If you've got friends or relatives you seldom see and would like to (and vice versa), a webcam may be the answer. But can a model costing little more than a couple of pints and a pie be anything other than pants? We check out MSI's oh-so-affordable StarCam 370i to find out.
Webcams for personal use seem to have been around for ever but they only really began selling in serious numbers when support for them was added by the big instant text chat services, notably MSN (now Windows Live Messenger), Yahoo Messenger and AOL Instant Messenger. And that growth begets growth - the more people there are using webcams, the more reason there is for others to want to as well.
Another significant boost for webcams happened recently when support was added by Skype in the software for the company's fast-growing free PC-to-PC voice-over-internet service. Now, as well as letting you make and take free virtual telephone calls with PCs, Skype offers live video support. The webcam option arrived with the beta of Skype's version 2 software but has progressed since then - the latest full-release has reached V2.5.
With video support in all the key voice and chat services, there's probably never been a better time to buy a webcam. If, that is, you've got friends or relatives you seldom see and would like to (and vice versa). Setting one up should be trivial - though as we'll show, there can be unexpected problems - and the cost needn't be great and certainly not enough to put you off the idea.
The model we're looking at today, MSI's StarCam 370i, is available for just £11.89. Okay, that doesn't include VAT but the tax only adds £2.08 and brings the total to a relatively inconsequential £13.97 for a model that even has a built-in microphone and can double as a security cam. Such affordability is especially significant when a webcam is one of the few products that tend to get bought two at a time, or even in threes. A pair would set you back under £28 and three would cost less than £45.
And, if you're a HEXUS.community regular and buy from SCAN, there would be no delivery charge for a pair or a set of three.
That must sound tempting and, on paper, it is. But there's no point spending 45 quid or 28 or just 14 if the product is pants. So the question we're setting out to answer is - is it? Pants, that is.