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Yes, even a dirt cheap webcam is probably way better than just your laptop

xps 13 webcam

Webcams took on outsized importance as millions of people started working remotely and communicating via videoconferencing tools. For many people, that means the webcam on their laptop, which is a component that hadn’t received much attention until very recently. Chances are, your laptop’s webcam resolution is 720p at best, and its quality might be severely lacking.

I looked at a handful of popular inexpensive webcams on Amazon to see if any provided good enough quality for today’s remote workers, and I was pleasantly surprised by a few of them. The GoHZQ W8A was the best one I tested, and as we’ll see below, it offers a much better experience than the webcam built into one otherwise powerful and high-quality laptop. But even those with the worst image quality proved better options than whatever your laptop happens to have.

Laptop webcam comparison

I rely on an HP Spectre x360 15 as my primary machine, hooked up via a Thunderbolt 3 dock to two external 4K displays and a few peripherals, including an Ethernet connection to my router. It’s a great laptop and a productive setup, giving me a home office PC that keeps up with my needs and then some. There’s one exception, though: The webcam sucks.

I used this same laptop as a control device to compare to the webcams in my roundup. I took some pictures at the same time, in the same location, and with the same lighting conditions as the rest of the webcams. Here are the results:

On the top is a better-lit image, while the one on the bottom represents a darker lighting environment. Neither are all that impressive though. There are a tremendous number of artifacts throughout both images, colors are muted, and detail is lacking.

The low-light performance is the obvious offender, but even the well-lit environment resulted in a low-quality result. I’m not going to say that this webcam can’t do better if lighting conditions are perfect, but these shots are representative of what I can expect if I use this webcam for a video call and don’t spend a great deal of time making adjustments.

Out of the box, as it were, the Spectre x360 15’s webcam isn’t the greatest thing going and wouldn’t represent 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 are very few artifacts in either the light or dark environments, and colors are bright and natural.

The subject’s face is well-lit without being blown out, and thanks to the 4K resolution, there’s plenty of detail. Even the dark environment looks so much better than the brighter environment represented by the Spectre’s webcam.

GoHZQ W8A Bright Environment
GoHZQ W8A Bright Environment Mark Coppock/Digital Trends
GoHZQ W8A Dark Environment
GoHZQ W8A Dark Environment Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Clearly, I’d rather use the GoHZQ W8A on any video calls I’m making, whether personal or professional. And note that I could tweak this image just like I could with the Spectre’s webcam, resulting in even better results. But I wouldn’t need to do so — this image is just fine.

The GoHZQ is the best cheap webcam I’ve tested so far, but even the weaker entries offer upgraded image quality over your laptop’s. The quality of the camera will vary pretty drastically depending on the model, so it’s worth taking a look at my comparison to see what’s on offer. But no matter which you get, it’ll be an upgrade.

It’s worth the (small) investment

There are more recently released laptops that have better webcams, with 1080p resolution and better performance in different lighting conditions. I’d wager that even those webcams would be challenged to keep up with the GoHZQ W8A, especially in the sharpness department.

But for any laptop produced more than a few months ago, you’re likely much better off spending a few dollars — in this case, just $33 — to represent yourself in much higher quality. You’ll look more professional, and those on other end of the connection will have an easier time interacting with you.

The bottom line? There’s really no excuse to default to your laptop’s low-quality built-in webcam. It’s worth upgrading, whether that’s with something from Logitech or Microsoft or just a cheap one from Amazon.

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