Review: Amcrest AWC201-B HD Webcam

Disclaimer: This product was provided to me free of charge by Amcrest specifically for review. While the product was provided to me by the manufacturer for the purpose of review, I am not sponsored by Amcrest and my review is purely objective. I currently do not own any other Amcrest products.

Griff

Introduction

In 2020, who hasn’t had a Zoom meeting, Teams meeting, Facebook messenger video call, or some other form of video telecommunication? Relatively few people as compared to previous years. With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on families and organizations alike, video calls have become commonplace and a staple of daily life. As this change came about, many people found that they needed a webcam. Or if they already had one, that they wanted a better one. Within just a couple short months, the world’s supply of webcams got scarce. As someone who works in IT for a living and regularly orders hardware like webcams, it really was a bit of a problem. Several months into the shortage, Amcrest brought their AWC201-B HD webcam offering to the market. A little over a week ago, I received my unit from their product testing program and began to use it. In this review, I’ll explore the benefits and pitfalls of this web camera and hopefully provide you with the information you need to make a decision about purchasing the device or exploring Amcrest’s offerings.

Specifications

Technical Specifications for the AWC201-B from Amcrest’s website.

The AWC201-B (for lack of a better name) can provide HD resolution video at 30 frames per second. While the spec sheet on their website doesn’t seem to mention it, the AWC201-B is a 2 megapixel web camera, according to Amazon.com. It has a six (6) foot long USB 2.0 cable which is not detachable, and has the expected tripod mount and built-in microphone. I was pleased to see when looking at the box that the device includes a privacy cover that can be flipped open or closed. Cable length is fairly standard. While pretty much universally compatible, there doesn’t appear to be anything particularly attention-catching about the device apart from a pleasing design that sits nicely atop a monitor. But, let’s not fret about that. I’ll be filling out the rest of this review throughout the week.

Audio performance

Alright, it’s time to get rolling on this review. First up let’s have a listen to the audio quality of the built-in microphone.

First, I have a recording of a pre-determined script, using my Moano AU-PM421 studio microphone. This is obviously significantly better quality than we can expect from a webcam–especially at Amcrest’s price point–but it serves as a reference point to what I actually sound like, as realistically as possible.
Next up, here is the recording of the same pre-determined script, using the built-in microphone on the Amcrest AWC201-B HD webcam. We notice a significant difference here, which is okay in and of itself, as the quality of microphone is expected to vary widely when comparing a standalone, dedicated professional microphone against the built-in microphone of a budget web camera.
Lastly, I have a recording of the same pre-determined script, using the built-in microphone of my usual webcam in my home office–the Vitade 960A HD webcam. You’ll notice that the audio quality here is much closer to the type of audio you get from the Amcrest AWC201-B, but that it is still much clearer with significantly less background noise/hiss.

Still image performance

Below is a quick look at still image performance using my daily driver, the Vitade 960A, as a reference point for comparison to the Amcrest AWC201-B.

First, here is a reference image from the Vitade 960A HD webcam that I grabbed during a video call. This is my daily driver for home office use.
Second, here is the still image from the Amcrest AWC201-B HD webcam–from the same video call as the first image.

Notice the color temperature here. Neither image is white-balance corrected, so the coloring/hue/tint/saturation/white balance are directly native from the camera. Also note that the colors in the first image from the Vitade are actually accurate. The color interpretation here with the AWC201-B is interesting; it is much cooler and more analytical. While less accurate, in some ways it sort of makes the image a bit easier to view. I also noticed that despite both cameras being 1920×1080 in resolution, the Amcrest did not provide nearly as crisp and clean an image as the 960A. It is, by all means, still a usable image and things are easy to discern. I would consider the still image from Amcrest’s new offering to fall in the “acceptable” range.

Taking a look at side-by-side comparison of the image quality, we see that the Vitade 960A 1080p webcam (left) provides much better details when zoomed into 75 than the Amcrest AWC201-B (right).

Note the blurry skin from the Amcrest in the cheekbone region, and how hair appears to be a solid blotch of color, rather than having the texture of hair. With the Vitade, texture of hair is discernible.

Also note that in all the above images, XSplit VCam software is in use to change the background (the integration/interfacing with this software is discussed later in the review).

“I reject your background, and substitute my own.”

Adam Savage, probably.

Video performance

Video Test from Amcrest AWC201-B HD Webcam. [Update: I did later discover that the microphone error I was getting is a Windows error due to a Windows setting. That said, this is the only camera that I have this issue with, so that is still odd to me.]
Video Reference Test from Vitade 960A HD Webcam.

Interfacing with software

A key feature of a webcam, for me, is the ability to adjust the image. While there was no included software, or software available to download from Amcrest’s website, I did find that the generic controls of other applications such as Xplit VCam were able to adjust the image.

Screenshot of the video processing adjustments available in XSplit VCam that worked on the Amcrest AWC201-B.

While the image processing controls worked, the camera controls themselves were not compatible:

Screenshot of the camera adjustments available in XSplit VCam that didn’t work on the Amcrest AWC201-B.

