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So, this is going to be my first hardware review for Activewin. I hope more will come. Gladly some fellow ActiveWin writers already did a lot of reviews, so I have some reference material which I can use for my own review. If you have tips though which could help me to do better in the future, do not hesitate to leave a comment.
On the 13th of May 2008 Microsoft announced the release of the LiveCam VX-5000, Livecam VX-500 and LifeChat LX-2000 products. With the release of the VX-5000 model, MS extends its series of webcams, with a webcam which features a bendable attachment base so that it molds too many surfaces. You can attach it to a notebook, put it on a table or on put it on top of your LCD screen. The webcam integrates with Microsoft live services, like Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Spaces.
The package contains the webcam, some instruction manuals and a CD with drivers and software for the webcam. For me personally it’s always a challenge to unpack the webcam from these kind of packages without any damage to the package itself. An even greater challenge is repack the whole package afterwards.
I installed the software on Windows Vista SP1 Ultimate Edition. The installation is straight forward but took a long time and I didn’t have any idea on what the installation software was doing at certain times. At a certain moment the wizard tells me that it’s downloading files, but this isn’t the case, everything is installed from the CD.
When the software is installed, automatically a wizard is started which will help you to connect your webcam. First your speakers are tested, afterwards the microphone and as last the webcam functionality.
When the configuration is finished the webcam is ready for use.
Using the Webcam
After installation the start menu is extended with the following items:
The Microsoft Lifecam Application provides an application which enables you to take photos snapshot, record audio and record video. You also have the ability to use so called effects which are available on a dashboard; the effects consist of (moving) pictures which settle themselves into the picture of the webcam. When the webcam is on, a blue led lights up on the webcam. So you see when the webcam is doing something.
When you take a picture you are provided with the ability to edit, e-mail or post the picture to My Windows Live Spaces. When you record audio, you have the ability to edit the audio (icon of edit picture which is strange and it doesn’t start any program) or e-mail the audio. Recording Video gives you the ability to edit (start Windows Movie Maker) or e-mail the video. All the files are stored in a Lifecam Files subfolder under pictures (no subfolders under Music or Videos)
From the dashboard you also have the ability to adjust the settings of the webcam.
You can adjust the resolution. Start the audio/video wizard. Adjust Lifecam advanced settings, minimize image flicker (50/60 Hz), and select your model webcam when more than one webcam is attached.
The Microsoft Lifecam is a generic program used by all Lifecams from Microsoft. That’s the reason why some of the features in the Lifecam application don’t work because the webcam itself doesn’t support them. In my case the Lifecam Controls (zoom in/out) which are only available when using a lower resolution then 640x480 and some of the advanced settings. Personally I think this is confusing for end-users. If the webcam doesn’t support the feature just don’t display it.
When pressing the button on top of the webcam or selecting the Windows Live Call icon from the start menu MSN Messenger is opened, and you are prompted to select an online user with who you want to start a video chat. Once selected a chat window opens, but nothing is started. I would at least expect that a request for a video chat would be triggered.
The webcam is very compact, too bad the cable attached to it can’t be automatically rolled-up based on the cable length
you need. Also some kind of case to protect the webcam when you take it with you would be handy. The bendable attachment base is useful; you can put the webcam on almost any surface you want. The Lifecam application can be confusing to the end-users, but it provides all the functionality needed to operate the webcam. Too bad other services aren’t supported (like uploading pictures to Flickr for example). The webcam will probably work with other instant messengers; unfortunately my setup didn’t have any other messenger applications installed. In Meebo (http://www.meebo.com) the webcam functionality worked though.
I think that the “estimated” price is a little too high compared to products from other companies, fortunately when searching for prices most of the online shops can deliver the webcam under the estimated street price. I also don’t quite understand why the dollar price is the same as the euro price. I don’t see any reason why in Europe people should pay more.
Technical Data Sheet: