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Logitech HD B990


Out-of-the-box...

Picture of the Logitech HD B990 webcam"Logitech for Business" packaging reminds us of the new wave of environmentally friendly packing techniques used by the ever popular Amazon... cardboard and very little fuss.

However, don't be fooled by the understated cardboard box. Inside, a real heavy-weight of the webcam world lies in wait. It's big, clocking in at just over 15cm wide (versus 9cm for the Logitech C910).

Before we begin though, it's worth noting the Logitech HD B990 is ultimately designed for use with thin-clients: where the vast majority of the computer's workload is handled at a remote server somewhere else. This of course poses a problem for most webcams as they heavily rely on a good-spec PC to handle the video especially at high quality (720p HD). Most often, this leaves thin-client users a little 'high-and-dry' if they are looking for high quality video conferencing on their desktop. The B990 has been designed with this in mind; the design includes an onboard H.264 encoder1 that will do most of the heavy-lifting for video performance. In short, if you were to enter an online video conference using a thin-client, it is likely that a regular webcam (at high resolutions) may struggle; whereas the B990 should fair a lot better.

Due to the extra "horsepower" onboard, it's understandable that this camera is significantly larger in size than other webcams we've tested. Our review below is done on a regular PC, instead of a thin-client system (such as XenDesktop).

Connecting the Logitech B990 to the PC was straightforward. As with the majority of webcams today, simply plugging it into an available USB port is all that's — required very much plug-and-play. Our Windows XP and Windows 7 systems took care of the rest and automatically located and installed the drivers. Nothing more was needed!

The webcam will happily sit on most monitors and is nicely padded to help protect the monitor itself, which is a nice touch. No doubt, it also makes the webcam 'hug' the top of the monitor, stopping it from potentially slipping or sliding about. If you're looking to use this on a laptop, be a little cautious, as the long horizontal grip is slightly too big for our liking and on slim screens can result in being a somewhat unstable. However, the B990 does sit better than its smaller cousin the Logitech C910.

Video quality...

Thumbnail image of the Logitech HD B990 used in Nefsis

Based on previous experience with video quality, Logitech have set themselves a difficult task. We've tested (and use regularly) a number of Logitech webcams in our office and video quality is usually outstanding. This of course leaves us with a high expectation that subsequent webcams perform just as well at various resolutions. Well...? Logitech have appeared to deliver again! The B990 looks crisp and sharp at all resolutions available to Nefsis (see our two-person screenshot and video to decide for yourselves). Admittedly, our two person test-shot is probably asking a little too much of some webcams, as they're often designed to be used by one person sat at a desk. However, we are now finding many of our customers are using HD webcams in small meeting rooms or even board-rooms to provide HD-quality video at a fraction of the cost (when compared to dedicated HD video cameras).

Similar to previous Logitech webcams we've got our hands on, the B990 was happy to provide sufficient detail and sharpness to objects, along with a sufficient depth of field. As per usual, you get the Carl Zeiss lens which features in the majority of the high-end Logitech webcams.

Focus was on par with the Logitech C910 we reviewed a few months back, resulting in a responsive and sharp image, with no apparent focus tracking or the 'hunting' that can affect some webcams under certain lighting conditions.

Field of view is excellent, with adequate wide-angle coverage to fit two of us into a close shot. As we mentioned above, this camera could be quite at home in a small or medium-sized meeting room and would easily provide visual coverage for a number of people sat around a table, providing the camera is a suitable distance away.

The Logitech HD B990 coped amicably with 30 frames per second in Nefsis, giving a smooth image, but some movement did appear to be slightly blurred. Since we're just using the 'plug-and-play' Windows-assigned (UVC) drivers, this is perhaps understandable — hopefully Logitech's own drivers may help 'fine-tune' it and perform better at higher settings2.

Bandwidth consumption varied from 500kbps with a fairly-stationary image (1280x720 @ 30fps) to a peak of 1.6Mbps with considerable head/hand movement. CPU usage was light too, averaging around 10-11% utilisation on our test system. While this may not be the most scientific approach, at least it gives you an idea of what to expect.

The Logitech B900 also comes with dual stereo microphones, which provide good enough sound quality when used by one person at a desk. However, as with most (if not all webcam microphones), they can be susceptible to background noise something of which can be a constant gripe to people who spend a lot of time in conference calls or online meetings alike. In most cases we'll suggest getting a USB headset for the best possible audio quality (especially if you are in a busy office environment).

Overall...

Nefsis Review Rating is 5 out of 5At the time of writing, we weren't given any indication on price. That said, the fact that it arrived in a box labelled "Logitech for Business" implies that the main target audience/market won't be the regular consumer (e.g. Skype), but more aligned to SMEs and Enterprises either using thin-client systems or existing video conferencing software that is capable of HD-quality video. The mere fact that the camera outperformed some other HD-quality webcams on lower-spec PCs suggests it could be perfect not only for thin-clients, but may help give the odd neglected conference room PC a new lease on life as part of an online video conference service. The webcam image was sharp and clear and had a good wide-angle view that makes it suited to both individual usage and (at a push) small-medium sized conference room usage.

Footnotes

1 While the encoder will be of significant benefit on thin-client systems (such as Citrix), Nefsis will not use onboard encoders in webcams. It will choose to use its own H.264 or MPEG4 encoders on any available processor cores on the computer itself; as Nefsis is multi-threaded and designed to run on 'fat-clients' where you use your computer for all tasks (such as word processing, email, internet access), rather than connecting remotely to another system.

2 At time of writing and evaluating the webcam, we weren't able to get our hands on any specific drivers for the Logitech B990. Based on our webcam experience we will always install the manufacturers own drivers, as they often help enhance the feature-set and performance of the webcam, when compared with the generic 'plug-and-play' Windows- USB-class drivers. Manufacturer drivers also often provide additional camera resolutions.

Our Review Ratings Explained

Our review ratings are based on our own objective findings. Since we are not tied to any specific vendor or manufacturer, we will always endeavor to be open, honest and impartial. We can't test every single piece of hardware out on the market, so we always value your input too! If you're currently using a good bit of equipment, do let us know via our forum.

Testing & Disclaimer Information

All prices correct at date/time of writing.
Equipment was tested on: Intel Core2Quad 2.33 GHz, 4 GB RAM, 512 MB Graphics, Windows 7, Nefsis Online Conferencing Service, 10 Mb business internet connection, 720p HD resolutions.