But what about other software? Is the AWC201-B easily used “plug-and-play” with common applications such as Microsoft Teams and Discord?

While other parts of the experience with this webcam have been shaky, I was pleased to find that the camera really is “plug-and-play” for the most part. Microsoft Teams is a daily application for me, working in IT and with the rest of my teammates located some 300 miles away. In the video footage earlier, I talked about the issues connecting the webcam to my laptop to record the test video. While the built-in Windows 10 camera app gave me trouble, I didn’t have any issues setting the webcam as my device in Teams and making a call. In fact, the call quality was quite good despite the performance shortcomings in basic tests earlier. As far as Discord went, I also had an easy experience. After plugging in the webcam, Discord detected it and asked if I would like to switch to it. After clicking Switch and turning on my video in a channel, the video delivery was pretty smooth and clear albeit low-detail (likely due to the webcam only being 2 megapixels). Audio performance–again–was clear and significantly better than in the audio-only tests.

I also used the webcam to stream/import video feed into OBS Studio as well (which I use to record tutorials) and had no issues there either.

Build quality

Let’s talk build quality. While I may have found some of the technical features to be lacking in the camera, the same can’t be said for the actual build quality. The shape, design, and weight of the webcam is pleasing. Heavy enough to not feel cheaply made, but light enough to be convenient and non-intensive to use or transport. I do like the wide, slim design. In fact, I prefer this shape and design to my Logitech C920 that I use at work (quite bulky) and my Vitade 960A that I use at home (perfectly round). The hinge for adjusting the angle of the webcam moves easily, but also has enough stopping resistance to stay put once you adjust it. Rubber grips on the adjustable arm used for resting atop a computer monitor keep it relatively in-place.

As I mentioned in the Introduction, this webcam includes a privacy cover that can be flipped open or shut. The odd thing about it, is that it comes uninstalled. Upon unboxing, I had to peel the cover off the back and adhere it to the device. It took two or three tries to get it to sit on there level and not look “janky.”

My only major complaint regarding build quality is the cheap USB-A male connector. As mentioned above in the video tests, I couldn’t even plug the webcam into my laptop because if even the most microscopic movement of the connector occurred, the device disconnected completely. This is an issue I have not experienced with any USB peripheral of mine otherwise.

Price

$39.99 USD

Opinions will vary regarding price. I personally thing $30-40 is the “budget” end of webcams. So for me, $39.99 USD for the quality that this provides is about right. I might personally think it’s worth more in the $29.99-34.99 range, however, given it is only 2 megapixels and the USB connector is cheap. I do feel the price is just slightly too high given the fact that it is only a 2 megapixel camera, whereas Logitech’s C310 which is probably the best competitor in the price range, is a 5 megapixel camera with incredibly better performance all around, despite only being 720p instead of 1080p.

Conclusion

So who is this webcam for? I’m not entirely sure who Amcrest’s intended target customer is, but I could see this being a good option for someone who;

  • does not yet/currently have a webcam and needs one for work,
  • needs to order webcams at scale/bulk that are usable for basic video conferencing applications, but won’t break the bank,
  • needs a webcam but does not plan to stream on any platform,
  • plans to use the webcam only for one or two major/reputable video-calling platforms and doesn’t plan on doing any crazy integrations or production.

Pros

  • 1080p HD resolution
  • Even exposure weighting
  • Pleasing design
  • Includes privacy cover
  • Only $39.99

Cons

  • Poor color replication
  • High distortion
  • Cheap USB connector
  • Only 2 megapixels
  • Microphone is usable, but not great

As someone who spends a large portion of his day on video calls or streaming video to others, I can’t say I would purchase this for my personal use, but that’s not because it isn’t a worthy consideration. I simply don’t buy budget gear. This is a product that is worth considering for people who need a budget webcam and don’t necessarily care about crystal-clear audio and video, but need it to function well enough. Reviewing it for what it really is–a budget webcam–I’d give it 3.5/5 stars. It’s affordable, it mostly “just works” and is clear enough for general use.

What webcam are you using, and what do you like about it? Do you have an Amcrest webcam? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.


Additional reading

Amcrest AWC201-B Product Information

Amcrest AWC201-B on Amazon

Review: Logitech MX Master 3

To many people, a mouse is a mouse. You move it and press the buttons, and it clicks things on your computer screen, and that’s it. But for full-time office workers, PC gamers, and other folks, there’s more to a mouse. Functionality, convenience, features, weight, responsiveness, etc. In this article I look at the Logitech MX Master 3. I’ve had the last two MX Master series mice (the MX Master and the MX Master 2S) and have really liked them. Let’s see how their latest addition to their tried-and-true line of pointing peripherals stand up.

Use Case

For reference, I should explain that I purchased the MX Master 3 for use in my office at work. My current role is as an information technology coordinator, so I manage day-to-day IT operations for a local casino. I also assist on our Service Desk for other locations in our western division. While a fair amount of my time is spent around the property, I do spend a lot of time at my desk doing computer work. I often have two devices at my desk, and I also take my keyboard and mouse with me from home to work. The primary use is simply productivity at my desk.

