Mecool Now KA2 smart camera review: A versatile webcam with some compromises

The Mecool Now KA2 is a breath of fresh air in the webcam segment, combining a smart camera and streamer in one package. I’ve reviewed a handful of streaming devices from Mecool over the past few months, including the Mecool KD3 dongle and the HomePlus KA1 Android TV box. The latter doubles as a smart speaker when you’re not watching movies or TV shows, and now Mecool is trying to achieve something different: an Android streamer designed around a webcam.

But this is no ordinary webcam. The Now KA2 is designed to sit on top of your smart TV for your video calling needs, like many of the best webcams for your TV. It’s basically a full-fledged Android TV platform that supports a wide variety of streaming services. As for the videoconference aspect, this accessory has some limits.

Mecool Now KA2: price and availability

Mecool Now KA2 on top of a smart TV

(Image credit: Jay Bonggolto/Android Central)

The Mecool Now KA2 debuted last year with Android 10 out of the box. The smart camera was recently updated to Android 11. It is available for purchase through Mecool’s online storefront, as well as major retail platforms such as Amazon for $125. Plus, you can save 10% on your purchase just by using the promo code MECOLAC at checkout via the Mecool’s store (opens in a new tab).

Mecool Now KA2: What you will like

Mecool Now KA2 on top of a smart TV

(Image credit: Jay Bonggolto/Android Central)

Unlike most webcams with a simple design, the Now KA2 has a lot to offer. It is a flat plastic brick with many features that underline the amount of work that Mecool has put into building the product.

The camera sensor and most buttons are located along the front edge. The standby button, remote sensor and a dedicated button for answering calls are all aligned left to right for easy access. There are also four indicator lights for call and activity status, as well as two holes for the microphone pins. Perhaps the highlight of the design is a physical rolling lid that tucks the camera away when not in use – ideal if you’re wary of your privacy.

The Mecool Now KA2 is a thoughtful webcam that puts your privacy above anything else.

You will also be immediately alerted when the camera is active by a camera indicator that turns green or red (when inactive). It’s part of the camera’s design to help you stay in control of your privacy. As it is compatible with Google Assistant, the device is also designed to constantly listen for voice commands. Mecool thought of that and stuffed a physical microphone button to remove any risk of spying.

Right out of the box, the Now KA2 is ready to plug in. You’ll find a barrel-style DC input, HDMI in/out ports, tripod mounting hole, 10/100 Ethernet port, and mounting bracket. Even though the camera is a bit bigger than most webcams, it looks good sitting on my TCL smart TV without making me worry about it falling off.

Although it doesn’t have a microSD card slot to expand its storage, the product does include a USB 3.0 port on one side for you to connect an external drive. The included remote seems sturdier than any of the remotes that came with previous Mecool products I’ve reviewed.

There are dedicated buttons for Google Assistant, YouTube, Open Camera, and Google Duo. This means you can quickly call any contact just by pressing the Duo button, but that’s also one of its downsides, which we’ll talk about later.

Mecool Now KA2 Speaker Grille and Power Button

(Image credit: Jay Bonggolto/Android Central)

Listening to someone on the other end of a phone call is a snap thanks to the top-mounted 5W speaker. In my test, the sound was up to snuff thanks to its far-field voice control.

As a streamer, the Now KA2 has many features that you don’t want to miss from an Android TV box. The product initially shipped with Android 10 out of the box before being upgraded to Android 11 a few months ago.

Mecool Now KA2 on top of a smart TV showing its Android TV interface

(Image credit: Jay Bonggolto/Android Central)

It’s a fairly standard streaming device, powered by a quad-core Amlogic S905X4 processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. It supports Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 4.2, HDR10+ and Dolby Audio connectivity.

Navigating apps on my TV screen is a breeze, and the streamer is capable of up to 4K resolution at 60 FPS, like most top streaming devices, such as the Chromecast with Google TV . There is nothing to complain about on that side.

Mecool Now KA2: What you won’t like

Mecool Now KA2 camera and mic button

(Image credit: Jay Bonggolto/Android Central)

Things start to get nasty when you start using the accessory for what it was intended for. The Now KA2 comes with a disappointing camera: it only shoots in HD resolution (720p) and it’s limited to a 100-degree field of view.

While Mecool should get a pat on the back for building the camera with user privacy in mind, the product suffers from poor image quality. It’s a compromise that I think most people will see as a disappointment for its price. While it might get the job done on a casual call with friends and family, it’s not something you want to use for more formal occasions, like a video meeting with your boss or client.

The number of supported video conferencing apps is also extremely limited: the Now KA2 is only compatible with Google Duo. This means that none of the top video conferencing software, such as Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Skype, or Zoom, is supported.

Mecool Now KA2 video call interface

(Image credit: Jay Bonggolto/Android Central)

The Mecool Now KA2 impresses when it comes to streaming content, but it’s not the webcam you’re looking for.

You also can’t install unsupported apps, though that has to be related to its official Google certification. After all, Android TV is not known to support all apps available on the Play Store for mobile devices.

You also cannot adjust its field of view. Fortunately, the mounting bracket is adaptable to any viewing angle. Another downside of this product is its bulky design, but that’s just nitpicking.

Another shortcoming of the Now KA2 is that it cannot be used as a standalone webcam. It’s as if the smart camera was a useless gimmick for what should have been a dedicated streaming device.

Mecool Now KA2: The competition

There aren’t an abundance of products like the Now KA2 on the market. The closest that comes to mind is the Yealink UVC34, a Microsoft Teams certified webcam with 4K support. However, it is much more expensive than Mecool’s smart camera.

A more convenient solution is the NexiGo N940P, which only costs you $70. It shoots up to 1080p at 60 fps, with support for multiple video calling services including Zoom, Skype, Teams and Webex.

Mecool Now KA2: Should you buy it?

Mecool Now KA2 USB port and camera cover button

(Image credit: Jay Bonggolto/Android Central)

You should buy it if…

  • You want a webcam that doubles as a streaming device.
  • You want a privacy cover for your camera.
  • You want a webcam powered by Google Assistant.

You shouldn’t buy this if…

  • You are looking for a webcam with at least Full HD video capability.
  • You want a webcam that produces deeper colors.
  • You want to use the webcam for something other than Google Duo.

The Mecool Now KA2 is a missed opportunity for a Chinese company specializing in a wide range of Android-powered entertainment and streaming products. Sure, the smart camera delivers on the streaming front, but a lot of corners have been cut, compromising its webcam capabilities.

Still, Mecool deserves praise for carefully placing the buttons and adding additional design details that put privacy first while interacting with the accessory. The product derives most of its strength from its software, which is unlike anything we’ve seen on a webcam.

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