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Microsoft LifeCam NX-6000
Getting a regular webcam for your laptop would be quite irrelevant considering that you'll need a proper surface to place the camera at all times unless you plan on holding it in your hand. What you need is a tiny webcam made specifically for your laptop, like the Microsoft LifeCam NX-6000.
It's tiny, it integrates the microphone, so you don't have to depend on a headset (unless you need privacy), and it's designed to attach itself to the top of your laptop screen. Sounds good? Let's get a bit more into the details.
The NX-6000 is absolutely pocketable with its lipstick-sized build. With its short USB cable, and it's limited and unadjustable grip, you can't double this one up on your desktop.
The main camera can be pushed into the main body for safekeeping, and with just a simple push, it pops back out, ready for business.
The Lifecam NX-6000 is built to work perfectly with Windows Live Messenger, and you can't as much as install the camera drivers without installing Live Messenger first, which I think is a pretty lame way of pushing their messenger application to users.
Still, at least the webcam has some physical features that compliment the program it pushes on you. I've already mentioned the microphone integrated in the camera itself, and there's also a nifty voice calling button that lets you directly make a voice call to any contact on MSN.
My biggest (physical) issue with the LifeCam is its fixed grip. Considering I personally use a Thinkpad, which has a relatively thick upper frame, there was no way I could fix the LifeCam to it. I had to opt for a Compaq laptop eventually to be able to test this webcam out. If the grip would have been adjustable, I would have no problem fixing it on my think pad, and maybe even to a desktop monitor, making it usable on all my PCs.
The 2 megapixel native resolution of the LifeCam seems like an overkill, considering that you're not going to use that image size for video conferencing. Even if you're planning on recordign videos for sharing online, you would still be better off sticking to a maximum display size of 640x480. The resolution supported may be high definition, but that would be an overkill for the CMOS sensor that the camera uses.
Still, the image quality at any resolution was quite acceptable under regular lighting conditions. There was a little color deterioration, that you normally get from webcams and the sharpness level was nothing worth writing home about.
I personally thought that camera performed pretty well in low-light though. Once the camera's sensor got adjusted to the surrounding lighting, everything was as clear as it was under normal lighting, only with an understandably lower frame rate.
The Lifecam gives you a fun option to add various effects to your webcam's output from its dashboard, which would probably be a favorite with many users. The effects you can add range from freaky, funny to downright ridiculous. Check out some of my (ahem!) test shots below.
The good thing about these effects are that these even get integrated into your Windows Live Messenger, so you can actually use these while chatting.
For me the biggest negative point about the LifeCam NX-6000 is its steep street price of Rs. 5,600 (MRP Rs. 6,475). 2 megapixel or not, there really isn't anything groundbreakingly new or innovative in the LifeCam NX-6000 to justify a price like that. Besides, that 2 megapixel native resolution will probably be the least used resolution in all practical purposes. There are some great options available by other webcam manufacturers at less than half its price.
In the end the NX-6000 laptop webcam works the way it's meant to and even does a pretty good job of it. The effects too are a great feature to use in fun conversations, but their novelty will be short-lived. Nothing about the webcam justifies it's price, which makes it hard to recommend it or me to anyone besides the real hardcore Microsoft supporters, who don't mind spending on anything that will enhance their Windows Live Messenger experience.