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Webcams were never meant for the jobs we are giving them in 2021. The intended use is for communications. Companies added microphones and cameras to laptops with the goal of enabling people to see and talk to others on Skype or in conference calls. And the millions of people working from home during the pandemic definitely use their webcams in that way.

But even as tools for communications, webcams often end up feeling cheap. And it’s not like this is due to a limitation of technology. Everyone has a smartphone with a better camera and mic. So why haven’t webcams kept up — especially as we turn to them to create videos, livestreams, and professional presentations? Well, the answer is that they are starting to catch up thanks Razer’s new Kiyo Pro.

The Razer Kiyo Pro webcam is available now for $200. It tops out at 1080p and 60 frames per second (fps) over a USB 3.0 connection. It has a wide-angle lens with support for HDR at 30fps. Using the Razer Synapse software, you can set the lens to medium and linear angles as well.

At that price, it is going up against Logitech’s $200 Brio and the $170 StreamCam. I don’t have a Brio, but the Kiyo Pro easily outperformed the StreamCam in my comparison. More illustrative of the Kiyo Pro’s quality is that it also stands shoulder to shoulder with a modern smartphone camera in side-by-side comparisons..

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The key to the Kiyo Pro’s performance is its Sony IMX327 CMOS light sensor. As Razer points out, this is a sensor that you would traditionally find in surveillance cameras. That, combined with the f.20 aperture, means the cam excels at collecting a lot of light from dim sources.

And while the spec sheet is impressive, the Kiyo Pro shines in real-world use.

Razer Kiyo Pro looks great and is easy to use

After using the Kiyo Pro for some time, my primary takeaway is that it makes it really simple to get high-quality video. Unlike the StreamCam (and to a lesser extent the Logitech C922), the Kiyo Pro can deliver a crisp, professional-looking image without requiring much fiddling in the settings.

When I first plugged in the Kiyo Pro, I was pretty happy with the default settings right out of the box. And I was able to dial it in to something even better by only turning down the exposure.

This is what I want from a USB webcam — something simple that looks great. And what really makes the Kiyo Pro a champ is that it maintains its pleasant look even as conditions change.

Where the StreamCam is infuriating because image quality will fall apart if a cloud passes in front of the sun, the Kiyo never really flinches. With no changes to the settings, the Kiyo looked fantastic with full sunlight and room light, just sun light, and then just room light. It also did OK when I took away all light except for my computer monitor. Even then, however, all I had to do was turn up the exposure one notch to get yet another great-looking image.

When the Razer Kiyo Pro is dialed in, though, its 1080p60 feed looks about as good as a high-end smartphone camera.

The only frustrations I ran into were with the Synapse settings. While using the camera in OBS, Razer’s software would not enable me to turn on HDR or to adjust the field of view. I’m glad those options are there, but I wish they were easier to get to.

Finally, I think that the Kiyo Pro’s stand is nice and sturdy. And I’m glad that the cable is a removeable USB 3.0 type-C — although it does jut out, which may make it awkward in some setups.

Do you really need 4K?

I’ve long preferred the original Razer Kiyo to the Logitech cameras, and I think that comes down the image processing. Logitech makes me look red and blotchy, and Razer doesn’t. I mention that so that if you know that you prefer Logitech cameras for their natural color, then maybe you won’t like the Kiyo Pro as much as me.

But as far as my testing goes, the Kiyo Pro delivers exactly what I want. It looks great, and it’s easy to get it to look great in almost every condition.

The big downfall, if you can call it that, is the 1080p resolution. Now, I think it’s a pretty small audience that cares about having 4K in a webcam, and I think it’s an even smaller audience that should care. Image quality is more important, and if people are watching your content in a window or on mobile devices, they won’t see a difference. You can even put 1080p camera footage next to 4K gaming footage in a video, and no one is going to say anything. I know because I’ve done it.

If you absolutely need 4K, then I don’t think a webcam is a real option. Get a Camlink and a DSLR or a recent iPhone, and you’ll get much better results.

As far as webcams are concerned, though, the Kiyo Pro is fantastic. And I plan to use it for all of my content going forward.

Razer Kiyo Pro is available starting immediately for $200. Razer provided a sample unit to GamesBeat for the purpose of this review. 

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