Features

Charging | The MX Master 3 features a USB-C port that can be used to charge the internal, non-removable battery. It’s nice to see USB-C connectivity on the mouse, as the vast majority of my other devices and peripherals have moved to include the port, and I would really hate having to throw a solitary micro-USB cable into the mix. USB-C is fairly universal these days unless you’re in the iPhone world in the United States, so this was a nice convenience for me. If you’re not a fan of USB-C for some reason, fret not. The MX Master 3’s 500 mAh Li-Po battery will last you about 70 days. I personally turn mine off at night when I leave the office, so I’ve only charged the device maybe 3 times since purchasing it in early 2020.

Buttons | Obviously the mouse has the standard left-click and right-click buttons. These are not at all mushy and provide an immediate and solid “click” noise when depressed. Between those is Logitech’s infinity scroll wheel, which looks and feels to be made of metal, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t. Along with the infinity scroll wheel, there is a button just below it to enable or disable the infinite scroll feature–in case moving at hundreds of lines of text in a few seconds isn’t your cup of tea. At the side of the device there is a horizontal scroll wheel made of the same material, though not featuring infinity scroll, as well as forward/back buttons and multi-tasking button that is the equivalent of the Windows keyboard shortcut Win+Tab.

Logitech Software | The MX Master 3 is also compatible with Logitech’s softwares such as Flow and Options, allowing you to custom map buttons to different shortcuts, as well as copy from one device and paste on another. While a little bit gimmicky for my taste, it definitely works and is a feature worth noting on a mouse that is marketed for productivity.

Ergonomics | Like previous MX Master series mice, the MX Master 3 features a contoured shape intended to make gripping the mouse more comfortable for extended periods of time and at an angle that is less harmful to your wrist and arm.

Connectivity | With the MX Master 3, the user gets two options for connecting to a device. Logitech includes a nano-transceiver similar to the Unifying tranceivers we are all so familiar with–though it is important to note that the MX Master 3 is not Unifying-compatible. Additionally, users can choose to connect the device via onboard bluetooth. Not only is bluetooth available, but three bluetooth connections can be made and stored. There is a button on the bottom face of the device allowing users to click to switch between bluetooth connections. This is the route for which I opted.

Gripes

Wear & Tear | Much to my dismay, the Logitech MX Master 3 does not take daily use too well in terms of aesthetics. I’ve had the device for about 8 months now, and the left-click plastic button/panel is already worn and shiny. I wash my hands often and keep a clean work area, yet somehow the is a disproportionate amount of wear and shine on the left-click button. It’s a shame, because the MX Master 3 is a beautiful device, and the fast wear on the plastics kind of makes it feel cheap–which is an issue at it’s price point. Logitech isn’t a stranger to this issue, as both the MX Master and MX Master 2S also had issues with plastic wearing and discoloring. I’d think they would have resolved that issue in the design for their new flagship mouse, but I guess not.

Ergonomics | Overall, the ergonomics of this mouse feel quite good and it is comfortable to hold in hand. My only gripe here is that the raised palm area is angled just barely too far back, putting my fingertips not quite as far forward as I prefer. But, do note that this is entirely personal preference, and your mileage my vary.

Inconvenient Switcher | Why do companies continually insist on putting things like buttons and charging ports on the bottom of their devices? (Looking at you and your Magic Mouse, Apple). Logitech got the charge port right by including it at the front of the device, but still decided to put the bluetooth connection button on the bottom of the device. If the mouse featured a singular bluetooth connection, I would think this would be fine. But given that the device is centered around productivity and highlights the triple-bluetooth connection feature, it would be nice to have the switcher button readily accessible, rather than having to pick up the mouse, turn it over, and press the little button before setting the mouse back down and resuming work on your other device. While not hugely inconvenient, I find this design option odd where the marketing for the mouse is largely focused on productivity.

Price | Okay. So I’m the guy whose friends know as the one who spends more than most on things like mice, keyboards, and tech in general. So higher price points for quality products are no foreign concept to me. With a current purchase price of $99, the MX Master 3 falls in the upper-range of mice in terms of price–especially for Logitech. I would be okay with the price if the plastics stood up against time better and the connection toggle switch was more conveniently located. But given these two things, I recommend picking one up used for $70-80 instead.

Conclusion

Overall, I love my Logitech MX Master 3. While the bluetooth toggle switch is inconveniently located, the triple bluetooth connection feature is definitely great and I use it daily. The mouse is comfortable enough for daily use (8-10 hours). With great battery life and the abiltiy to easily change which device you’re connected to, this mouse is certainly a staple for my work kit. Despite my gripes, I would be comfortable recommending this mouse to anyone who used multiple devices on an all-day/every-day kind of basis.

Have you tried Logitech’s MX Master 3? What about another mouse you like? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.