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I can see clearly now

For those of you who don’t know, I’m an avid gamer and streamer….

Just kidding. In truth, I don’t feel like I have any business reviewing products suited for gamers and streamers because it’s not an area where I spend much time. I recently thought I’d try to get into PC gaming, and I found out very quickly that it just wasn’t that important to me.

Streaming, though, that’s maybe a bit different. No, I don’t stream on any of the popular sites, but I am a frequent user of webcams thanks to the “corona lifestyle.” For me that looks like working from home nearly 100% of the time and seeing my coworkers only through a digital medium. There is an occasional trip to the office, but otherwise, I work from the comfort of my own home and have to rely heavily on video to see other people.

Due to the increased reliance on good audio and video, and less in-person meetings, my desk setup is not what it used to be. I’ve added a Samson Q2U microphone which ties to the audio interface I mentioned in my review of these speakers. So I thought, “hey, now that I have a pretty solid audio setup, maybe it’s time for a good video setup as well.” Enter the AVerMedia Live Streamer CAM – PW513, awful product name and all.

Overkill

For the gadget tinkerers out there in a similar situation, you may wonder if it makes sense to invest a couple hundred dollars into a webcam if all you use it for is web conferencing. The answer is simple: no. But that shouldn’t take away from what I think is a well-made product.

As the name suggests, this is a camera that will capture at 4K resolution (30fps), and the primary sensor is made by Sony (who, as you might imagine, knows a thing or two about cameras). The unboxing was nothing to get too excited about, but it does a good job of making the device the centerpiece to the experience.

The main body of the webcam is plastic, and while it feels heavy and substantial when holding it, this is primarily due to the weight of the base. The base is designed to sit on your monitor, but also has a threaded receptacle for a standard quarter-inch tripod screw. The camera is primarily matte black except for the AVerMedia branding on the base and the back of the camera. The rear of the camera has a single USB-type C connector, and requires a USB 3.1 connection for operation. The camera also features a manual privacy cover.

The thing that makes this overkill for the average telecommuter is the 4K 30fps capture, considering most corporate video streaming solutions downscale video quality to improve performance. Instead, a sub-$60 webcam is plenty to get the job done.

Image and sound

The field of view on the AVerMedia 4K Webcam is much larger than my outgoing 7+ year old Logitech webcam, and I found myself suddenly more aware of my surroundings when the camera was on. Like many, my home office space is the result of a demand for a location to work from, which before 2020 was just an ordinary room (in my case, a laundry room). As a result, blurring my background or putting up a backdrop is the best way to hide all of those details from my coworkers.

The AVerMedia 4K Webcam also has onboard microphones that, if I’m being honest, are severely lacking. The image quality is great, and the sound quality is just average. It would seem that my coworkers have adjusted to better sound coming from my devices because the degradation in quality was immediately noticeable to someone on the other end who was previously unaware of any specific tweaks I’ve made to my setup. And this is a bit of a conundrum for me. I imagine the target demographic of streamers would have a more capable audio setup with at least one dedicated microphone—and not reliant on the onboard mics on the PW513. I wouldn’t consider the microphones a feature, or at least not one you would seek out this particular product for.

Once you go Mac…

It’s always interesting testing accessories on various platforms and finding what do and don’t work. You may already know how much of an Apple fanboy I can be, and while this camera is designed as a plug and play device, you can download some additional software for it.

Right on the box, it says that Windows 10 or above is required—but it is also compatible with Mac devices (with an asterisk). The companion software, called CamEngine, has both Windows and Mac compatible versions, but the Mac version is labeled “Lite” and is missing a few features when compared to the full version on Windows. It’s also worth noting, both the Windows and Mac versions show as being in beta.

Both versions of the software support more typical camera adjustments like brightness, contrast, hue, saturation, gamma, exposure, etc. The Windows version adds to this skin tone and smoothing and filters, in addition to adjustments to the capture at large (rotation and zoom). It’s worth noting, the zoom feature might be particularly helpful to help reduce background visibility. The Windows software also has options to associate hotkeys with virtual configurations of the settings.

AVerMedia CamEngine – Windows
AVerMedia CamEngine Lite – macOS

What if I’m a streamer?

It’s true that this review has almost entirely focused on the telecommuter, not the streamer, and while possibly annoying to those looking for a recommendation on a webcam for streaming, it was intentional. As with any product, this comes down to features versus price.

The AVerMedia 4K Webcam retails for $250, and considering the need for a capable capture machine meeting the manufacturer’s minimum requirements, suggesting this as a good product gives me pause. This is mostly because our cell phones already have fantastic cameras that, with the right application and cables, can be used to capture wide angle 4K video (depending of course on the phone). You may even have an old phone that will do the trick that is otherwise collecting dust in a drawer.

Pass on this

If you’re a beginning streamer and you’re starting with nothing, maybe this would make some sense, especially if you need to rely on the PW513’s microphones. The video feed is really quite good, but again, I’d sooner look for a less expensive alternative.

For everyone else, this is a product that you definitely don’t need in your repertoire. I don’t even know if I’d put it in the “not required, but nice to have” category—it’s really just overkill…especially if you’re a Mac user.

This product was provided by Best Buy and AVerMedia in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. The opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author and have not been reviewed or approved by any sponsors prior to posting.

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