Great value at an awkward price – Review Geek

Evaluation:
6/10
?
  • 1 – Absolute hot waste
  • 2 – A kind of lukewarm waste
  • 3 – Severely flawed design
  • 4 – Some advantages, many disadvantages
  • 5 – Acceptably imperfect
  • 6 – Good enough to buy on sale
  • 7 – Great, but not best in class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with some footnotes
  • 9 – Shut up and take my money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $100

Andrew Heinzman

Avermedia is best known for its capture cards, which are popular with gamers. So I was very excited when the company told us about their PW315 webcam. At just $120, it’s one of the cheapest webcams to offer 1080p 60FPS video, and I thought it would be great value for live streamers and remote workers.

Here’s what we like

  • Smooth video at 60FPS
  • 95 degree wide field of view
  • Decent software
  • Stable performance, works in poor lighting

And what we don’t do

  • Grainy and compressed image
  • Fixed focus, no autofocus
  • Poor mics
  • Non-detachable USB cable
  • Good value, but there are cheaper options

Yeah, I was right; the PW315 is a great value. It captures smooth video, works in low light conditions, and can be mounted on a monitor or tripod. But the $120 price tag is a little inconvenient, and unless you’re on a strict budget, you might find yourself skipping the PW315 for something cheaper or more expensive.

Specifications

  • Resolution: 1080p 60FPS
  • Field of view: 95 degrees
  • Focus: Fixed focus (no auto focus)
  • video size: MJPEG
  • Microphones: Two microphones
  • Connectivity: USB-A
  • Assembly: Clip mounting, optional tripod screw
  • Spin: 360 degrees
  • Software: CamEngine Software
  • Privacy: Built-in shutter, power indicator

Silky Smooth 60FPS at the expense of quality

Most webcams capture video at 30 frames per second, which makes sense because high frame rates aren’t that important when you’re on a video call. But hey, the Avermedia PW315 captures at 60FPS, and its image is smooth as butter. Like, smoother and more consistent than what other webcams offer at a higher price.

Now, I don’t think 60FPS is a serious selling point for people who just want to make video calls, and I’m not sure why Avermedia included it with this device. But if you need a budget webcam for game streaming, then of course a high frame rate is an advantage, especially when paired with the Avermedia PW315’s 1080p resolution.

I’m also impressed with the PW315’s performance in low light. Images and colors rarely get out of whack, even when the lights are excessively bright or dim (but very dark rooms require some brightness and exposure adjustments). Obviously, Avermedia understands that the average home office dweller just wants a webcam that will work.

Oh, and the 90-degree field of view is excellent. This webcam captures fairly wide video. Just keep in mind that a wider FOV makes it easier for others to see your room during live streams or video calls. (Obviously something I hadn’t considered before writing this review.)

Here’s the problem; the video quality itself is quite poor. It’s a 1080p webcam, but all those pixels work together to produce a grainy image with lots of flowery whites. And I think aggressive video compression is to blame – the Avermedia PW315 uses a USB 2.0 cable and encodes all video as inefficient MJPEG. With such bandwidth limitations, strong compression is a necessity.

To Avermedia’s credit, the PW315 seems to make the most of poor bandwidth. Video doesn’t skip or stutter, and again, low-light performance is impressive. This is a solid plug-and-play webcam, which is more than I can say about Logitech’s cheaper options. Oh, and there’s that prime lens.

I don’t think fixed focus is necessarily a bad thing. Basically, anything more than 15 inches from the camera is in focus and you don’t have to worry about focusing. But fixed-focus cameras tend to have a “sweet spot” and you can’t get too close without getting blurry. An autofocus lens would eliminate these problems.

And in case you were wondering, you can set the frame rate of this webcam to 30FPS. But it does not improve the video quality. At least, not in any noticeable way.

