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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  • EnzoFX - Thursday, January 5, 2012 - link

    Hope they bring that support to the C910 as well. Well @ 15fps I guess it's not worth it. Still, 720p could be better supported in my experiences.
  • ImSpartacus - Thursday, January 5, 2012 - link

    If the encoding hardware is not present in the C910 (which I own), then it's not possible.

    But in all honesty, I'm not missing much. 720p is a huge improvement. 1080p is mostly just a bandwidth clogger at this point. If you've got the hardware and the connection for it, then great, but you're not missing much otherwise.
  • pixelstuff - Thursday, January 5, 2012 - link

    The C910 can currently do 1080p recording just not live streaming. So theoretically it could do 1080p live streaming if your CPU is fast enough and upload bandwidth is high enough.
  • ganeshts - Thursday, January 5, 2012 - link

    If there is no encoding hardware present, you are at the mercy of the USB 2.0 bandwidth (it is transferring raw video data). That is the reason why the frame rate is very low when recording at 1080p. I think no one will choose 1080p at 5 - 10 fps over 720p at 30 fps (720p30 is the acceptable limit for USB transfer without encoding)
  • piroroadkill - Thursday, January 5, 2012 - link

    Really, how many could do an H.264 30fps stream justice. You need about 10Mbps to cut the mustard at 1080p using x264, I don't know what encoder they're using exactly, or what bitrate, but I guarantee most people buying this will not have the upload rate to cope with it, and you'll get a compressed mush going out that means you may as well have bought a regular 640x480 webcam with a good frame rate and less compression.

    I guess it's good for video conferencing in places that do have good connections, though!
  • prophet001 - Thursday, January 5, 2012 - link

    exactly what I was thinking
  • ganeshts - Thursday, January 5, 2012 - link

    We are comparing apples and oranges here. 1080p needs 10 Mbps for movies and other videos where there is lot of movement and scenes change rapidly. In a HD teleconferencing / video chat solution, there is almost always a static background and the movement is limited to a specific region in the usual use cases. Higher frame rate is needed for fluidity, but a good encoder can take advantage of the static regions to reduce the bandwidth requirements. I will be checking out a review unit of the C920 and will report back on the bitrate used / quality of the video after extensive testing.
  • MrMilli - Thursday, January 5, 2012 - link

    You're linking to the wrong Creative webcam. The Creative Live! Cam InPerson HD Webcam has the HW encoder.
  • ganeshts - Thursday, January 5, 2012 - link

    Thanks for pointing that out.. With a number of Creative webcam Amazon pages open in various tabs, there was a slip up (and all of those had similar bad reviews!). This has been fixed now.
  • Dreamwalker - Thursday, January 5, 2012 - link

    is a Harmony remote, that can aslo be used for a HTPC out of the box (with a nano recevier), that has a smal QWERT backlit keyboard on the other side, and acts like a Logitech Air mouse.

    Harmony remote + Logitech Air mouse + backlit keyboard + nano receiver = the only thing I really need

    Of course for not more than 120€

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