The short easy answer is yes, you should supplement your computers on-board camera, microphone, and speakers when working from home. It makes like much easier for the far side receiving your content and a more enjoyable experience for yourself.
As we are all traversing the work from home world, one can’t help but wonder: is this better than what we have at work? I suppose that’s a loaded question; everyone has a different work environment and depending on if you have kids, animals, or noisy neighbors, it could be incredibly difficult to work from home and be productive. That may not be the only barrier though.
AV has been bridging the gap for collaboration. My wife uses her laptop for nursing school which is now completely online. They use Zoom, my work uses Google, a few of my clients uses Teams, and my financial adviser uses WebEx. Essentially they’re all the same in the way they work, but what makes them different is what the clients are using for microphones and webcams. If you use your laptop it gets you 90% of the way there but you can really tune all of that if you use the right gear.
When we started to work from home the boss gave us all Logitech C920s to use for webcams. While not completely necessary, I realized the base model webcam came with some extra features that made it super cool.
For one, it’s 1080p which is an upgrade from my laptop webcam. My laptop webcam literally looks like my first cell phone camera, what a bummer! Secondly, the C920 has lighting adjustments that make it look good in low light. No more of the silhouette type look when you’re only back-lit from lights behind you because your computer screen is attenuated for “optimized battery life”. Cue eye roll. I digress. The third cool video feature is the ultra wide view without making me look wide as well. I’ve been eating better at home so I want everyone to notice, if an 80 degree view makes me look fat I’ll stick to the grainy look my laptop offers, but it doesn’t, it’s very reasonable. Keep in mind, most cameras are 70 degrees so the C920 only adds a little extra.
As for the audio, the microphone is pretty close to the one built into my laptop so it doesn’t matter too much to me. Except the other day when I was talking to a client via Zoom, he said my audio sounded amazing. It was the webcam! I was amazed because I never noticed a difference. This client was wearing headphones and told me that it sounded like I was talking directly into a microphone. Funny thing was, I thought I was using the microphone built in to my laptop until I looked at the Windows settings. Sometimes if you’re using external microphones you could confuse the AEC settings on your codec. Since you’re splitting up your speakers from your microphone, you may get some talk back through the web conference, but like I said yesterday this was not the case. I encourage people to give it a try to see how it works for them. Try not to separate the camera too far from your speakers if you aren’t using headphones.
There are a ton of other products out there. Today I will be exploring some Yamaha options to see if they’re superior to the other brands. The Yamaha UC division has the YVC-330 which is a beefy speakerphone option for your laptop. They also have a soundbar with a camera built in and some other cool stuff that makes working from home feel like… work.
Weird that we are in a rush to make our homes feel like work when it’s been the opposite my whole life. Currently I’m using the C920 with Bose Quiet Comfort 700 for headphones.
What is your preferred AV setup?