The best webcams for streamers and zoom calls, tested

Webcam buying guide:  The Ars picks, from affordable to extravagant

Anete Lusina

Webcams are having a moment. With video chats and teleconferences becoming a normal facet of life in a pandemic-addled world, having a device that presents you at your best can be invaluable.

The best webcams will greatly spruce up your online presence compared to the middling cameras built into most laptops, whether you’re working at home, video-chatting with family, teaching online classes, or streaming on Twitch. The best part is that most webcams are plug-and-play, allowing you to improve your video quality instantly.

There are countless webcams on the market today, ranging from affordable options designed for the basics to feature-packed models that can cost hundreds. Some perform better in daylight. Others more accurately render colorful LED backgrounds or produce flattering skin tones. A few records at ultrasharp resolutions like 4K, which can be nice, but it’s not essential. The video quality you get will always be highly dependent on the lighting and general makeup of your surroundings, but some webcams will make looking sharp less of a hassle all the same.

To make finding the right model for you easier, we put a number of highly rated webcams to the test. The following are our top picks, ranging from a low-budget option to a more professional all-in-one setup, all of which we evaluated across a variety of lighting scenarios.

An affordable option

Creative Live Cam Sync 1080p V2. $30 at Amazon

Specs at a glance. Creative Live Cam Sync 1080p V2
Dimensions: 3.3×2.3×2.4 inches (83×58×60 mm)
Weight: 0.2 pounds (96 g)
Connection: USB 2.0
Sensor: CMOS:
Field of View: 77 degrees
Aperture: f/2.4
Focus Range: 19.7 inches (50 cm) to infinity
Supported Resolutions: 1080p 30 fps, 720p 30 fps
Microphone: Dual built-in
App: Creative App: (Windows only)

The compact and ultra-light Creative Live Cam Sync V2 probably won’t be your go-to solution for high-quality streaming or recording, but it’s a good budget all-in-one buy at $30. For that low price, you still get a camera that shoots at a perfectly competent 1080p resolution at 30 frames per second (fps) and with a 77-degree field of view.

In natural light, it picks up detail fine and autofocuses smoothly. We found its picture quality to look best when using natural light coming in from the side. In these conditions, the camera gave dimension to faces and avoided a washed-out look. That said, it would be helpful to have image controls in Creative’s app, for example, to fine-tune the white balance and tint since skin tones lean to green.

You can mount the Live Cam Sync V2 directly on your monitor—or attach it to a stand or tripod if you have one—and plug it in using the supplied USB 2.0 cable. Like most of our picks, it doesn’t require downloading any software, so you can use it instantly.

If you’re a Windows user, Creative’s companion app lets you change a few extra settings—although these all apply to audio, not video quality. For example, you can enable VoiceDetect, which automatically mutes and unmutes your mic during a call. You can also manually change your voice and environmental noise level or leave the camera to auto-adjust them.

The camera has a subtle white light to show when it’s in use and a basic privacy cover that doesn’t detach. The webcam has a built-in microphone; its recording quality is acceptable for calls, although the audio was slightly hollow-sounding even in a small, carpeted room. Still, it’s good enough if you need an all-in-one webcam for work or personal calls.

The good:

  • Included app for audio configuration
  • Decent microphone
  • Acceptable video quality in most lighting scenarios
  • Low price:

The bad:

  • The app doesn’t have image settings
  • Low-quality build