Microsoft's Lifecam VX-7000 is a 2 megapixel webcam designed for use with either your desktop computer or laptop but does it offer you good video conferencing? We get video calling everyone in our contacts book to find out.

Sporting a 2 megapixel camera and a built-in microphone, styling-wise it offers nothing new, a black box with a lens on one side and a blue LED and microphone on the other.

The Lifecam VX-7000 has a built-in stand as part of the base mechanism, but we could only get this to work if the camera was placed on the desk looking up.

Disappointingly there wasn't a way of using the stand on top of a monitor and getting the camera to angle down.

You could however use it to hook over the top of the monitor, but some simple changes to the design would offer greater flexibility in how you mount the device around your office.

Additionally the length of the lead supplied in the box wasn't quite long enough to reach from a monitor on a desk to a base unit on the floor below the desk if it's not directly below it.

Surely this is a common arrangement of PC/monitor and should have been taken into consideration when the lead length was chosen. Marks deducted.

Once we'd found a USB extension lead, installation of the webcam was relatively simple (we installed it under Windows Vista Premium). Put the CD in and load the software and then plug in the camera.

However, the software continues the annoying trend of Microsoft products of late of trying to encourage you to load up and use their software (in this case, Microsoft Live) to take advantage of all of the features of the device.

This is linked to the small hardware button on the top of the webcam, which when pressed, opens up windows messenger and lets you choose which of your contacts you wish to connect with who are currently online. This also allows you to swap pictures with your friends instantly when online. Nice, but no good if you use Skype for example.

One small issue we came across was Skype not recognising the webcam when we tried to use it. A reboot of the machine solved this however.

Also, once installed, the camera pops open a window asking you to register it (through a Microsoft live login). However, the Lifecam VX-7000 doesn't appear in the drop down list of devices, thus not allowing you to register it, a frustration at best.

In use, the cam gave a good quality picture. The auto brightness coped well with changes in ambient light and the picture was generally clear enough to read text. We used it with both Microsoft messenger and Skype with good results.

Verdict

An average webcam for video communication, the Microsoft Lifecam VX-7000 offers good picture quality, but comes with some minor niggles (stand and lead length), both of which let the device down.