As I’ve mentioned before in my Logitech c920 webcam review, I’m a professional telecommuter, and my webcam is everything to me.
It’s the way I get to work, it’s the way I talk to my colleagues, it’s the way I deal with the boss, and it’s the face I present to my clients.
In short, I take webcams very seriously. And the most serious bit of webcam tech currently on the market is the new Logitech BRIO.
It has more features than any rival, is the first in its class to offer 4K ultra HD, and it comes equipped with background replacement and infrared facial recognition.
It’s left me looking and sounding better than I ever have over a webcam, and yet I can’t attribute that fact to any of those particular hi-tech features. My laptop and wifi don’t support 4K, and while I’d love to use the background replacement, it’s too buggy to rely on at the minute.
What those features have done is drive up the price, making this Logitech’s most expensive webcam. Personally, I don’t mind paying extra to look this good, but the wider world may not be ready for a device this high tech. Let’s dive into the specifics.
Getting Started with the BRIO
My mixed emotions about the BRIO started during the initial setup.
As with all Logitech cams the BRIO worked straight out of the box with a simple USB connection and no additional downloads, and it took the place of my old C920 without any fuss on both Skype and Zoom. The cord on the BRIO is much thicker than the C920, which might not sound important but did get me thinking that this cam is going to hang in there for a while–it’s not shoddily made.
Sadly, the shape of the BRIO’s foam clip didn’t instill that same feeling. It is too wide for my Acer laptop screen and isn’t nearly as secure as the C920. I have begun using the handy stand that ships with the BRIO so I don’t have to worry about bumping the Acer and sending the BRIO tumbling.
As long as it stays in place, though, the BRIO’s mechanics are a big improvement over the C920. The 5x zoom and pan are responsive, and the autofocus has been really polished so I don’t get any of the random blur the C920 would occasionally dish out.
The biggest differences, however, are the audio and visuals.
Best in Class Sound and Video
I buy a webcam to be seen and heard. Everything else is a bonus–although the BRIO has a lot of bonuses we’ll get to shortly.
Without having to adjust anything, the BRIO opens with crystal clear 1080p across a smooth 30 frames per second broadcast–and you can kick that up to 60fps without losing much quality. It also features new high dynamic range Redlight tech to handle any lighting conditions, which performed well in my experience.
The reaction from my colleagues to my “amazing” new image is all the proof I need to trust that the BRIO is going present me in my best light. I could see the difference myself once a few video callers joined a group chat on built-in or lesser quality cams, and that high quality held up well over the 90-degree widescreen stream, as well as the more focused options.
The audio, too, is impressive. I recorded a team training session and found a noticeable improvement over the sound quality of the older Logitech cam. The BRIO has nailed the video calling basics. The sound and visuals are the best I’ve experienced, and they’re nimble enough to work in both one-on-one and group video chat settings.
As for those bonuses I mentioned, they more often led to frustration.
A Future-Proof Webcam
The BRIO is the first mass produced webcam to offer 4K, Ultra HD streaming. That sounds really impressive, and I’d love to be able to say it works in all its promised glory, but I can’t. I just don’t have the processing or internet power to make it work, and neither do any of the people I video call. YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon are currently streaming in 4K where possible, so common use of the technology is hopefully not too far away, but for now it remains a shiny mystery. Trouble is, I get the feeling I’m paying for the privilege of being first in line to use a technology that may not go mainstream for some time yet.
The BRIO does have a couple of other tricks, both made possible by the webcam’s infrared cameras–it can automatically remove your background for a green screen effect, and you can use it in conjunction with Microsoft’s new Hello security feature as facial recognition software.
I haven’t had a chance to get all Minority Report with the facial recognition software, but that tech has a lot of promise, with the clear potential to transform the way we shop, bank, and interact online.
I did use the background replacement feature, but it felt more like a faulty green screen and left some of my body cut out of the image. Frustratingly, it didn’t work at all when I was using Zoom, even though I was given an onscreen prompt to try it out. That’s a real shame, because as a telecommuter it would be nice to blur or alter my background at any given place I’m video conferencing–for example, it would be super handy at coffee shops I regularly video conference from.
Our Logitech BRIO Review Verdict: Fantastic Clarity, Undercooked Features
As I said earlier, the BRIO is a fantastic webcam in the basic sense of the device. The visuals, the audio, the smooth stream, and the mechanics are the best I’ve encountered. However, those cutting-edge extras like 4K streaming and background replacement that are pushing up the price are a disappointment. The former is unnecessary for someone in my position–and most everyone else, I imagine–and the latter doesn’t seem to be quite ready.
If you’re willing to meet the BRIO’s fairly high price tag (it is twice the price of my C920) for the best stream a private video caller can get, then go get one today. If you’re more inspired by all those lovely extras, however, I recommend you stick with a cheaper cam and wait a little longer for the wider world to catch up to where the BRIO currently sits.