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In my line of work, a webcam is an invaluable tool. Channeling my journalistic-Scorsese, I can conduct video interviews, reviews, and how-to videos. I’ve been getting along just fine, using the variety baked into my current laptop of choice. I grumble here and there about their knack for jerky play when recording video calls, clunky software utilities, and poor resolutions. My love-hate relationship is, perhaps, why I don’t own any of the best webcams on my more gamer-obsessed desktop computer. Sure, it would be nice to sit the “Mini Warden” on my lap for video calls with her “Nani” in WA. And I’ve been wanting to do more video how-tos on my workbench–an easier endeavor indeed, with a reliable camera. SIGH! These were high-cost dreams in the past–at least for the level of satisfying, smooth, and even playback for which I would aim.
Related: For those who want to try a different option, check the Estorees USB HD 720P with LED Night Lighting review
Those of us with more miserly spending practices should all raise our coupon fists in praise of the HP 5210 HD Webcam. The HP 5210 not only records video chats in high definition 720p (Skype required), but it can also locally record video at true 1080p for easy HD home movies. Unfortunately, the included software should be cut from the scene entirely. More on that in a bit. If you’re unsure which webcam is best for you, look at the best Logitech webcam to compare.
Firstly, it should be known the HP 5210 Webcam requires Skype 5.1 and at least a dual-core processor for HD video calls. HP utilizes a built-in H.264 video processor, which allows for my desired even playback at 30 frames per second across a crisp 720p resolution. If you need a webcam that can also be used on a Mac, you can check out the Ausdom webcam or read our Logitech C270 review.
Related: We also recommend the HZQDLN 1080P HD Webcam review
The unit itself is stylish, with three quick-start buttons on top of it to instantly snap a photo, launch software/begin/end recording, and begin video chats. To get it up and running, just place the camera atop your computer monitor and bend the malleable base around the back of your monitor to hold the camera in place. Plug in the attached USB cable and then install the massively confusing software.
This software is beyond bloatware. Bloatware with a case of senility is more accurate. The included install CD throws four programs up on your unassuming hard drive: Web Camera Control Center, Webcam Companion, Showbiz, and Magic-i Visual Effect 2. Launching the Web Camera Control Center will open a window populated with many options, such as recording, starting a video chat, photo capture, video editing, and so on. Click “Monitor,” and up pops the WebCam companion application. Furthermore, clicking anyone of the Companion options then opens a separate resource-hungry and memory-dependent utility that sits in my taskbar and runs in the background. With the utility open and idle (not even recording), I had 3-4 taskbar icons pop up. Click “Edit,” and you’re greeted with yet another application. This one is ArcSoft Showbiz. But wait! I thought the ArcSoft Magic-i Visual Effects program handled many of these same features. Ugh! If this is anything like Hollywood, then I understand the proclivity to self-medicate. What a headache! Obviously, some refinement is needed in that bloatware suite. Or you can just dump it and use Skype and any number of free downloadable solutions.
The software suite does play nice with Youtube, Flickr, Twitter, and Facebook. So easy uploading to your favorite social network is a one-click affair.
Despite its best efforts, the dumpy software cannot mar the elegant gem that is the HP 5210 HD Webcam. Once I got it worked out, the device became a simple and powerful solution. As I mentioned above, video calls recorded at 720p run at a consistent 30 frames per sec on the receiving end (bandwidth compromise notwithstanding). But surprisingly, local videos captured at 1080p only dipped a few frames below 30. That’s great and more than sufficient for recording low-motion videos of you in front of your computer. There are plenty of setting options, noise reduction, and filter options to enhance the clarity of your video and suit the needs of your particular environment. Again, one must muster the courage to brave that software suite.
Speaking specifically about video calls, the 5210 Webcam continues to excel. It features a dual stereo microphone, which helps tremendously in canceling unwanted ambient noise. Audio in both recorded video and on the receiving end of video chat calls was sufficient and clear, with no distortion, hiss, or overly tinny sounds. Combined with the impressive audio, HP Webcam HD 5210 gives you high-quality streaming or video calling experience that will wow those you’re streaming to or chatting with.
HP throws you a curve ball with that software suite. It does a lot, but in a confusing manner, and is just generally goofy. That aside, the HP 5210 HD Webcam is a fantastic offering that’s manufactured by one of the most reputable tech companies headquartered in the United States. Granting users a rich and super smooth solution for quick home videos and slick pro-style video calls.
The Bottom Line: The performance is great, and this unit is priced to sell. Just wear thick tall boots when wading through mucky software. High-definition glory awaits on the other end.
You can buy the HP 5210 HD Webcam at Amazon for $75.99