Best Gear for Online Classes or Meetings in 2023: Webcams, Lights, Mics, Tripods and More
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Video conferencing on Zoom, Google Meet and the like is no longer novel. Many jobs, whether you work from home or in an office, require daily video conferencing. And if you are learning online, having a good video conference setup can make your life much easier.
Upgrading your audio and video tech is fairly easy from a technical perspective, however, and relatively affordable — and it will dramatically improve your production values in virtual meetings. We’ve compiled a shortlist of the best gear for video chats from home webcams, lights, mics and more that will enhance your video chatting. This list has plenty of input from CNET’s on-camera video team, all of whom have worked from home.
Read more: Best Wireless Earbuds and Bluetooth Headphones for Making Calls
After the masses began working from home in the pandemic, it became difficult to find a brand name webcam anywhere. My favorites — Logitech’s StreamCam and the 4K-capable Brio — are pricey and frequently out of stock, but worth the money if you can find them.
In the meantime, if your laptop’s integrated camera isn’t doing the trick, you can use a tripod and your phone’s HD camera to boost video chat quality when live streaming. Here’s how to do it.
This complete package from Monoprice has everything you need for good quality audio in your meetings, and it doesn’t break the bank. It has a USB mic, pop filter, flexible arm, and even a good set of headphones. While the audio quality may not be as perfect as the Blue Yeti further down the list, it is a great way to start getting better audio quickly.
I also like that the arm, mic and pop guard cover a lot of my face, making my socially awkward self a little less anxious.
I’ve tried many, many lights over the past few months and, so far, the Lume Cube is my favorite. This bright LED light is highly adjustable — with a physical toggle to change the brightness and color temperature — and the nifty display shows all the levels and how much juice is left in the USB-C rechargeable battery. You can position it in landscape or portrait mode using the included suction cup mount.
About that mount. I should note that there are plenty of Amazon user complaints about it not working properly, but I can’t seem to replicate the issue with my Lume Cube. I’ve stuck it securely to the back of multiple laptops and a standalone monitor, and I can’t pull the thing off — even with sustained force — without first loosening the suction mechanism.
My backup choice is the Joby Beamo Mini, which is about the same price as the Lume Cube. It’s extremely compact, waterproof and — capable of blasting out 1,000 lumens — incredibly bright, though the iOS app and included diffuser make it simple to dial in the perfect amount of light. It has a magnetic back that will stick to any metal surface and will also screw on to a tripod.
Nothing can torpedo an online meeting quicker than background noise and audio that’s cutting in and out, and your laptop’s lousy built-in microphone may be the culprit. Once you’ve added a decent webcam to your setup, you’ll be in better shape — but a standalone microphone will make you sound clear, rich and full. This Blue Yeti model has long been a staple of podcasters and streamers, and it’s what I use when I record audio or participate in a high-stakes video chat.
Yes, it looks like something you’d see in a 1940s radio station, but the audio technology is 100% modern. It has three capsule microphones, four pickup patterns (for different kinds of recording) and just enough controls to help optimize the way you sound without overloading you with super technical features.
It’s hard to multitask on a web conference: Opening and closing apps, resizing browsers and windows, all while you’re talking to your boss on your Google hangout or Zoom call — it can all be a bit much. One solution is to offload all of your audio and video recording tasks to your phone — which may have better camera, video quality and mic technology, anyway — freeing up your laptop to take notes, consult documents and spreadsheets or whatever else. (Here’s how to do it.)
If you take this route, you’re going to want to have an adjustable tripod that can securely hold your phone steady — and at a flattering angle. I like this tripod kit from Joby, which includes a clamp that’s big enough to accommodate my iPhone XS Max. And I also like the company’s bendy Gorillapods, which can be wrapped around posts or other nonflat surfaces.
Part of this upgrade means learning the fundamentals of a videoconference meeting on camera. You don’t always need a 4K webcam to get good results — optimizing lighting conditions (don’t try to stream in low light), choosing the ideal environment and positioning the camera lens in just the right way can make your video call look much more professional. Truly, you don’t need to be a professional YouTube personality or Twitch streamer with a great webcam. Even a novice can function competently without too much of a learning curve.
First, having the right gear, including the best webcam and microphone, is essential. Unfortunately, in most cases, your laptop’s built-in camera and microphone stink — and they’re preventing you from coming across as professionally as possible on videoconferencing calls. You should ditch the integrated webcam and invest in a standalone webcam and stereo microphone with noise cancellation. Even a cheap webcam with autofocus and a decent microphone can improve picture quality and sound enough to take things to the next level on a video call.
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