Video conferencing was on the rise even before the Covid pandemic pushed many of us out of our offices and into cosy spare bedrooms to work, but since then it has become an essential way for middle managers to keep an eye on their employees and for those employees to get some much-needed face-time with one another.
For every meeting that could have been an email, the fact you’re seeing the faces of your co-workers instead of communicating purely by text-based means improves relationships and makes working from home feel less lonely. When you’ve got nobody to talk to except the cat and the fridge, it can get a little stressful.
These meetings, so essential for running distributed teams, wouldn’t be possible without webcams, and the state of these small front-facing cameras in the laptops we use every day has been dire. The grainy, noisy, blurry monstrosities we trust to project our image to our co-workers and family members have been in need of considerable improvement.
Even Apple, which usually rides the crest of the technological wave, was still putting 720p webcams into its expensive laptops up until a few years ago. The new FaceTime HD camera is much improved, but there are even better options out there if you want to improve the way you look on the other end of the conversation, but don’t have the space for a separate webcam, or even mirrorless camera connected to your PC, and a ring light or other illumination device.
Best webcam laptops in 2023
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The HP Elite Dragonfly G3 is a lot of laptop, and you’ll need to want the entire package to justify its asking price, but you do get one of the best built-in laptop webcams on the market if you do decide to go for it.
The days of low-res webcams are thankfully behind us, but the G3 takes it a step further than 1080p with a 5MP webcam built into the bezel around its 3:2 ratio touchscreen that’s capable of giving a 1440p picture.
The enhanced detail of the camera is great to have, and though it’s not the highest resolution on the market, it also benefits from HP’s excellent software, which allows it to detect and frame the speaker, smooth their appearance, and blur out the background.
It took Apple a long time to get here, but the old 720p camera has been replaced by a new 1080p model on the 13in MacBook Air. There's also an image signal processing chip on board that helps enhance the image, leading to a very clear and bright picture from the built-in camera.
It also helps that this is one of the best laptops you can buy at the moment. Apple’s M series of processors are making great gains in performance and battery life, while the software they run is among the most capable out there.
See our full Apple MacBook Air M2 (2022) review
A Windows 11 tablet rather than a laptop - the keyboard case is sold separately - the Surface Go 3 is underpowered in its Pentium incarnation unless all you’re doing with it is surfing the web. Luckily, there are upgrades to the CPU, RAM and storage available that turn it from a touchscreen triviality into a seriously useful machine - though you’ll pay for the privilege.
That goes for the webcam too. It’s a 5MP model that’s perfect for 1080p video calls and selfies, and as it’s a tablet there's another 8MP camera on the back too. You also get Windows Hello functionality, where the Surface Go is unlocked using facial recognition.
Chromebooks - laptops that run the lightweight ChromeOS from Google - tend to have lesser specifications than Windows laptops, as all they’re going to be asked to do is run web apps through the Chrome browser. This doesn’t mean they’re any less capable, as there are full office suites and image editing apps available for them, but they’re not expected to work as hard.
This model from HP, being sold through Google when it becomes available, has a spec that a Windows laptop would be envious of, and a whopping 8MP webcam that, while only producing 1080p video, means your video calls should be clear and sharp. It’s available in the US for $999, so expect to pay something similar when it comes on sale in Europe.
The Razer Blade range are all gaming laptops, but having those powerful CPU and GPU chips just makes them better for doing other things, like image or video editing, too. The 1080p camera found at the top of the Blade 15’s screen provides excellent image quality and Windows Hello functionality. It’s a great step up from the 720p models that have been so prevalent, and does a good job of maintaining sharpness and colour even in low-light conditions. There's no privacy shutter on this laptop, however, so keep an eye out for the white LED that lights when the camera is active.
Lenovo’s ThinkPad line - gained with the company bought out IBM’s laptop line - are business-oriented machines with a reputation for having everything you need to be an executive on the move, and that goes for the webcam too.
The display on the X1 Carbon is sharp and bright, and that’s mirrored by the 1080p camera that pierces the screen’s bezel. It’s a Windows Hello compatible model, so you can unlock your laptop with just your face, and while it may not be the cheapest laptop out there it has a very serious specification to match its serious status, easily performing all day in video conferences and office work.