Do not use webcam microphones

Avermedia PW315 webcam with its privacy shutter closed.
Andrew Heinzman

The microphones of the Avermedia PW315 sound horrible. They’re tiny, they lack clarity and, unsurprisingly, they pick up a ridiculous amount of room echo. But I don’t blame Avermedia, because that’s a problem with all webcams.

You should avoid using webcam microphones whenever possible. They just sound terrible, especially at this price. I understand; sometimes you’re in a rush – I’ve had to use webcam microphones plenty of times! But your colleagues, or the person you’re talking to online, would really appreciate a microphone that doesn’t suck.

I’m not digressing, by the way. That’s right on topic, because if you don’t have a microphone or headset, then you need to factor one into the cost of this webcam – it’s an extra $50 if you buy something decent.

Decent design and build quality

Avermedia PW315 webcam tripod screw hole.
Andrew Heinzman

Unsurprisingly, the Avermedia PW315 feels a little light and plastic. The built-in privacy shutter feels cheap and difficult to adjust with one hand, and although the USB 2.0 cable is quite long (just under 5 feet), it isn’t detachable, which is annoying.

But the overall build quality is decent, and I think it’s appropriate for the price. The hinge on the webcam clip is nice and secure, and I’m sure the PW315 could survive even the bumpiest travel bag.

Plus, the design makes up for any build quality quirks. The Avermedia PW315’s camera can rotate 360 ​​degrees and tilt up and down enough to compensate for difficult setups. More importantly, there is both a monitor clip and an integrated tripod mount. You should have no trouble installing this webcam on a desktop.

I also appreciate that there is both a privacy shutter and an LED indicator on the PW315. These features should come standard with every webcam, but for some reason they don’t.

Surprisingly tolerable software

There’s nothing worse than dealing with webcam software. But Avermedia CamEngine program is surprisingly tolerable. It’s simple, it lets you tweak the settings that really matter, and it has a handful of special features for power users.

At a glance, the CamEngine lets you adjust webcam brightness, gamma, zoom, and other basic controls. Any changes you make are processed and saved on the webcam, so you don’t need to keep the software open after making adjustments.

You can also set hotkeys to trigger webcam functions, such as mute the microphone. It’s a neat feature, and I imagine it would come in very handy during live streams. Unfortunately, these shortcuts only work in CamEngine software, so I doubt people will use them during video calls.

And for some reason, the PW315 has some AI features. There are a handful of cute face filters, plus an AI auto-framing tool that automatically pans and zooms to follow you. None of these AI features work too well, but hey, no one is forcing you to use them!

The main thing: good value, awkward price

The Avermedia PW315 webcam on a Joby tripod.
Andrew Heinzman

You will never find one surprising webcam in this price range. There will always be something to complain about, especially if you’re trying to capture high-quality video for a livestream, professional conference, or YouTube vlog.

But the average person doesn’t need a crazy webcam. They just need something that looks better than a laptop webcam and doesn’t require a ton of attention. Avermedia’s PW315 does the trick: it’s a simple plug-and-play webcam that works in low light conditions and operates at 60 frames per second, which is more than you can say for cheaper options (and some more expensive options).

Unfortunately, the price is a bit awkward. I really can’t tell if Avermedia is trying to target live streamers or remote workers. At $120, the PW315 is one of the more affordable 60FPS webcams, but you can get much better video quality with the $200. Razer Kiyo Pro. If I was a live streamer hoping to gain an audience, I would save for the most expensive device.

And if you’re just trying to buy a decent webcam for video calling, there are much cheaper options than the PW315. the Logitech C920xfor example, offers 1080p video for $68 – I think Avermedia sells a better webcam, but the quality difference is negligible if you’re just sitting in Zoom meetings.

Here’s what we like

  • Smooth video at 60FPS
  • 95 degree wide field of view
  • Decent software
  • Stable performance, works in poor lighting

And what we don’t do

  • Grainy and compressed image
  • Fixed focus, no autofocus
  • Poor mics
  • Non-detachable USB cable
  • Good value, but there are cheaper options

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