Technology

Razer Kiyo Pro review: beats your laptop’s webcam, but at a high cost

Razer has released a swath of products so far during the pandemic, but its new Kiyo Pro might have the widest appeal of them all. It’s a new $199 webcam that looks like a lens ripped off a mirrorless camera, aimed to give Logitech’s Brio some good competition in the specs department. The four-year-old Brio is still the ideal choice if you value 4K capture and Windows Hello authentication, but the Kiyo Pro is no slouch, capable of streaming or recording 1080p footage at up to 60 frames per second, with an optional HDR mode that displays at 30 frames per second. Razer’s new webcam is a more compact alternative, and it has a few other features that might make it worth considering if you want a high-end webcam for more than just joining Zoom calls.

The Kiyo Pro is being positioned as a good choice both for jumping into a meeting and for people who have hobbies or careers broadcasting their faces. It’s backing up that claim with a few features that I’ve been able to test over the past few days. One of them is its adjustable field of view (FOV), letting you swap between 80 degrees for a tighter crop of your face, a midrange 90-degree shot, or up to a super-wide 103 degrees. The latter option is nice if more than one person is in the shot or if you want to show off your living space.

You can adjust these settings and more from within Razer’s Synapse, though annoyingly, that software didn’t always reflect changes I made to the settings in the camera preview. Strangely, I had to join a Zoom call to see changes take effect. I understand there are people who don’t want to fuss with software, and so you know, this is a plug-and-play device for Windows 10 and macOS. That said, it’ll be at a fixed FOV, and the suite of settings that I detail below won’t be available to you unless you get Razer’s software.

This webcam features a 2.1-megapixel CMOS IMX327 autofocusing sensor with an f/2.0 aperture, covered in a sheet of Gorilla Glass 3, which is admittedly an odd feature for a camera that doesn’t move. It utilizes Sony’s Starvis technology, typically used in security cams, that makes it good at picking out details in low light and balancing light sources for a true-to-life picture. I was impressed with its ability to automatically make the dreadful lighting in my basement studio apartment look alright, with a few small tweaks by me in the brightness and saturation departments). So, I imagine people with ideal lighting will fare even better and possibly not have to adjust settings at all.

During some Zoom calls with the Kiyo Pro, none of the participants were blown away by the visual fidelity. They did, however, remark that it’s noticeably smoother and more detailed in terms of color accuracy than any laptop webcam, and especially given my apartment’s lighting situation (almost all artificial lights, with little natural light coming in), my picture looked lively.

Even with a bright window behind me that usually gets over-exposed by just about any laptop’s webcam, this camera balanced my apartment’s lighting without blowing out the background or dropping off in terms of detail. If you’re a game streamer with a vibrant set of colorful LEDs set up around your rig, this feature should be beneficial to you, too.

The autofocus works relatively quickly, and it didn’t have to spend long clearing up the shot when I held an object close to the sensor, then pulled it away so it could refocus on my face. However, the autofocus tends to jump around a lot, hunting for a clearer shot even if I’m barely moving. This was perhaps the most annoying part of the experience for me, but it’s a small consolation that Synapse lets you set it to manual focus if you don’t plan to move all that much.

This webcam features omnidirectional microphones, though I highly recommend using a dedicated microphone or a headset equipped with one instead. What’s built into the Kiyo Pro is good in a pinch, and there’s a good amount of bass and clarity in my voice, but it’s a little quiet and echo-y by default.

Razer Kiyo Pro

Resist the urge to twist the Kiyo Pro like a traditional camera lens. It’s unfortunately just for show.

Razer’s Kiyo Pro is a competent webcam with a few unique traits. At $200, it obviously can’t compete with the fidelity of a DSLR or mirrorless camera that’s been repurposed as a webcam or even a modern smartphone with webcam apps installed. But for the cost, it should stack up better than it does to Logitech’s Brio released in 2017. Instead, Razer made an equally pricey webcam with fewer features. If webcams ever become as tough to find in stock as they were in early 2020, it’ll be nice to have another option on the market. But presently, it’s tough to recommend this model outright.

Photography by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge

Update February 24th, 11AM ET: Added photo samples from the Kiyo Pro, both from a Google Meet video call and more directly through VLC.

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