Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Creative Labs WebCam Live!
- Low cost, Useful software options, Snapshot button
- Suffers from grainy images & lag, USB 1.1 connection
A small step up from the Creative Vista Pro, the Creative Webcam Live! offers users a basic digital video package suitable for messaging.
Price$ 99.95 (AUD)
The Creative Webcam Live! is a low end web camera that is remarkably similar to the Creative Vista Pro in form and features.
With a video resolution of 640x480 at 30 frames per second, the Webcam Live! is an entry level model, suitable for moderate use with popular instant messaging programs, like Yahoo! and MSN Messenger. In our tests, we found the image quality shared the same flaws as the Vista Pro - suffering from substantial lag and having a grainy texture, although it did perform well in low light conditions.
If you pop over to the Creative website and have a look at the listed specifications for this product, you will notice it is listed as 'USB 2.0 compatible.' While this is technically correct, it's also disguises the fact the Webcam Live! has only a USB1.1 connection. Thus while the Webcam Live can be connected to USB2.0 ports (making it 'USB 2.0 compatible'), it will only function at USB1.1 speeds. This means the video quality and performance isn't as good as a webcam that supports USB2.0 speeds.
After you plug in the Webcam Live to your PC, you will have to install the accompanying software, which consists of Webcam Centre and two Arcsoft applications - Multimedia Email and PhotoImpression. Surprisingly, the installation took us quite a while and was particularly resource hungry, slowing down our whole machine. The installation process is quite simple, but also quite time consuming and be aware that PhotoImpression takes up 60MB of hard disk space, while Multimedia Email consumes a whopping 300MB.
Webcam Centre is the main application that manages the webcam and allows a few interesting options. The first is simple video or still image capture. The available resolutions and other settings are conveniently placed at the bottom of the screen, making configuring the camera a breeze. The next tab allows what Creative call 'Remote Monitoring'. This essentially takes a still shot at set intervals (which you can specify), which can then be automatically uploaded to an FTP site and accessed from the web.
Alternatively, you can use the Webcam Live! for 'Motion Detection'. In this scenario, if the camera detects any motion, it can record a video and either email it to you or upload it to an FTP site. We're not sure how practical this is, as we found a tiny 10 second video was around 12MB - not something that be easily emailed around. Webcam Centre also has Time Lapse function, which takes continuous still shots and then streams them into a video.
In the design department, we have no complaints about the Webcam Live! and appreciate the Snapshot capture button on top of the camera, although it is a little hard to press at times. While Creative has marketed the flexible three way stand quite heavily, we weren't as impressed. On the one hand, the flexibility means it can be used on a variety of surfaces. Yet at the same time, we would have preferred something which clipped onto the surface more securely, which is especially an issue when using a laptop as you may tend to move it. Still, at this price and with a few nifty features, the Webcam Live! is sure to satisfy users after a no-frills web camera.
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