See and be seen Web camera

Apple has a gift for taking existing technologies and making them more simple and elegant to use — and that talent has never been more evident than with the company’s new $259 iSight Web camera. I tested the unit with the beta version of the company’s iChat AV instant messaging program, and found it remarkably easy to use. Unfortunately, Windows users can only watch for now: both products are Mac exclusive.

The iSight looks cooler than other webcams, with an aluminium exterior that matches Apple’s new G5 desktops. Using one of the three included stands, the iSight perched easily atop my iBook notebook. The iSight connects via FireWire and requires at least a 600MHz G3 processor, plus a broadband connection to transmit the video.

I downloaded the iChat AV beta (a final version of the software will ship later this year), installed the program, plugged in the camera, and instantly started video chatting with a comparably Mac-equipped friend. No drivers were necessary. My two-year-old iBook 600, which met the minimum required specs, could muster only 15fps — better than most video chat products, but still giving the impression of moving in slow motion. Apple says that chatters at each end need iChat AV and at least a 1GHz G4 system to get television-quality, 30fps video. The autofocusing iSight offers a good picture, and its built-in microphone captures sound well, though you can often hear a slight echo of yourself when chatting.

Currently, in order to fully utilise the iSight’s capabilities you need Apple’s iChat program. However, since the camera is built on industry standards for video, PC compatibility may not be far off. With the right video-enabled chat client, both Mac and PC chatters could use this handsome piece of hardware for video-conferencing.

In brief

Apple iSight web camera
Web camera simplifies video chat with iChat AV, but Mac hardware requirements are strict, and it won’t yet work on a PC.
Price: $259
Vendor: Apple
Phone: 13 3622
www.apple.com.au

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Michael Gowan

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