This 4K webcam promises a lot but needs more polish
Do you need a 4K webcam? The truth is, you probably don’t, at least not yet. The reason is that none of the video chat platforms yet support 4K UHD as it would put unnecessary strain on their networks for something that is not essential. However, if you’re recording a video to stream to YouTube or edit it later rather than chatting on Zoom, 4K can come in handy. The additional resolution provides more headroom when editing and better quality imagery.
To see if it’s worth getting a 4K webcam, I recently managed to review the AVerMedia Live Streamer CAM PW513 4K webcam. It’s one of the few 4K webcams, along with the Logitech Brio, and it doesn’t come cheap as it uses a high-quality Sony Exmor R 4K CMOS image sensor. In theory, this should produce a high quality image, but more on that later.
The AVerMedia PW513 4K webcam works with Windows or macOS computers, although the Mac version requires at least Intel i7 processors and 16 GB of RAM. The host computer must also support USB 3.0 if you want to use the webcam in 4K mode. If you don’t have a computer with USB 3.0, there is no point in buying this webcam as you can get a great non-4K model like the excellent AnkerWork C300 for less.
The AVerMedia CAM PW513 is beautifully constructed with a solid metal body, sleek tubular design, a large f2.8 lens, and even a privacy cover that can be folded over the lens if a hacker has entered your computer. It’s a nice touch. The webcam can be placed on top of a computer monitor or laptop screen and its position is infinitely adjustable using the integrated ball head. The mount also has a threaded socket allowing it to be mounted on a tripod.
The rear of the webcam has a USB-C port for connection to a desktop or laptop computer. Having a port rather than a fixed cable is great because you can select the length and type of cable you want to use, for example with a USB-A or USB-C connection.
Although I said the webcam doesn’t need any special software or drivers, that’s not entirely true. When I first plugged the AVerMedia Live Streamer CAM PW513 into my iMac, the picture was unusable and jerky with a very slow frame rate. Luckily I found software called CamEngine Lite that I installed and then was able to apply a firmware update to the webcam which fixed the issue.
After that, the image quality has been improved and the software offers a range of commands to adjust the image parameters. Controls include backlight compensation, automatic exposure, white balance settings, and digital zoom to approximate the super wide-angle fixed 94-degree field of view. The software is a bit confusing and the image kept freezing on my iMac screen, so I had to unplug the webcam and relaunch the software to get it working again.
The image quality produced by the AVerMedia CAM PW513 did not strike me as the brightest, sharpest 4K quality I have ever seen. Performance at lower light levels was quite noisy, with digital noise being more prevalent in the darker parts of the image. I also had some issues with lip sync between audio captured by stereo in 4K microphones and images from the Sony Exmor processor in 4K mode. I guess the 4K label and pedigree of the webcam’s image sensor had raised my expectations a little too high.
Verdict: The AVerMedia CAM PW513 is a fairly expensive webcam that promises 4K UHD image quality. Its good points are the great design and the build quality. It is also Zoom certified for business meetings. I was less than impressed with the picture quality which seemed to show quite a bit of noise at lower light levels. 4K video is only available at 30 frames per second and you need to upgrade to half the resolution to get a 60 frames per second setting with less flicker. I love the build quality and the stand design of the AVerMedia CAM PW513, which looks great. This webcam is almost right, but there is something wrong with the image processing. Sony image sensor may need Sony Bionz image processor to get the best picture quality. Maybe a firmware update could help matters, but for now I suggest the AVerMedia CAM PW513 is not quite ready for prime time and needs a little more work to be a viable 4K webcam.
Price and availability: The AVerMedia Live Streamer CAM PW513 is available now through Amazon for $ 165.95 / Â£ 146.27 / â¬ 172.88.
More information: www.avermedia.com
- Type: USB 3.0 4K UHD webcam
- Image sensor: Sony Exmor R 4K CMOS
- Image resolution: 8 megapixels
- Maximum frame rate: 3,840 x 2,160 @ 30 fps, 1,920 x 1,080 @ 60 fps
- Goal: f2.8
- Focus: fixed
- Field of view: Diagonal 94 Â°
- Video mode: MJPEG and UYVY
- Minimum focus distance: 10cm
- Minimum illumination: 1.4 lx
- Microphone: built-in stereo microphones
- UVC Support: Yes
- Dimensions (W x D x H): 130 x 52.6 x 29 mm
Operating System: Windows 10
- Processor: 3.2 GHz Intel Core i5-4460 or better.
- RAM: 4 GB of RAM or more.
Operating System: macOS 10.14, 10.15
- IMac processor: Intel Core i7 3.6 GHz or better.
- MacBook Pro processor: Intel Core i7 2.8 GHz or better.
- RAM: 16 GB 2400 MHz DDR4 or higher.