in mind first.

Jorge Jimenez is a Hardware Writer from the enchanted lands of New Jersey. When he's not filling the office with the smell of Pop-Tarts, you can find Jorge streaming bad games with his dog or binge-watching an irresponsible amount of Law & Order: SVU.