HP this past week announced its AI-powered HP 965 4K Streaming Webcam. As I had hoped, this $199 peripheral transforms online meetings and streams with a clarity I’ve never seen in a dedicated webcam. And it’s a clarity you can see for yourself: the most recent episodes of Windows Weekly, First Ring Daily, and Eternal Spring were all recorded with this camera.
First, a couple of points on background.
If you watch any of my podcasts, you know I’ve struggled with video quality for years. And while there have been suspects—the quality of my home Internet connection is one—the reality is that I’ve tried several different cameras and other solutions over the years, including a Logitech BRIO 4K webcam, and none have made a difference. So to me, this one is personal.
Second, PC makers this year are finally starting to replace the lackluster 720p webcams of the past with Full HD (1080p) and 5 MP webcams that do make a material difference in quality. Most of the most recent laptops I’ve reviewed feature an upgraded webcam like this and the improvements are real. That said, I need something at my desk, and even though I dock a laptop to an HP Conferencing Monitor these days, the lid is shut so its internal webcam is unavailable.
And third, it’s irritating that the best quality I’d seen from a camera to date has been when I’ve used my iPhone, via software called Camo and a tripod. This setup delivers high-quality results, but it comes with great effort: every time I need to use it, I have to mount my iPhone on the tripod, connect it to the PC via a Lightning cable, and manually make adjustments. And then tear the whole thing down again when I’m done because I didn’t spend $1000 on an iPhone to not use it. So in this case, the quality is there, for sure, but the busy work makes it less than ideal.
Enter the HP 965 4K Streaming Webcam. For the first time, I can get the quality I want but in a dedicated webcam that only needs to be installed and configured once. This is a barrel-shaped design that I find reminiscent of the old Apple iSight camera, but much updated, with USB-C to USB-A 3+ connectivity and an 8 MP resolution that outshines any of the dedicated solutions I’ve used. (The iPhone can obviously deliver higher resolutions.)
The results were immediately obvious once I plugged in the camera and tested the picture quality, but one piece was missing: dedicated software for configuring the device. This came over time, however, via the HP Accessory Center, which lets you configure the resolution, field of view, and other controls.
The resolution choices are straightforward enough, and you can select various 720p (60/30 fps), 1080p (60/30 fps), 1440p (30 fps), and 4K (30 fps) resolutions as expected. But the field of view is interesting: here, you can choose between 78, 90, and 100 degrees, or what I think of as normal, wide, and ultrawide, and the differences between each is quite obvious, giving you a nice range of choices.
The other basic controls are less surprising: you can choose between 50 Hz and 60 Hz refresh rates, toggle HDR, and configure brightness, contrast, saturation, and sharpness manually if desired. What’s missing, however, is critical: there’s no color temperature setting at all, and the default temperature was, in my experience, very much on the cold/blue side out of the box. Fortunately, I have a ring light with a temperature dial. But in testing this over the weekend without the ring light, I can see that the temperature is now correct. Perhaps a software update helped with that.
You can also enable an auto frame feature that keeps your head, upper body, or head and shoulders (your choice) centered in the frame, optionally with multi-person support. This works amazingly well: I had my wife step in and out of the frame with each choice selected in turn and it did a terrific job of adapting the view on the fly, with smooth zooming animations.
And there are also auto scene enhancements for backlighting and low-light situations, and the expected selection of background image and blur options.
Overall, I couldn’t be happier with this webcam and I will continue using this every day going forward. And it works with Macs and Chromebooks as well if that’s your thing.