I have written a fair amount on work from home (WFH) and digital transformation solutions, services, and products over the past year and a half due to the pandemic. Webcams for PCs have become an essential product for those working from home or engaged in hybrid work. It is one of those features that OEMs are kicking themselves in the pants for not including a better webcam in laptops four to five years ago. Desktops get a free pass since webcams can be bought separately or upgraded. I usually do not do reviews of webcams, but Dell's 4K Ultrasharp webcam is a unique webcam released earlier this year. It has many special features that are not seen in most webcams today, and, as someone who uses a webcam almost daily, I want to take a look at the benefits of having a 4K AI-enhanced webcam.
Build quality and specs
Out of the box, the Dell 4K Ultrasharp webcam has a premium build to it. It is made out of aluminum with a gunmetal black finish, and it feels heavy in hand. The heavy feel doesn't come across as worrisome to put on top of the monitor rather an assurance that the webcam has longevity and quality. Another quality assurance that I noticed was that it uses magnets for the lens cap and locks both stands into place. The lens cap is easy to move and can be magnetically stored on the back of the webcam when in use and magnetically attached to the lens when not. The mounts are made from high-quality aluminum that matches the color of the webcam. It came with a monitor or display mount and a tripod mount. It also came with a USB Type-C to USB Type-A 3.0. I would have preferred a C-A adapter for my notebooks, though I know most desktops have A. The female port of the webcam is nicely tucked into the webcam to keep from unplugging or fraying the cable. Overall, the webcam has a premium build quality and looks stylish on its mount. Although the webcam is more prominent than other webcams, it does not take much room on top of the monitor, and the attachment could go unnoticed.
The selling point behind the Dell Ultrasharp 4K webcam is its large Sony STARVIS CMOS sensor found in Sony DSLR cameras. The advantage of the Sony sensor is that it uses back-illuminated technology that captures more light for better low-light performance. It shoots in 4K UHD at 24 and 30 fps, Full HD at 24, 30, and 60 fps, and HD at 24, 30, and 60fps. It has 65-degree, 78-degree, and 90-degree options for Field of View, and all of these settings change in the Dell Peripheral Manager. From Dell's website, there is no support for the DPM on MacOS.
Dell Peripheral Manager and AI solutions
Besides the DSLR sensor that the Dell 4K Ultrasharp webcam has, it also has AI-enhanced auto features built into the webcam. It has an auto framing feature that follows the user's face and autofocuses on them so that when in a call or video, their face is always center frame. This kind of feature is typically found on enterprise-grade systems from companies like Poly. I found the auto frame feature helpful in instances where there is a lot of movement, but the camera didn't auto frame in shorter breathes of movement. It makes sense that the camera waits for significant activity in the user, but it seems slow to some while others might find it more natural. I find it more useful when closer up and less reactive the further away (6 feet-ish). It makes sense since the AI auto-framing works within a 2-meter distance (6.5 feet). I noticed one downside: it tends to go out of focus when auto-framing until it finishes framing the face.
It also has an HDR mode and an Auto White Balance mode, and I recommend turning them both on. The HDR paired well with the Sony sensor and did a decent job in practically complete darkness. What I found was that autofocus did not like it and struggled to keep up. There was no reason to turn the auto white balance off, as the white balance rocker gave no numbers to adjust, and the auto white balance worked fine. The camera excelled in managing exposure, whether it was in a low-light setting or near a window. The webcam also has Windows Hello support that works right out of the box. It is Microsoft Teams certified, and Zoom certified. The Windows Hello works well, and it also has support for Dell's ExpressSign-in feature that I did not test out.
I would recommend the Dell Ultrasharp 4K webcam for anyone who can invest $199.99 at a webcam. Dell has done a great job at making a webcam with high-end internals, good build quality, and easy-to-use peripherals to adjust the webcam. When remotely videoing into a meeting and needing your face or environment to be seen, I think the Dell Ultrasharp Webcam does a great job of clearly presenting the user's face. It is one of the only 4K resolution cameras on the market and the only one with AI-auto framing and a DSLR low-light sensor. I would love to see some DSLR-like features such as background blur in the future. I can tell who is using a DSLR in my video calls, and the Dell Ultrasharp doesn't pass for that just yet.
Its biggest competitor is the Logitech Brio 4K webcam, and the tradeoff for the Brio is that it has noise-canceling mics on the Brio. Th Brio 4K webcam video isn't that great video-wise, though. With the Dell Ultrasharp 4K Webcam being one of the only webcams that shoots in 4K, not many mainstream video call solutions support 4K resolution. As I said before, the Dell Ultrasharp 4K Webcam is built for longevity. It has excellent features and internals to make it a webcam that I would recommend over the Logitech Brio. In my experience, Logitech software has been an issue, too, slow to fix known issues, which should be factored in as well.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.