Liquid Digital Solutions aGent V5 webcam

The first thing that strikes you about the agent V5 is just how good looking it is. In a world where many webcams are black plastic, the V5 is lovingly wrapped in chrome, so it jumps out as a premium looking product.

Out of the box it has that Mac look and feel about it and in a design-conscious world it certainly attracts a few passing glances. You are also well catered for in terms of accessories, as out of the box you'll find a fixed stand, notebook clip and  larger flexible to attach to LCD displays, or your AIO computer. There is also a bag, cleaning cloth and cable donut to keep things tidy.

All the accessories screen into the underside of the webcam, where a flexible swivel mount provides and attachment point. This is the same size as a standard tripod, so you can attach the V5 webcam to other accessories, for example a Gorillapod.

The design is minimalist. The chrome barrel is free from buttons and lights, with the front ring bring used for focusing the camera and a small microphone hole in the underside. It looks nice and clean but it does mean that you don't get the customary LED indicator when it is active.

It works on both Mac and PC, with software bundled on the CD to cater for both. Applications supplied for the Mac, include Webcam Monitor, CamGrabber, CamTwist, Gawker, iVideo, PhotoStickies, QuartzCube, Simple Video Slicer and VLC video player. However, the chances are that you'll stick to native applications like PhotoBooth, QuickTime and iMovie and we did encounter some problems installing and testing the bundled software. Importantly though, on the Mac you don't need to install anything if you don’t want to.

On the PC you'll need to install the driver software and you are also offered CAMagic, Ulead Video Studio 7 SE and various others. Again, after the drivers, there's a strong chance you'll be using your webcam for video chats online, so your application for example Skype will probably take care of things.

On to performance itself and the first thing you'll have to contend with is the lack of autofocus or fixed focus. So it isn't a great cam if you want to record anything that changes distance to the camera, but for normal web chatting, that isn't a problem. What it does mean though, is that once you are sat and the camera set up, you can focus and you get a really crisp image.

Thanks to the 5-layer glass lens, the images are crisp and clear and when using the camera over Skype, people commented how sharp the image was. In standalone video capture, you also get a nice crisp result. Of course the video capture results depend very much on what software you use and the PC you are using too. It will give you Full HD video capture if you have the software and a computer that will handle it.

Low light performance is reasonable, retaining colours when some webcams will start to lose them, although the image does have a stippled noise pattern over it. There was also some black speckles that looked like dust on the lens, but after cleaning they stayed, so we can only assume it was dust on the sensor.

But before you get carried away with the Full HD aspects of the aGent V5 you have to deal with the sound quality, which isn't so good. With the microphone opening hidden on the underside of the camera barrel, we had to turn the input up all the way so that we could reasonably hear anything and then it was blighted by hissing and interference.

This came across both in Skype conversations we were having and in test captures we did. Mid conversation in Skype we had to switch back to the Mac's internal mic to save the ears of a colleague who complained about the quality. If you have a separate mic, or use a headset for voice communications this might not be a problem, but it is a problem with the package as a whole.

Verdict

We like the look of the aGent V5 webcam: it looks like good quality and in our tests the video came out good too. The dust on the sensor may just be a problem with our test sample, but did detract from the otherwise good video performance.

You do get a lot in the box, with the various mounting options, but unfortunately the sound quality really let us down. If you are one of those sorts that doesn’t need the sound for whatever reason, you might still be tempted by its glorious looks alone.



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