Review: Two higher-end peripherals for your notebook lifestyle

Logitech BRIO offers 4K video; Jabra Speak 710 goes all in on speakerphone audio

Jabra Speak 710 lifestyle image Bluetooth speakerphone
Jabra
At a Glance
  • Logitech Brio 4K Ultra HD Webcam

  • Jabra Speak 710 Speakerphone (Wireless) Bundle w/Wall Charger | Bluetooth, USB, PC/MAC | Compatible with UC, Softphones, Smartphones, Tablet, PC | Microsoft Certified, Skype, Cisco, Avaya #7710-309-B

The world of smartphones and tablets hasn’t yet completely taken over the world just yet – there are lots of people who still use an old-fashioned notebook (gosh, can’t believe I’m using the term ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘notebook’ in the same sentence) for their work, whether at home, in the office or traveling.

But there are still limitations to these devices when it comes to audio and video – especially if you’re looking for some higher-end quality, as well as some portability. I recently tested two such devices – the new Logitech BRIO 4K webcam and the Jabra Speak 710 Bluetooth speaker. Don’t be scared by the higher price tags compared with other webcams and speaker systems – the higher-end quality and style make up for the extra price tag.

Logitech Brio 4K webcam

This webcam ($199 via Amazon) is Logitech’s highest-end model at the moment, featuring a 4K sensor, 5x digital zoom and HDR support. It includes proprietary RightLight technology that aims to fix the video picture for users webcamming in dim or low-light situations, and the HDR support can help improve the image for end users who are calling into a videoconference with high-contrast lighting or a backlit room (or having light stream in from a side window). Software that comes with the camera lets the user select from three different fields-of-view – you can appear up-close for a face-to-face meeting, zoom out to show a larger desk space, or even go further back to have things in the background (if you want to demo a product or show a presentation while on camera).

Logitech BRIO 4K webcam Logitech

The 4K support at the moment seems more beneficial for users who want to use the camera to record video at 4K, rather than conduct a videoconference over Skype or other service, which would require additional bandwidth and computer considerations. Even to get to the 4K support for recording video, the computer you’re using would require a USB 3.0 port, otherwise you drop down to 1080p at 60fps.

The camera is certified to work with Windows Hello and KeyLemon (for Mac users) for authentication/facial recognition purposes, which can be an interesting security option for companies that want people to get rid of their passwords and just use employees’ faces.

One weird quirk about the camera – Logitech is calling the camera the 4K Pro Webcam on the consumer side, while the BRIO name is for the company’s business channel customers for use in industries like telemedicine, field service and other vertical use cases.

The camera was easy enough to install – you can use either a USB-C to USB-C cable (if your notebook supports USB-C ports), or you can use the USB-C to USB-A (the more traditional port) cable. (checking to see if both are provided). You can then place the camera on top of your notebook’s screen or external monitor and adjust the angle with the flexible bracket. You can pop that off if you want and attach it to a small tripod, as the camera has a tripod screw thread. For those concerned with webcam privacy/hacking, the camera comes with a plastic piece that can cover the lens – no need for masking tape.

Logitech BRIO webcam lifestyle image Logitech

The Logitech BRIO 4K webcam lets you conduct videoconferences in higher-definition than previous high-end models, although it's unclear which services support 4K webconferences just yet.

My initial test with the camera was on an older MacBook Pro (so using the USB-A port), conducting a FaceTime chat with my son and comparing the image between the BRIO camera and the internal FaceTime camera. My son reported that the BRIO image looked better, especially when it came to the brightness.

I was also able to try the camera on a Windows 10 system (it was easier to configure the drivers on the Mac side than with Windows). With both systems you can download additional software from Logitech that lets you change settings in terms of the field of view (zoom levels) as well as picture improvements like adjusting the brightness, contrast, etc. The Windows 10 software also included a beta software feature that replaces the background with other images, similar to the way that a green screen does within a television studio. It’s not perfect (hence the beta tag), and is more of a “Huh, look at that!” rather than anything you’d want to utilize in your business or personal life at the moment (the software kept lopping off the top of my head for some reason). We also discovered that we couldn’t record a session with the background removal in place.

Still, here are a few videos that we recorded with the camera to showcase some of the zoom features. See for yourself whether the new camera is better:

 

Recording fully at 4K still seemed beyond our capabilities in my testing – default recording apps like QuickTime on the Mac and the Camera app on Windows 10 could only seem to record at 1080p on the high end. There seems to be some paid software that claims 4K recording capability, but I didn’t want to purchase it for the purposes of this test (in case those claims were incorrect). In the end, buying this camera would be a future-proofing endeavor for when it becomes easier to record (and stream) in 4K content. But yeah, it’s a really nice device.

Grade: 4.5 stars (out of five).

Jabra Speak 710 – better audio all around

Now that you look better for videoconferences while you’re working from home or on the road, it’s time to sound better. Most people I know (myself included) utilize the speakerphone on their smartphone when calling in to a meeting, and often sound like a garbled mess. In addition, once the call is over and you want to listen to some tunes while working, you’re either stuck with listening on headphones or utilizing the audio from the notebook’s speaker system. Granted, there are some good notebooks with nice integrated speakers, but in case you have a system that doesn’t, there’s an option for a portable speaker system that can provide you with great audio for music and phone calls.

Jabra Speak 710 Bluetooth speakerphone Jabra

The Jabra Speak 710 ($299 bundle via Amazon) is the latest version of its premium portable speakerphone line. The round device provides stellar audio for phone calls, is easy to set up, yet is also small enough to carry with you on your journeys.

I was quite impressed with the design of the round speaker system – it lets you place it flat on the ground for omni-directional audio (in case you’re in a small conference room with multiple people needing to speak), but also includes a built-in metal stand on its back that makes it look more like a typical speaker system. This comes in handy when you want to switch over from a phone call into more of an entertainment system (music and movies).

The Jabra Speak 710 can connect via Bluetooth for smartphone/tablet or even notebook uses – it also comes with a USB dongle (with storage compartment/slot) if you want to connect to your notebook without going through Bluetooth. The unit also includes a built-in USB charging cable that can wrap around the back of the unit for storage purposes.

The front of the Speak 710 utilizes a touch-based interface for user interactions – tapping a power button lights up other icons that let you make or end calls, raise/lower the volume and initiate Bluetooth connectivity. A voice inside the unit guides you through Bluetooth connectivity (just press and hold the button to begin the process).

The system gets even better when you add a second device. With a second Jabra Speak 710, there’s an option on the interface to link the two devices together. This gives you a stereo effect on your audio, which can then turn a computer system into an entertainment center, or provide you with much better audio for music and movies. Linking the two devices was easy – with both units powered up, just press the “link” icon on the interface, and the system takes care of the rest. I don’t think you can conduct a speakerphone call while the system is linked – it didn’t seem to work for me, but it could have been user error on my part. A minor quibble. Everything else about the speaker was A+.

Grade: 5 stars

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
At a Glance
  • Logitech Brio 4K Ultra HD Webcam

  • Jabra Speak 710 Speakerphone (Wireless) Bundle w/Wall Charger | Bluetooth, USB, PC/MAC | Compatible with UC, Softphones, Smartphones, Tablet, PC | Microsoft Certified, Skype, Cisco, Avaya #7710-309-B

Take IDG’s 2020 IT Salary Survey: You’ll provide important data and have a chance to win $500.