Microsoft’s Budget LifeCam HD-5000

Posted by at 10:49 am on August 12, 2010

The Microsoft LifeCam HD-5000 is geared toward the budget-conscious buyer who wants a  16:9 high-def image. At $49.99 (street under $40), it’s the most affordable LifeCam with high-def.  But there are trade-offs  that were made to get to this price point.

The LifeCam HD-5000 is set up to be plug and play.  Auto Focus, even with the new update, has some issues. At times sudden movements  can cause it to refocus. Plus, refocusing is not instant. It can take two to five seconds to completely refocus. This makes the HD-5000 a video chat only webcam, unusable for creating video content.

The HD-5000  takes 4-megapixel still photos with sharp and accurate  color in various lighting conditions.
The HD-5000 is quite adept at handling varied lighting environments and is huge improvement over past Microsoft webcams.  It boasts Microsoft’s new TrueColor Technology, and if you use the company’s software, you have free reign to adjust brightness, contrast, saturation and white balance, among other things.

Lens

Instead of a glass lens like the one Microsoft’s LifeCam Cinema has, you get a plastic lens with the HD-5000. This is one of the trade offs to get the price point down. When I compared the two cameras side-by-side, I barely noticed a difference. What is noticeable is the Cinema’s better handling on Auto Focus. Even when in 1280 x 720, it rarely stops to refocus, and when it does, the transition is brief.

Sound

The noise-canceling microphone is sharp and crisp when you’re sitting in front of the webcam. It can pick up conversation from across the room. I have used it as a speaker phone with Skype for both Audio and video calls.

Build

The HD-5000 has a plastic body and is sturdy enough to withstand a fall from the top of a computer monitor to floor.  Please don’t ask on why I know this.

It comes with the same flexible, rubber clip found on many of the other Microsoft webcams which makes it easy to mount on the a desk, monitor or even a laptop.

The Verdict

The HD-5000  delivers  excellent quality video and audio. Plus, HD-5000 cam does not feature onboard hardware encoding, which resulted in 40 percent CPU utilization for this tester when recording at 720p on a Core i5 750 processor.  That performance really makes using 720P only suitable with the lastest processors from Intel and AMD.  The CPUs usage also means HD-5000  will not be usable for Skype HD, since it requires onboard hardware encoding.  But this is a budget line camera and to get this price point Microsoft needed to make trade offs.

Now the slow focus issues did lower the final rating to 3 and half stars, but the camera delivered good quality and color for the price.  It is quite a bargain for the casual Webcam user.

Rating 3.5

Pros:

  • Strong Picture and Color
  • Sturdy Construction
  • Does Well in Low Light
  • Easy to Install

Cons:

  • Auto Focus is a little to Active
  • Doesn’t Support Skype HD
  • High CPU Usgage

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