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Dell UltraSharp review: This ₹25,000 webcam offers all the clarity, plus some smarts

The Dell UltraSharp webcam with the white LED indicator on   | Photo Credit: Divya Kala Bhavani

Over the last 21 months, I like to think I have mastered the art of ‘above the keyboard dressing’. Opting for brighter colours away from my usual black or beige and keeping a fuss-free background certainly helped boost my virtual meeting confidence since I can no longer set a solid impression with a firm handshake. But all that effort goes out the window when a poor webcam enters the picture.

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Most in-built webcams – like that of the MacBook or even the most basic Dell laptop – promise a 720p or 1080p in which advertisements show high-definition and flattering clarities in even the lowest lighting. But they do not deliver in reality and – even in the most optimal lighting – you will inexorably resemble a Potatohead doll at best. As a journalist, most interviews these days are done via video conferencing applications and virtual junket videos do require something that delivers on its promise.

So companies such as Logitech, Xiaomi and Lenovo among other brands have produced some pretty competitive webcams. A decent yet under-discussed alternative is using your smartphone with a third-party camera-cast app (such as EpocCam and Iriun Webcam) and temporarily linking it to your laptop – I used this for about six months before my phone started overheating.

UltraSharp, the latest webcam launch from American tech giant Dell has proven to be a surprising market entrant for those who are willing to splurge a bit but know of a webcam’s investment value.

Universally chic design

Coming in a small box with minimal fuss and fluff; you get your webcam connected to a thick two-metre USB-A cable and two magnetic mounts depending on your setup.

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The camera itself is a neat cylindrical body with a matte sheen in a darker grey that seems to have a violent luminescence in some light. Dell has thankfully kept this minimal and though it looks simple, it certainly looks different from the Wall-E-esque webcams we so often see.

The UltraSharp’s mounts are very useful and can be interchanged at a moment’s notice. One mount has an adjustable hinge that balances the webcam on top of even the most slimmest of laptops, while the other has a round base, ideal for flat bases such as a tripod or a shelf above your system. I mostly used the former, which helped me adjust and stabilise the webcam’s angle.

The Dell UltraSharp webcam’s hinge mount on top of a laptop

The Dell UltraSharp webcam’s hinge mount on top of a laptop   | Photo Credit: Divya Kala Bhavani

The detachable longer cable is helpful for those who want to play around with angles and distances, and its thickness does not leave you worried about whether it will start fraying anytime soon. The USB-A port would need an adaptor if your system has USB-C ports, so consider this before buying. However, if you have a USB-C to USB-C cable at home, use that.

There is also a white LED indicator that turns on when the camera is in use. But if you are paranoid about unseemly entities using your webcam to spy on you and end up slapping a sellotaped post-it over their webcam, you will appreciate the magnetic privacy shutter that covers the lens with an oh-so-satisfying magnetic click. But do not lose it, as I have done on multiple occasions and luckily found it. It also serves as a protection for the lens, to keep it scratch- and scuff-free.

The look of it all

The best part: trying it out. As soon as the camera arrived, I had a few interviews lined up and I could not wait to test out the specs.

My MacBook camera often produced grainy visuals that had eerie movements. But the UltraSharp leverages Temporal Noise Reduction (3DNR) and Spatial Noise Reduction (2DNR) to reduce noise, whatever the lighting may be.

The webcam performs quite well in low light thanks to the large Sony STARVIS CMOS sensor in the camera. Even when I had no choice but to sit in the most unfortunate of backlit environments, the UltraSharp seamlessly compensated but not too much. In the medium to optimal lighting, the UltraSharp shines. With advanced Artificial Intelligence auto-framing the subject will stay in focus; during my more movement-heavy meetings where I would demo a product or move around, the focus shifted smoothly.

While most webcams produce jerky imagery and playback, UltraSharp records 4K at a comfortable 30 frames per second or full HD at 60 frames per second. The latter is ideal for more dynamic meetings or even selfie-style vlogging or streaming.

The Dell UltraSharp webcam with the magnetic privacy shutter over the lens

The Dell UltraSharp webcam with the magnetic privacy shutter over the lens   | Photo Credit: Divya Kala Bhavani

If you like to micromanage your gadgets (and it is not a crime to), install the Dell Peripheral Manager on your PC and choose between three preset fields of view: the default 90-degree view to show more of your background; 78-degree for mid-range or 65-degree for close-ups. This is helpful for those who want to limit field-of-view to a certain amount of background – with your whole family or set of roommates all homebound for a while, this may be useful.

You can go further with your video customisations and control HDR, Auto Focus, 5x Digital Zoom, AI Auto Framing, Brightness, Sharpness, Contrast and Saturation. I like a video that is not overly bright but retains the details of the subject well with a little bit of warmth, so I adjusted my settings accordingly.

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While some pretty decent webcams in the market have an efficient in-built microphone, the UltraSharp does not which may come across as a minus point. So if you are particular about sound, there are some decent mics out there.

I also noticed that after 20 minutes, the UltraSharp tended to overheat, almost too hot to the touch which made me wonder if this would be a problem in the long run.

Should you get it?

If you see webcams as an investment for you and/or your family’s work or home setup, I highly recommend the UltraSharp for its as-promised delivery of clarity and universally chic design. At a base price of ₹18,999 (₹24,499.16 including GST and delivery), it certainly is not cheap but Dell’s status as a household tech brand has leveraged some decent technologies to give your virtual meetings and videos an impressive edge over others.

I like that a webcam out there finally does justice to my hard work of the earlier-mentioned ‘above the keyboard dressing’. It is not so easy to always look good in a mere 720p webcam.

The Dell UltraSharp webcam (WB7022) can be purchased from the official Dell India online store or Dell offline retailers across the country.


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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 5:20:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/gadgets/dell-ultrasharp-4k-webcam-2021-review-all-the-clarity-with-plenty-of-smarts/article37556830.ece

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