I’ve been working from home since August 2019, before it was made so popular by COVID-19, and as such, I take part in lots of video chats during my working week. At first, I was using the webcam built into my 2018 13″ Macbook Pro, however, due to my home office setup with two external 24″ monitors I tend to use the Macbook with the lid shut, so every time I want to use the webcam I had to open the Macbook up. Whilst this isn’t a big issue, it was a bit annoying and whilst macOS, on the whole, handles window positioning well when you add/remove a screen from the mix, sometimes it does end up moving windows into a different position, which can also be annoying. So I decided to invest in an external webcam, unfortunately, that was around the same time as everyone else did, so there was very little choice in stock so I plumped for a Wansview 1080P Webcam with Microphone from Amazon.
Whilst this webcam “does the job”, it was cheap and really isn’t the best, so since then I have been looking for a replacement but never committed to spending £100+ for a well known branded webcam, like one from Logitech. Then about a month ago I saw an advert on Instagram asking for people to “test” and “review” a new camera from a company called Amcrest and you would receive the product for free. Excellent, I get to try a different webcam for free, so I filled out the short form and waited. A couple of weeks later I got an email asking me if I was still interested with instructions on how to order the camera. I placed the order and it arrived a couple of days later.
For this article, I’m therefore going to be comparing the Amcrest 1080P Webcam with Microphone & Privacy Cover, the Wansview 1080P Webcam with Microphone and the built-in Macbook Pro webcam. Also, for audio, I normally use my Bose Soundlink II Bluetooth Headphones as they have a built-in microphone and thanks to a Macbook “security” feature, you can’t use the Macbook’s built-in microphone with the lid shut (even if you want to), so I will include these in the audio quality section.
Packaging and Build Quality
Both the Wansview and Amcrest are relatively “cheap” webcams, £16 and £28 respectively, at the time of writing, and for the price, they are both acceptable build quality. The Amcrest beat out the Wansview in all regards for both packaging and build quality, with the Wansview packaged in a very basic “brown” box with no real branding or clues as to want was inside. The Amcrest, however, came in a nice looking box, looking more like a product you would see on the shelf of a tech store:
The Amcrest Webcam feels more substantial in the hand than the Wansview, with some more weight to it and nicer plastics used to build it and some nice faux metal end caps and lens surround.
Amcrest: 8 / 10
Wanview: 3 / 10
In terms of setup on the computer, there really isn’t much to say at all. Both the Amcrest and Wansview were “plug ‘n’ play” with the Macbook Pro, you simply plug them into the USB port and the Macbook detects them and makes them available to use. Obviously, the Macbook’s built-in webcam just works, so nothing to setup there either.
In terms of physical setup, both are very similar, with the ability to be either sat on the desk or place on top of the monitor. My preference for my setup is to have them sat on top of one of the monitors and both can do this perfectly well, however, due to the design of the Wansview, if you sit it on the section designed to sit on top of the monitor, the camera protrudes far too much down into the top of the monitor picture, whereas the Amcrest’s design allows it to not really cover any of the screen, despite my monitor’s thin bezels. Here are the webcams sitting on top of my monitor for comparison:
As you can see, the Wansview is covering a decent portion of the top of the screen. It is also worth noting that the Amcrest has the standard tripod screw mount on it’s “stand” so can be used on a tripod as well.
With regards to the Macbook Pro webcam, it is built into the centre of the top of the display, so the only adjustment you can make to it’s positioning is to tilt the display forwards and backwards.
The Amcrest, therefore, wins this round.
Amcrest: 7 / 10
Wanview: 5 / 10
Macbook Pro: N/A
Out of everything a webcam does, the quality of the video output is the most important, but this is where they all fall down. They all claim to be HD quality and there is no denying they all produce what would be regarded as an “HD” resolution, with the Macbook Pro the lowest at 720p (1280×720) and both the Amcrest and Wansview at 1080p (1920×1080), but to me, producing the right number of pixels to label your product as “HD” is no good if the quality of said pixels are so poor that it might as well be 360p (640×360). To test out the cameras I took some screenshots of the video output, at the same time of day in both “normal” room light conditions and “low” room light conditions.
The Macbook Pro webcam’s video quality has always struck me as being pretty poor, for such a high-end product, why they don’t choose to fit it with a decent camera is very odd. The camera doesn’t really perform well in either normal light or low light conditions, with the window being “blown out” almost completely in “normal” light conditions and the picture quality being reduced massively in the “low” light conditions, but in both, at least the overall lighting of the person in the frame is even and you can see their face:
The Amcrest webcam’s video was less grainy than the Macbook Pro in the “normal” light conditions but in the “low” light conditions it became so dark as to be basically unusable. In both light conditions, the lighting of the person in the frame is “dark” and not good at all.
The Wansview webcam actually performs pretty well in both lighting conditions and definitely provides the best overall image quality of the three, however, it does have a “curve” to the image from what appears to be a “fisheye” to the lens to give it a greater “field of view”. I’m not really sure why you would want this in a webcam, as the normal use of a webcam is someone sitting directly in front of the camera. Without this curve, which you can see particularly badly in the background, I think the Wansview would be almost spot-on.
The Wansview wins this round, with the Macbook Pro second and the Amcrest a long way behind both.
Amcrest: 3 / 10
Wanview: 7 / 10
Macbook Pro: 5 / 10
To test the audio quality, I did a simple recording of myself using the mic on each device, which you can hear for yourself here:
As you can hear, the Amcrest Webcam’s mic sound has an audible background hiss and slightly “tinny” sound on the voice. The Wansview Webcam mic is very bass-heavy, muffled sounding with a very audible background hum which makes it basically useless. The Macbook Pro’s built-in mic sounds ok for the voice but there is again an audible background hiss. The Bose Soundlink II headphones sound the best, with a good sound to the voice and no background noise at all.
So, the Bose Soundlink II headphones take this round, with the Macbook Pro’s built-in mic in second, Amcrest in third and the Wansview in a distant fourth.
Amcrest: 6 / 10
Wanview: 2 / 10
Macbook Pro: 8 / 10
Bose SoundLink II: 9 / 10
In conclusion, neither the Amcrest nor Wansview is a good webcam, both have issues, but at least the Wansview produces a useable picture in various different light conditions. As long as you don’t want to use the mic on it, then it is worth the £16 it costs. Unfortunately, the Amcrest is not worth the £28 price at all, because it simply doesn’t have the video quality to make it useable, which is very disappointing as I had high hopes for it given it really looks the part. This is, however, a case of style over substance, and I wish they had put more into making it perform better than they did on designing their brand and packaging.
I’ve given more weighting to the video quality for the final scores as really it is the most important factor:
Amcrest: 3 / 10
Wanview: 5 / 10
Macbook Pro: 4 / 10