The Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 is nearly identical to the QuickCam Pro for Notebooks Webcam, except for the fact that it's a better fit for laptops. This AU$149.95 desktop Webcam is larger than its laptop sibling, but its flexible, two-hinged stand works equally well resting directly on your desk or atop your desktop's LCD or your laptop's screen. The QuickCam Pro 9000 delivers better image quality than competing desktop Webcams from Creative and Microsoft. Logitech's RightLight technology provides a well-balanced, vibrant, and clear image -- even in low light. While Creative's Live Cam software has more features, unless motion capture surveillance or time-lapse Webcam photography interests you, you're better off with the Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000. With its easy-to-use software, stellar image quality, and sturdy, flexible stand, it earns our Editors' Choice award.
Installation is straightforward. Install the bundled QuickCam software and then plug in the Webcam. An audio-tuning wizard lets you optimise the volume for audio input (microphone) and out (speakers). You can adjust sliders for brightness, contrast, colour intensity, and white balance, but we found the best results by enabling RightLight and leaving it at that. We found many complaints online about installation hiccups, particularly with Window XP machines, but experienced no trouble installing the QuickCam software and drivers on either Vista or XP. We did have trouble with installing the beta 11.5 drivers in an effort to test out the High Quality Video announcement that Logitech and Skype announced last week (more on that later), but the QuickCam 11.0 software that came on the bundled CD presented no such difficulties. Also, be sure to close out of the QuickCam software when using the Webcam to video conference with a program like Skype. We had conversations repeatedly come to an abrupt end until we noticed the tiny QuickCam icon staring at us from the system tray and closed it.
Our only complaint with Logitech's QuickCam Pro for Notebooks was its awkward clip and vertical orientation, which, taken together, resulted in the camera drooping forward or leaning to one side somewhat regularly. No such problems with the QuickCam Pro 9000. The camera is oriented horizontally, with the lens to the left and the mic on the right. The two-hinged stand can be manoeuvred to stand up on top of a desk or so that the camera sits on top of a narrow LCD. A rubber mat covers each potential contact point, meaning that the Webcam will rest firmly in place in a variety of positions. And the stand is made of thick, heavy plastic, which provides enough counterweight to keep the Webcam from being easily jostled.
In testing, the Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000's image quality was superior to that of the Creative Live Cam Optia AF and the Microsoft LifeCam VX-7000 under any scenario -- bright artificial light, low light, or natural light. Particularly in a dimly lit room with a dark desktop background, the QuickCam Pro 9000 was able to lighten the image so that shadows were removed from a face but not to the point of overexposing the image. Like the other two desktop Webcams, the QuickCam Pro 9000 features a 2-megapixel sensor. It can record video up to a resolution of 1,600 x 1,200 and can snap still photos up to 8-megapixels (keep in mind, anything above 2-megapixels comes by way of software interpolation, which degrades quality).
The QuickCam Pro 9000 doesn't put AF into its model name like Creative's Live Cam Optia AF, but it does have an auto-focus feature. It's slow to react when recording video at any of the available HD resolutions (960x720 and up), but does a reasonable job of keeping your talking head in focus. The microphone does an acceptable job of picking up audio; just be sure you're not sitting too close to the Webcam.
The bundled QuickCam software features a pleasing interface and is very easy to navigate. Large buttons are provided for recording video or snapping a picture, and changing the resolution of each is dead simple. Your recorded videos and photos are listed as thumbnails at the bottom of the QuickCam window. Videos are recorded as WMV files and played back using Windows Media Player. Logitech's face-tracking features mean you get an assortment of 3D avatars and other video effects, which are fun if you want to surprise your friends with a video call from a shark, reptile or a wild-and-crazy guy with an arrow through his head. While Macs will recognise this plug-and-play USB device, you'll be left without the services of the video (RightLight 2) and audio (RightSound) optimisation apps as well as the video effects and filters.
Logitech doesn't bundle a video-messaging app, but it works with all the popular IM clients, including those from AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo and Skype. While Logitech and Skype announced a partnership to bring 640x480, 30-frame-per-second video to Skype calls over the Pro 9000, the updated Skype software required (3.6) was not available at the time of testing.
Logitech backs the QuickCam Pro 9000 with a two-year warranty.