It seems like only yesterday webcams were struggling to shed their VGA roots; that megapixel cams were relying on interpolation tricks to falsely boost the pixel counts of their dinky sensors. No more. The age of the HD webcam is truly here, and Logitech has just announced a suite of the things, including the highest of the high: the 1080p HD Pro Webcam C910. It's fitting that the manufacturer behind the most iconic brand in webcams would jump straight to the top of the resolution charts, but do the extra pixels warrant the $99 price tag? Click on in to see the video proof and decide for yourself.

Logitech HD Pro Webcam C910

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The gamut

First let's get the details out of the way. Logitech is announcing four webcams, with the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C910 having the longest title and the best specs. It'll record at 1080p, do video chat at 720p, has stereo microphones and an auto-focusing Carl Zeiss Tessar lens. This cam is set to release worldwide for $99 in August. Next is the more portable-friendly and slightly more affordable $59 C510. This model does without the 1080p recording but still does 720p video chat, and folds up neatly to protect the screen for travelers. Then, there are the C310 and C270, $49 and $39 HD webcams for the budget-minded.

Logitech HD series webcams

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Finally, Logitech is pushing the HD update of its Logitech Vid video chat software. Logitech will be including the software in its Google TV product, meaning to get your HD video chat on you won't even need a computer.

All the cams will naturally do HD chat using Logitech's software, but they won't do it using Skype's. Skype HD requires that its certified cams have onboard video processors to offload the heavy lifting from the computer that's providing the USB port. None of Logitech's offerings deliver that. But, as more and more cams move into higher and higher megapixel territory, we wouldn't be surprised if Skype relaxes that requirement a bit.

Testing the C910

Logitech was kind enough to send us a pre-production C910 model to play with for a few days, and so far we've been reasonably impressed. We hadn't thought that we needed high-resolution webcammery when phoning home to say "hi" to the missus from some tech conference or another, but the improvement in quality over a standard webcam is so noticeable that, well, it's a little hard to go back.

Webcams have never been particularly good in dimly lit rooms, but the C910 does a good job of capturing enough light to make the image parseable -- though you'll want to warm up your CFLs for the best image. The camera's auto-focus is a bit slow, but so long as you don't fidget too much during your chat you'll be fine. Also, the camera can automatically digitally zoom in on your face and pan around as you move within its field of view, which is a great feature if you have to position the thing far away and don't want to give those around you a great view of your surroundings.


In terms of design, the C910 represents Logitech's typical high-quality feel, with a combination of matte and high-gloss plastics plus rubberized bits that look great. It has a nice heft in your hand, but that's largely thanks to the weight placed at the bottom of its hinged mount to counter-balance the camera itself. The mount has two hinge points and is designed to either run down the back of an LCD display or lay flat atop something with a bit more depth. We do wish the top hinge, where the camera is mounted, had a bit more articulation to it (it looks to be about 45 degrees in either direction), but nevertheless we never had a problem getting it pointed in the right direction.

Now, regarding the lack of onboard video processing that the Skype HD camcorders offer. We've seen cases where other HD webcams have resulted in high CPU utilization while recording. The case is similar with the C910, which pulled down about 30 to 40 percent utilization on a 2.5GHz Core 2 Duo-equipped laptop. But, when you stop recording, the software automatically transcodes that recording into a lower bitrate file. Then the utilization goes through the roof until the transcoding is finished and, as if that wasn't bad enough, the resulting file is badly compressed at about a 2Mbps bitrate. Sure, it saves disk space, but blocky 1080p is hardly desirable. We're hoping that, with a future release of the software, you'll be able to manually select the resulting bitrate -- and possibly disable re-encoding altogether.

Oh, and one more thing: if you want to get in on the 720p webchat train, you'll need a 1Mbps upload.

Wrap-up

We haven't had time for a full evaluation of the C910 just yet, and there'll more to come as we evaluate a few other entrants into the HD camcorder market. But, we like what we've seen so far -- minus the ugly compression used for recorded video. HD chats online looked (relatively) great, the design is nice, and it certainly looks nice perched atop your display. Still, it costs nearly twice as much as Microsoft's 720p HD-5000 LifeCam, and only $20 less than the TouchCam N1, which packs an onboard video compressor and thus is compatible with Skype HD.

Of the four announced, we're thinking the 720p C510, at $59, is the best blend of features and price, but if you absolutely must have full HD, this isn't a bad way to do it.

