Logitech’s HD webcam reign continues
The 2 major choices on the market for webcams that do background removal are the Logitech C922 Pro Stream and the Razer Stargazer. The latter uses Intel’s RealSense hardware technology and retails for $149.99 while the former uses Personify‘s ChromaCam software and retails for $99.99. I bought and tested the Logitech only, so I’ll review it here.
The C922 ships rather unceremoniously in a tiny box containing:
- The webcam and attached USB cable.
- A warranty notice.
- A quick setup leaflet.
- A license key for a free 6 month subscription to XSplit Premium.
Unlike the Stargazer, which uses USB 3.0, the C922 still uses USB 2.0 for connectivity. Connecting it to my Windows 10 Pro 14393 machine resulted in it being instantly recognized and usable. I didn’t even see a driver installation notification.
You can go right ahead and start using the webcam, but accessing advanced settings and enabling background removal require installation of Logitech Camera Settings and ChromaCam by Personify, respectively, from the webcam’s support page. Shockingly, aside from a web link, no details about enabling the extra functionality are included; the user is left to figure it out on their own. Like far too many other OEM utilities, installing Logitech Camera Settings results in an entry being added under the Startup tab in Task Manager, so be sure to disable that so it doesn’t slow your PC down when you’re not using it.
ChromaCam installs a dummy camera device to Windows that has to be selected in the video/imaging app you’re using for the background removal feature to work (read: Windows sees it as a separate, selectable webcam even though you’re still using the same physical device.) This dummy camera produces output corresponding to the settings within the ChromaCam app itself. In the latter, you can select from preset or add your own custom backgrounds, in addition to adjusting preference for performance or quality using a slider.
Quite a few other outlets have covered this, but I’ll say it myself: the C922’s picture quality will blow you away. It’s a huge improvement over the legendary C920, especially in low/natural lighting.
You can adjust whether you want background removal to prioritize CPU usage (Performance end of slider) or accuracy (Quality end of slider). The Performance setting is relatively sloppy and allows minor background exposure; I wouldn’t recommend using it. The Quality setting is much better at complete background removal. It’s excellent at what it does for privacy but not for subterfuge; don’t expect to fool anyone into thinking you’re somewhere you’re not using a custom background. It definitely won’t mess your face up though, which makes it suitable for interviews.
In testing with the latest Skype for Windows desktop beta build and background removal set to full Quality, CPU usage on my Intel Core i7-3770 was approximately 20 to 25% with very smooth output, which is good enough for video calls. I suspect it may be good enough for PC gaming too, especially if you have a newer CPU (my Ivy Bridge i7 hails from April 2012), but I’m not a PC gamer (yet?) so I didn’t test that myself.
- Costs at least 33% less than the competition.
- Supports far more PCs than the Razer as Intel – artificially, I suspect – limits RealSense to 6th generation or later Core CPUs only. Only Intel would be arrogant enough to assume users would run out and buy a new CPU to support a webcam.
- Excellent output quality and natural color reproduction.
- Background removal has low CPU usage for video chat.
- Background removal good enough for privacy.
- Dead simple setup.
- Available at significant discount online.
- Comes with 6 free months of XSplit Premium, an approximately $30 value.
- Background removal not good enough for special effects/camera trick purposes.
- No Windows Hello support.
- Poor, almost nonexistent documentation.
- CPU usage may not be low enough for full bore gaming on older or lower end systems.
- No 4K capability, which is odd considering my 2014-era cellphone supports 4K recording.
Should you buy it?
Solely based on the addition of the background removal feature, absolutely. This is a very worthy, practically impulse buy replacement for the C920 and is an upgrade from it in every way. I can’t think of any reason to get the Stargazer instead unless you absolutely need Windows Hello support or possibly lower CPU usage due to Intel ecosystem optimizations.