Curt Brandao reviews three webcams with features you won't find in the one that came with your laptop.
Technophile: Full-featured after-market Web cams
Microsoft LifeCam HD-5000
The look Although it packs quite a high-def punch, Microsoft's LifeCam is probably one of the most diminutive devices to ever boast something as intimidating as "HD-5000" in its name. Its small, rectangular camera housing rotates 360 degrees and has a flexible rubber base that can be propped up on both desktop and laptop screens.
The lens The LifeCam delivers true, high-definition video in a 16:9 format at 30 frames per second, and even provides some fun 3D software effects, which could be good for a laugh or two until you tire of them.
The angle The LifeCam can be a great high-def camera, but only if you have the hardware to back it up. Microsoft recommends a dual core 3.0 GHz processor, 2GB of RAM and 1.5GB of hard drive space.
Logitech HD Webcam C310
The look Of all "after market" webcams, the Logitech C310 is perhaps the least obtrusive as you work on your computer or desktop screen. However, the base can't pan the camera up or down and doesn't affix tightly to the screen, meaning it can easily fall off if you move while video chatting on the sofa.
The lens The affordable C310 delivers 720p HD video and can even take 5-megapixel still photos. And if you have a slower system on an older computer (like many in the market these days for standalone webcams) you may experience some choppy video on occasion.
The angle Logitech suggests using the C310 with nothing less than 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of memory, at least 200MB of storage. However, the camera is also Mac compatible.
Blue Microphones Eyeball 2.0
The look The Eyeball 2.0 looks more like a round-ball microphone than a webcam and its sound-capturing qualities set it apart from its other USB-based counterparts. It folds easily into its base for easy travelling. It can be propped up to work on your desk, or it can be attached to a rubber base for mounting on your computer monitor.
The lens The Eyeball 2.0 has a camera that pops in and out from the left side of the microphone and offers plug-and-play capabilities, meaning it requires no extra drivers to work on Windows or Mac platforms.
The angle Although it doesn't offer the best picture quality, the Eyeball 2.0 delivers perhaps the best video sound combo of any consumer-grade webcam on the market. Just remember that you're on video - the Eyeball 2.0's round, stylistic microphone could make you think you're sitting in a 1940s radio studio.