No doubt spurred on by a pandemic that caused many millions of office workers to log in from home, the webcam market is more diverse than ever. Those wishing to log into a once-weekly call as cheaply as possible can spend just $20 on a webcam, while those wanting a flawless, near-DSLR like experience can spend ten times that on a premium webcam with build quality to match.
That’s the area of the market occupied by the Dell UltraSharp Webcam reviewed here. Costing around $200 / £175, the UltraSharp is a serious piece of kit for those who want the very best picture quality - making it one of the best 4K webcams money can buy.
Perhaps you are a C-suite member who needs to look their best when addressing dozens of staff, or a journalist who makes regular appearances on television from your home office. Either way, the Dell serves up the kind of video quality you’ll be looking for – and it marries that to market-leading hardware too.
Dell UltraSharp Webcam specifications
Resolution: 4K Ultra HD
Field of view: 65, 78, 90 degrees
Frame rate: 30fps at 4K, 60fps at Full HD
Digital zoom: Up to 5x
Inbuilt microphone: No
Privacy cover: Yes
Physical design and excellent video quality are the main features of the Dell UltraSharp Webcam. The former is detailed in the next section, while the latter includes the use of a large, 1/2.8-inch Sony Starvis CMOS sensor with an 8.2-megapixel resolution, F2.7 aperture and HDR.
Other features include a proximity sensor for automatically locking your computer when you step away, then using Windows Hello to log you back in using facial recognition. There is also an auto-framing function, which uses artificial intelligence to digitally zoom and pan to keep your face in frame. Move backwards and the camera zooms in; come too close and it’ll zoom out again.
Build and handling
The Dell UltraSharp is a beautiful piece of industrial design. Reminding us of the similarly-cylindrical Apple iSight webcam from almost 20 years ago (feeling old yet?), the Dell is an anodized aluminum device with a glass lens and magnetic cover that smartly attaches to the back when not shielding the front.
The camera also uses magnets to attach to a pair of stands included in the box. The first is designed to clamp to the top of your monitor, while the second gives the webcam a tripod mount – this is best for laptop users, as the Dell’s weight may cause the lids of some laptops to move when placed on top. Also included is a high-quality, two-metre USB-A to USB-C cable.
We love the looks and feel of the Dell UltraSharp Webcam, but it’s certainly much larger than most of its rivals. This means a large imaging sensor lurks beneath – more on that later – but the size means it stands a fair bit above the top of your monitor. Your audience will likely notice your eye line is lower with this camera, owing to it being further away from the screen.
The monitor mount allows for a lot of vertical adjustment, so you can point the camera up by 10 degrees and down by 20 degrees – handy if it’s placed on top of a wall-mounted screen in an office, where it can look down at a meeting table and get everyone in shot.
Thanks to the large sensor and high resolution, video quality is absolutely superb. It produces a picture that is among the best of any webcam we have ever used and, when viewed from the other end of a video call, isn’t too far behind that of a DSLR hooked up to a PC.
The auto-framing function works well to keep your face in frame no matter how you move, but it is fairly slow to react. We found the Jabra PanCast 20 locked onto our face and zoomed/panned more quickly to keep us neatly in view. But this is a pretty small complaint against the Dell webcam, as the rest of the experience is fantastic.
However, one major negative is the webcam’s lack of a microphone. Instead, you will have to plug in a USB microphone, or use your computer’s integrated mic, which probably won’t be all that good. To ensure your audio quality matches the slick video of the UltraSharp webcam, we recommend you plug in a decent USB microphone too.
It is worth noting that, while this camera works with PC and Mac, Dell’s Peripheral Manage app, which is used to control the camera and adjust its settings, is Windows-only. That said, we found the Dell Display Manager app for Mac works with the webcam, and allows you to adjust the field of view, and enable or disable the AI-powered auto framing feature. It’s a really clunky piece of software compared to Peripheral Manager, but it at least gets the job done, and any changes made there are retained when the webcam is used in video conferencing apps, like Zoom.
Dell UltraSharp Webcam: Verdict
There’s no getting away from the high price. But a smart, attractive design, excellent build quality and superb video all work together to justify the high cost. The software for Mac users is mediocre to say the least, but at least it’s there (once you’ve managed to find it), while PC users benefit from a better app and extra features like Windows Hello.
The lack of a microphone is frustrating, but if you are willing to spend $200 on a webcam, then you clearly value your online appearance and will likely already have a USB microphone to ensure your audio is equally on-point. Ultimately, this is a very high-quality webcam for those who demand the best and are happy to pay a premium for it.