CES is supposed to begin next week, but the press releases have already started coming out. Logitech is one of the companies we follow closely here at AnandTech. This CES, they are coming out with two new products, the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 and a novel mouse design in the Logitech Cube. We will write about our impressions of the Logitech Cube after using it first-hand at CES next week. The webcam announcement, however, is interesting for a number of reasons.

A follow-up to the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C910, this version brings an on-board H.264 encoder to enable full 1080p video encode without taxing the CPU. It also coincides with the availability of Skype 5.7 Beta which enables full 1080p video conferencing (Hopefully, Google Talk will also start supporting 1080p soon). In addition to HD video calling, the unit also supports 15 MP photo capture. Dual stereo microphones with noise reduction round up the audio side.


1080p capable webcams have been around for more than a year. However, they have all had some drawbacks:

  1. None of them could video conference at resolutions greater than 720p (Windows Live Messenger, Skype and other services have supported only upto 720p video conferencing till now)
  2. The 1080p capaibility was advertised on the basis of sensor resolution / local video capture, which was often at abysmal frame rates (720p at 15 fps / 1080p at 5 fps for the Microsoft LifeCam Studio 1080p HD Webcam and 1080p at 15fps for the C910)
  3. The absence of an on-board video encoder meant that the CPU ended up getting taxed heavily, leading to a bad user experience (Both the Microsoft LifeCam Studio 1080p HD Webcam and the C910 lacked an on-board encoder)
  4. The only 1080p webcam with an on-board H.264 encoder to guarante 1080p recording at 30 fps had numerous other issues, resulting in a number of negative reviews.

At present, the C920 looks to be the only game in town for 1080p HD video conferencing using Skype. The auto-focus and low-light correction capabilities, as well as the sensor resolution and 1080p encode frame rates are still unknown quantities at this point of time. (Update: Logitech claims that the webcam can record 1080p video at 30 fps)

The unit is expected to hit the market later this month with a suggested retail price of $99.99. We will have some hands-on time with the unit at CES and report back on our experience next week.

Source: Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 Product Page

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  • Pessimism - Thursday, January 05, 2012 - link

    This camera will have one large, buggy, bloated driver release of ten times the size it needs to be. It will nag you to check for updates constantly, but never find any. When Windows 8 is released, the camera will be declared obsolete and Logitech will remove all support for it from their driver package, rendering it a useless paperweight unless you
    A) run an old OS
    B) hunt through questionable websites to find an old copy of the driver package that DID work for the camera.
    Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Thursday, January 05, 2012 - link

    It's not actually said in the article, but the C920 is doing 30FPS at 1080p? Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, January 05, 2012 - link

    That is unknown at this point of time. I have asked Logitech for clarifications, and I will be checking out a review unit when one becomes available. Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, January 06, 2012 - link

    I have updated the piece to include what Logitech confirmed for me today (1080p at 30 fps is supported) Reply
  • syxbit - Thursday, January 05, 2012 - link

    If Google has their way, VP8 will be used by most video chat protocols very soon
    Skype already uses it, and Google's own video chat will start using it very soon
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, January 05, 2012 - link

    VP8 is good for YouTube videos. In video chatting, you require much better real time encoding capabilities (get maximum quality at low bitrates). The last time I checked, H.264 was faring much better in that respect:

    https://ritdml.rit.edu/handle/1850/14525


    At HD resolution (720p and above), H.264 is significantly better than VP8 due to its superior motion estimation and adaptive coding.


    Also, both Intel and AMD have put in H.264 encoding engines in their products and it is quite trivial to have a USB3 webcam send raw video data to that engine for encoding and use by the chat application.

    H.264 has more hardware momentum behind it. That said, I like what Google is doing with VP8 -- making the licensing entities realize that they were overcharging for H.264 (and it ought to be free for non-commercial / web use!)
    Reply
  • Interesting - Thursday, January 05, 2012 - link

    What good is this if Skype continues to use VP8, and why would Logitech mention Skyping in 1080p with an H264 encoder. Last time I checked, Skype has been using VP8 for sometime now. Is that about to change? Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, January 05, 2012 - link

    Nope, I have info from multiple sources that Skype HD video calling is H.264 based.

    We have this webcam, and also the TelyHD which was announced today. The TelyHD is not a webcam, but more of a TV video conferencing solution (camera sitting atop the TV, recording video in H.264 using Tegra 2 encoder and then pushing it out to Skype)
    Reply
  • JonnyO - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    I have some lower-end machines (Zotac AD03BR) at work that a C910 is virtually unusable on and I was hoping that the C920's on-board encoder would help, but the testing today showed that the difference was minimal. This isn't necessarily a criticism of the camera, as this computer was not designed for such a task. But the moral of the story is not to expect the encoder to be a game-changer. Reply
  • TheLostOne - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    How does this camera perform with live production or other video/web conference software?
    I suppose since it's doing hardware encoding most software will decode it and re-encode it again. This would probably cause a bit of delay and stress out the CPU more again.
    Reply

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