Without compromising on design or 4K visuals, Dell’s UltraSharp webcam is worth it if you see yourself immersed in virtual meetings for the foreseeable future.
Over the past 21 months, I like to think that I have mastered the art of “dressing over the keyboard”. Going for brighter colors away from my usual black or beige and keeping a hassle-free background certainly helped boost my confidence in a virtual meeting as I can no longer give a solid impression with a firm handshake. But all of that effort goes out the window when a bad webcam kicks in.
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Most built-in webcams – like the one on the MacBook or even the most basic of Dell laptops – promise 720p or 1080p in which advertisements display flattering, high-definition clarity even in low light. But they don’t deliver in reality, and – even in the most optimal lighting – you’ll inexorably look like a Potatohead doll at best. As a journalist, most interviews these days are done through video conferencing apps and virtual junket videos require something that keeps its promises.
So companies like Logitech, Xiaomi, and Lenovo, among other brands, have produced fairly competitive webcams. A decent but little-discussed alternative is to use your smartphone with a third-party camera streaming app (such as EpocCam and Iriun Webcam) and temporarily link it to your laptop. I used it for about six months before my phone started to overheat.
UltraSharp, the latest webcam launch from US tech giant Dell has proven to be a surprising entry to the market for those willing to splurge but know the investment value of a webcam.
Universally chic design
Comes in a small box with minimal fuss and lint; You connect your webcam to a two-meter thick USB-A cable and two magnetic mounts depending on your configuration.
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The camera itself is a neat cylindrical body with a matte sheen in a darker gray that appears to have a violent luminescence in some light. Dell has fortunately kept this minimum and while it seems simple, it is certainly different from the Wall-E-esque webcams that we see so often.
The UltraSharp mounts are very useful and can be interchanged at any time. One mount has an adjustable hinge that balances the webcam on the thinnest laptops, while the other has a round base, ideal for flat bases such as a tripod or a shelf on top of your system. I mostly used the first one, which allowed me to adjust and stabilize the angle of the webcam.
The longer detachable cable is useful for those who want to play around with angles and distances, and its thickness doesn’t make you worry about it starting to unravel anytime soon. The USB-A port would need an adapter if your system has USB-C ports, so consider that before you buy. However, if you have a USB-C to USB-C cable at home, use it.
There is also a white LED indicator that lights up when the camera is in use. But if you’re paranoid about improper entities using your webcam to spy on you and end up slapping a sticky note taped to their webcam, you’ll appreciate the magnetic privacy shutter that covers the lens with a very satisfying magnetic click. . But don’t lose it, as I have done on several occasions and luckily found it. It also serves as a protection for the lens, to keep it scratch-free and scuff-free.
The look of everything
The best part: try it out. As soon as the camera arrived, I had planned a few interviews and couldn’t wait to test the specs.
My MacBook camera often produced grainy visuals with strange movements. But the UltraSharp takes advantage of Temporal Noise Reduction (3DNR) and Spatial Noise Reduction (2DNR) to reduce noise in all lighting conditions.
The webcam works quite well in low light thanks to the large Sony STARVIS CMOS sensor in the camera. Even when I had no choice but to sit in the most miserable of backlit environments, the UltraSharp transparently compensated but not too much. In medium to optimal lighting, the UltraSharp shines. With the advanced automatic framing of artificial intelligence, the subject will stay in focus; in my more hectic meetings where I was demonstrating a product or moving around, the focus shifted smoothly.
While most webcams produce jerky images and playback, UltraSharp records in 4K at 30 frames per second or Full HD at 60 frames per second. The latter is ideal for more dynamic meetings or even for selfie-style vlogging or streaming.
If you like to micromanage your gadgets (and it’s not a crime), install Dell Peripheral Manager on your PC and choose between three predefined fields of view: the default 90-degree view to show more of your background; 78 degrees for the mid-range or 65 degrees for close-ups. This is useful for those who wish to limit the field of view to a certain background – with your whole family or roommates confined to the house for a while, it can be useful.
You can take your video customizations a step further and control HDR, autofocus, 5x digital zoom, AI autoframing, brightness, sharpness, contrast and saturation. I like a video that isn’t too bright but retains subject detail well with a little warmth, so I adjusted my settings accordingly.
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While some fairly decent webcams on the market have an effective built-in microphone, the UltraSharp does not, which may seem like a minus point. So if you pay particular attention to sound, there are some decent pickups out there.
I also noticed that after 20 minutes the UltraSharp tended to overheat, almost too hot to touch, which made me wonder if that would be a problem in the long run.
Should you get it?
If you see webcams as an investment for you and / or your family’s professional or home setup, I highly recommend the UltraSharp for its clarity and universally chic design. At a base price of 18,999 (24,499.16, including GST and shipping), it’s certainly not cheap, but Dell’s status as a home tech brand has taken advantage of decent tech to give your virtual meetings and videos an impressive advantage over others.
I love that a webcam finally does justice to my hard work of the above-the-keyboard skin that I mentioned earlier. It’s not that easy to always look good with a simple 720p webcam.
The Dell UltraSharp webcam (WB7022) can be purchased from the official Dell India online store or from Dell offline retailers across the country.