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Logitech Unveils Family of HD Webcams and Logitech Vid HD

Flagship Logitech HD Pro Webcam C910 Features HD 720p Video Calling, Full HD 1080p Video Recording, One-Click HD-Uploading to FaceBook and YouTube

New Logitech Vid HD is the Easiest Way to Make an HD Video Call

FREMONT, Calif.--Today Logitech (SIX:LOGN) (NASDAQ:LOGI) took another step toward delivering on its promise to bring HD video to anyone, anywhere, unveiling a full lineup of HD webcams and the recently announced Logitech® Vid™ HD, the free and easy way to make an HD video call. Offering HD 720p video calling, Full HD 1080p video recording, Logitech Fluid Crystal™ technology and one-click HD-uploading to Facebook™ and YouTube®, the flagship Logitech® HD Pro Webcam C910 makes high-definition video calling, recording and sharing a reality.

"HD video calling is a critical step toward our vision of a world in which video communication is as mainstream and seamless as a telephone call - for anyone, anywhere"

"HD video calling is a critical step toward our vision of a world in which video communication is as mainstream and seamless as a telephone call - for anyone, anywhere," said Eric Kintz, vice president and general manager of Logitech's video business. "With Logitech HD webcams and Vid HD, you have everything you need to share, to connect, to see the people that matter to you in breathtaking detail that far surpasses the quality of embedded webcams."

Every new Logitech HD webcam features Logitech Fluid Crystal technology, ensuring that each video call and recording offers crystal clear images with smooth, fluid motion and rich, true-to-life colors, even in the real world.

Logitech HD Pro Webcam C910 - HD in Every Way

Setting a new standard in quality, the top-of-the-line Logitech HD Pro Webcam C910 not only lets you record video in stunning Full HD 1080p and make video calls in fluid HD 720p, but it also features crystal-clear stereo audio with two mics – one on either side of the webcam lens.

The Logitech HD Pro Webcam C910 presents a stunning, streamlined profile. At 25 millimeters deep, the exceptionally thin C910 webcam adds a modern minimalist touch to your laptop or desktop computer setup.

Logitech HD Webcam C510 - For Portable HD Video Calling and Recording

If you prefer a webcam that can go wherever you go, the portable Logitech HD Webcam C510 - with its fold-and-go design - makes it easy to take your webcam with you. So whether you want to make a video call at home, at the hotel, or at the office, the C510 webcam will fold up and fit in your pocket for easy transport. Plus, the 360-degree full-rotation allows you to swivel the webcam around and include more people on your video calls and recordings.

Logitech also introduced two HD webcams at a price that everyone can afford: the Logitech® HD Webcam C310 and the Logitech® HD Webcam C270.

Logitech Vid HD - HD 720p Video Calls

Logitech Vid HD brings the HD video-calling experience full circle, because you can't have a high-definition video call with an HD webcam unless you have software that can transmit two-way live video in HD.

So if you've been waiting for a simpler and better way to make a video call, Vid HD is the free, fast and easy way to make an HD video call - and it's included with all new Logitech webcams, as well as available for free download at www.logitech.com/vid.

If you're already using Logitech Vid™, you can upgrade to Vid HD and use it today with any HD-ready webcam.

One-Click Upload to Facebook and YouTube

In today's world, social networking is an essential part of day-to-day life for millions, and video is an indispensable part of sharing your life with the people you care about. With Logitech's new lineup of HD webcams, it's a snap to record and upload HD videos to Facebook or YouTube. For your convenience, the included Magix™ photo and video editing software will help you polish the rough edges before your video goes viral. And the included picture and video gallery makes it easy to store your memories, too.

Taking Photos with Logitech HD Webcams

The new Logitech webcams make it easy to take a snapshot and e-mail them to your friends and family. The C910 webcam offers rich, 10-megapixel photos, the C510 webcam will create dazzling 8-megapixel snapshots, the C310 webcam takes crisp, clear 5-megapixel pictures and the C270 webcam will take 3-megapixel photos. (Highest-quality photos are software enhanced.)

Compatible with All Major Video-Calling Clients

All new Logitech HD webcams are Skype®-certified, optimized for Windows Live™ Messenger, and will work with the major video-calling clients, including Skype, Yahoo!® Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, and Gmail™ Voice and Video Chat.

Pricing and Availability

The Logitech HD Pro Webcam C910 is expected to be available in the U.S., Europe and Asia in August for a suggested retail price of $99.99 (U.S.). The Logitech HD Webcam C510 (SRP: $59.99 U.S.) is expected to be available in the U.S. in June and in Europe and Asia in August. The Logitech HD Webcam C310 (SRP: $49.99 U.S.) and the Logitech HD Webcam C270 (SRP: $39.99 U.S.) are expected to be available in the U.S. in June, in Europe in July, and in Asia in August. For more information on Logitech HD webcams, please visit www.logitech.com/webcams.

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