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Laptop sellers hope you don’t see the 20-year-old tech they’re bundling with new laptops

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A new laptop from Chinese tech company Honor has come with an industry first that has gone almost unnoticed.

The Magic book The V14 is the first laptop to feature a 5 megapixel camera with a 90 degree ultra wide angle camera. A handful of other devices like the HP Elite Dragonfly Max business laptop also have 5 megapixel cameras but (a) they are likely to be 2-in-1 convertible laptops and (b) they still represent a tiny fraction of the market.

So why is it at this time when hybrid operation all the rage, where Microsoft teams, Zoom and Google meet are household names and even mainstream smartphones (like the Infinix Zero 8) have a selfie camera with 48 megapixel resolution, do laptop owners have to support VGA (yes VGA) webcams?

VGA, for those under a certain age, refers to an archaic, outdated, and out-of-date resolution of 640 by 480 pixels (or 307,000 pixels in total). It was common towards the end of the last century (the 1990s), but managed to find its place in at least one laptop released in 2021, namely the Lenovo V17-IIL.

While there may be a fun side to seeing yourself onscreen as a Minecraft character, it’s not a sentiment shared by many.

One of the best-selling computer products over the past two years has been the humble webcam. The pandemic has shown that millions of people are unhappy with the quality of the image captured by the built-in webcams of laptops and, sadly, that is not something that will change anytime soon.

HD leads the way

Our survey of 50 laptops currently on sale from Dell, Lenovo and HP – in gaming, consumer and business lines – painted a grim picture.

Dell didn’t have laptops with webcams above 720p (roughly one million pixels), and that includes its most expensive laptop, the $ 5,339. Dell Precision 7760 Data Science Workstation. Lenovo did not fare any better, even for its very expensive $ 5,159 ThinkPad P17 Gen 2 mobile workstation, and the same for HP and Apple.

As it stands, the HD webcam is the standard – not an exception – in a laptop released in 2021. It’s the equivalent of having a CD-ROM drive on your laptop – it was. cool but that’s just a nuisance these days. So why no change?

Well, there are the laws of physics, apathy, and priorities. Before the pandemic, webcam quality on laptops was far from the priority list because most people have met in real life and video conference was done mostly in meeting rooms or on his smartphone, both offering much better quality.

This convinced vendors like Dell to stick with HD technology and scale it down to create ultra-portable laptops with tiny bezels like the award-winning XPS 13. Others, like Honor, have decided to hide the webcam completely in a pop-up key on your keyboard. A couple – like Asus – went even further and eliminated the webcam altogether because… why not?

The laws of physics and (generally) capitalism as a whole have also made it difficult to switch to multi-megapixel laptop webcams. Phones tend to be thicker than laptop computer covers, and laptop webcam modules tend to be horizontal (to fit into the frame) and not vertical (as with smartphones). So, until there is sufficient demand for laptop webcam modules with smartphone-type sensors, the transition will not occur.

Then there’s the apathy of critics and users: HD webcams are the norm, so reviewers and users don’t tend to highlight (or view) them as an anomaly. It’s only when we, the critics, act as a catalyst for change and start pointing this out as an aberration that readers will take notice and hopefully put pressure on the suppliers.

Cheap gaming laptop deals: Asus ROG Strix G17

The Asus ROG Strix G17 does not have a webcam, a choice that has divided users. (Image credit: Asus)

So what comes next?

Huawei and Honor are the only ones who have dared to put the webcam in a pop-up key and the least we can say is that this is not proving to be a popular option due to the fixed camera angle. Other alternatives could include a thicker bezel, an under-screen display, or punch-hole cameras.

Ultimately, it will be up to consumers to vote with their wallets. Improvements in camera capabilities on smartphones have provided unique and compelling selling points for Huawei. Could someone replicate the same on laptops? The jury is out.


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