Dell’s new UltraSharp camera targets Logitech’s high-end Brio at the same $199 price point, along with 4K resolution and a Windows Hello-compatible infrared sensor. But despite sharing a price tag and many of the same specs, the two high-end webcams differ noticeably in terms of features.
The most obvious distinguishing factor of the UltraSharp is its faint physical resemblance to the Apple iSight, a discontinued FireWire camera with a similar “shotgun” chassis orientation. As compelling as that similarity may be to some Apple fans, the similarity between UltraSharp and iSight pretty much ends there.
Under the hood, the UltraSharp features a Sony STARVIS 8.3 megapixel primary optical sensor, with autofocus, auto white balance and light correction, and full HDR. There’s also a Windows Hello-compatible IR sensor for biometric authentication, but oddly enough, no microphone. UltraSharp users will have to provide their own microphone, which can be useful for some high-end consumers with studio microphones, who therefore have one less useless input to deal with.
The UltraSharp communicates with its host computer via USB-C and comes with a 2-meter USB-C to USB-A cable. It can be mounted directly on a desktop or laptop monitor or on a small tripod supplied. Both monitor and tripod mounts are magnetically coupled, as is the privacy shutter/lens cap.
The Field of View (FOV) on the UltraSharp is user-selectable, with options for 65°, 78°, or 90° – which in standard landscape aspect ratios amounts to roughly headshot, head-and-shoulders and chest cropping. The UltraSharp supports up to 60 fps at 720p or 1080p resolution, with 24 fps or 30 fps available in 4K UHD.
AI on board
One feature UltraSharp offers that its Logitech Brio competitor doesn’t is AI-powered automatic pan and zoom to keep a user’s face centered. In operation, UltraSharp’s AI pan and zoom is a lot like Amazon Echo Show 8 – a feature that sounded great, but didn’t work very well in practice.
Without hands-on, it’s hard to say how useful UltraSharp’s AI face tracking will really be – though it seems noticeably slower and jerkier than Echo Show 8’s comparable feature was. Echo Show 8 left a lot of room for improvement in how often and how well it actually tracked faces; hopefully UltraSharp has made progress in that regard.
UltraSharp itself works right out of the box on Windows and Mac PCs with no drivers required, but to unlock the AI face tracking you need to install the Dell Peripheral Manager application. In addition to face tracking, Peripheral Manager provides control over lighting adjustment, field of view, and other features not accessible through the generic USB webcam driver itself.
If you’re looking for a $199 webcam, UltraSharp looks like a solid competitor to the better-known Logitech Brio at the same price. It also looks very sharp with its distinctive “shotgun” chassis design – a striking departure from the typical modern webcam design, which looks more like a radar panel antenna (or miniature ’90s jambox) than a camera.
While the AI face tracking sounds great, we’re a little skeptical that this is a big usability win for most users. We wouldn’t advise selecting the UltraSharp on that feature alone until many outside reviewers have cracked it up.
If you’re in this market but aren’t sure which camera to buy, we think the UltraSharp’s lack of a built-in microphone is probably the biggest differentiator to look out for – it’s a deal breaker for most people looking for a built-in microphone. simple, all-in-one video conferencing device, but a real feature for anyone planning to use their own studio microphone for ultra-high quality audio. If you have your own XLR microphone – or rather a headset-mounted noise-cancelling microphone – the lack of the UltraSharp means you have to accidentally select one less wrong input.
The UltraSharp can be purchased directly from Dell.com today for $199 with free standard shipping. Delivery dates will vary by region, but right now we’re seeing an estimated delivery date of July 6, 7, and 8 for Express/Expedited/Standard to the Southeastern US.
List image by Dell