Hercules HD Twist 720p Webcam
(4.0 star rating)
Webcams have been around for many years and for the most part there is little to differentiate webcam 'A' from webcam 'B'. The form-factor has generally been the same with each and every model – a low-resolution digital camera stationed atop a tripod base. In recent years the webcam has become embedded in all types of devices – cell phones, tablets, portable media players and the like. But the Hercules HD Twist webcam puts a 'twist' on the tried-and-true design of a webcam – instead of a rigid tripod base, why not use a pliable material for the base? It's this free-form structure that gives the HD Twist webcam its uniqueness and it's why we agreed to spend some time putting it through the paces with a review. Let's see what the $35 webcam brings to the table.
Versatility is the key design concept of the HD Twist – it's made to be versatile enough to use with a desktop, laptop, netbook or just about any other computer with a USB port. The semi-rigid base can be bent or folded into a variety of shapes that make it easy to attach to just about anything. The rubberlike material is flexible enough so that it can be shaped to stand vertically by itself, or to attach to the top of an LCD monitor or laptop. It is not quite elastic enough to be able to mount on the side of an LCD monitor, though, as there is not enough tension to keep it securely attached.
Sitting atop the pliable base is a digital camera capable of recording 720p video and shooting 5 MP photos. Also incorporated into the webcam is a built-in microphone to use for the audio portion of web-conferencing calls.
Our test unit came in the red color, with other color choices being cobalt blue, green, black, purple and turquoise. The small 3.3 x 2.7 x 8.6 inches (W x D x H) size and 6.1 oz. weight make it easily portable
|HD Twist Box||Accessories|
In the Box
- Hercules HD Twist Webcam
- Hercules Webcam Station Evolution SE and Hercules Xtra Controller EX software on CD-ROM
- Quick Start Guide
Features and Specifications
- HD 720p sensor for the best performance, even in low-light conditions
- Video resolution: 1280x720
- Photo resolution: 5 megapixels (software interpolation)
- Incredibly smooth images: up to 30 frames per second
- Webcam designed and optimized for the most popular instant messaging applications: (MSN® Messenger / Windows LiveTM Messenger, Skype®, Yahoo!® Messenger, AIM®, GoogleTM GmailTM Voice and Video Chat, QQTM...).
- Built-in microphone with noise reduction
- Exclusive software suite lets you "spice up" your video chats
- Hercules Webcam Station Evolution SE (3 photo capture modes, ultra-simple video capture, conversion and transfer of captures by email with just one click).
- Hercules Xtra Controller EX (3x digital zoom, automatic face-tracking, lets you show your photos live during your video chats and add fun effects).
- Dimensions: 3.3 x 2.7 x 8.6 inches (W x D x H)
- Weight: 6.1 ounces
|Overhead view||Side view|
Out of the Box Setup
As with any USB device worth its salt, the HD Twist was truly plug-and-play. Both Windows XP and Windows 7 recognized the device correctly, and no driver installation was necessary. Once the device is installed you just need to make sure that it is recognized by your software and selected as the default device. In my case, setting it up with Skype was effortless as the software recognized the webcam immediately upon startup.
There is no requirement to install the included software – it's an optional suite of tools that enhances your video chat and video capturing capabilities. I did install the software and play around with it a bit – I had the most fun goofing around with the face altering effects. Overall the software was amusing but not particularly useful in a practical sense.
Using Skype to make video calls was my primary method of testing the HD Twist, and it performed quite well in a variety of environments. With both my desktop PC and my Dell Inspiron 1525 laptop - http://www.topreviewshop.com/dell_inspiron_1525_laptop - , the video quality was excellent and a big step up from the typical VGA 1.3 megapixel webcams. Image details and colors were much more life-like with the HD Twist, and it worked well for both low-light and regular-light level environments.
A blue LED light comes on when the camera is in use, which may be annoying to some people but I found to be useful. I like to be able to quickly check whether the camera is active.
The embedded mic worked well as long as you sit within a few feet of the HD Twist and as long as there is minimal background noise. The mic does pick up any background noise, such as dogs barking or kids yelling, and that made it hard to have a conversation during video calls. But the mic was adequate for both listening and talking while making Skype calls.
Using the HD Twist to capture 720p worked quite well, also. Setting it to capture at 30 fps made videos appear smooth, and were not choppy looking for all but the fastest movements. I am in no way an experienced videographer – my previous recordings consisted of kids birthday parties, trips to the beach and the like – but the video capture feature worked just fine. Note that the HD Twist must be attached to a computer in order to record video or photos --- so it is not going to work as a replacement for your digital camera.
|Powered on||Software screenshot|
Hercules HD Twist 720p Webcam
The HD Twist offers a fresh take on the stodgy black webcam. While built-in cameras are quickly becoming the standard for most laptops, tablets and cell phones there is still a large segment of the population using devices that don't have any embedded camera. The flexible and colorful design is sure more interesting than the same ol' black, and so at a reasonably inexpensive $35 price it is worth a look for anyone in the market for a new webcam.
Pros: Flexible and colorful design; easy to use; works well in a variety of settings.
Cons: Built-in mic is mediocre.
Rating: 4.0 out of 5