A great webcam for more adventurous users, with built-in AI and bonus features for live streamers
- Solid image and audio quality
- 1080p at a smooth 60fps
- Added extras via an AI engine
- Expensive for a 1080p webcam
- AI engine is still in beta
Two years ago, most people would make do with the webcam built into their laptop. These days, for reasons that don’t need to be explained, the discerning user wants more. Taiwanese firm AVerMedia has heard your call and decided to deliver with a very interesting webcam indeed.
Not only does the AverMedia PW315 webcam deliver crisp visuals but a host of special effects that will be particularly useful to people who present to others. Obvious candidates include teachers, streamers, YouTubers and anyone who hosts meetings in their business.
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AVerMedia PW315 review: What do you get for your money?
Despite the unusually large box for a webcam – most are supplied in as tiny a package as possible to save money – all that’s inside is the compact PW315 camera. In terms of size, think of a stubby half-smoked cigar (its exact dimensions are 95 x 27 x 27mm).
AVerMedia builds in a chunky lens cover that slides over with a thunk, so you can be confident that no one is spying on you. An unmissable bright blue LED also appears whenever the camera is active.
Another aspect of the PW315’s design that marks it out from cheaper rivals is a ball-and-socket joint. This means you can pivot the camera 360° from left to right, which can be exceptionally useful during a call if you want to direct people’s attention in a certain direction. Up and down movement is more restricted; I estimate around 15° of latitude.
The stand itself is a simple affair. It’s solidly made with a 10mm lip to secure it onto the top of a monitor or laptop screen, and there’s a tripod thread, too. Most importantly, I found the PW315 easy to position to the right angle during calls.
AVerMedia PW315 review: The key specs
All this hints at what makes the AverMedia PW315 special: its flexibility.
Where our comments about most webcams stop once we talk about image quality, and I will come to that in a moment, the PW315 complements its physical abilities with a remarkable combination of hardware and software.
While it’s true that this camera “only” contains a 2MP CMOS sensor, delivering 1080p resolutions rather than 4K of rivals such as the Logitech Brio Stream, it has a wide 95° field of view. And 1080p is enough for almost everyone’s needs: images look sharp and you can read text on whiteboards, for example, without difficulty.
Image quality is solid-to-strong rather than spectacular. For example, compared with a high-quality Logitech webcam such as the C925E there’s no hint of any “crawling” noise on solid blocks of colour, but it does appear here if you look closely. And if you’re looking for superb performance in low light then I would point you to the Razer Kyro Pro instead.
However, the crisp capture and balanced colours, which you can tweak in software, give videos a pleasant feel that lift the PW315 above budget webcams. Its dual, side-mounted microphones also do a good job of capturing audio but, as is so often the case with built-in mics there is notable echo in smaller rooms.
The PW315’s final plus point compared with most other webcams is that it can stream at up 60fps, double the typical 30fps, which makes the results look smoother. It also means you can more effectively slow down the video to demonstrate a point if you take the time to edit it.
AVerMedia PW315 review: The AI difference
However, if you’re looking for the simplest webcam experience, the PW315 isn’t the right choice. To take full advantage of this camera’s abilities, you need to jump through a hoop or two.
The first hoop is to download a version of its CamEngine software that supports the latest features. As I write this review in early July 2021, if you opt for the default CamEngine software then you’ll only see options for adjusting things like brightness, hue and saturation.
However, what makes this webcam interesting is its AI engine, and to use this you currently need to download a beta version of CamEngine (head to https://www.avermedia.com/uk/product-detail/PW315, click on Download and then click on Utility (Windows) or Utility (macOS)).
Note that I haven’t tested the Mac software, only the Windows version.
You will now see tabs for Filters, Effects and ePTZ. The Filters are for skin tone and smoothing. The Effects add rather dubious extras that will append, for example, pig ears to your face. The tab we’re interested in, however, is ePTZ.
Those final three letters stand for pan, tilt and zoom but what matters is that by enabling “AI Framing” and instructing the CamEngine to adjust the frame to include everyone, it will follow you around. So, when you’re sitting at the desk, the image will zoom in and just show you. Start walking around, and it will pan and zoom out to keep you in shot.
It takes a second or two to adjust to your movements and there may be situations where you find it simpler to switch off the AI and opt to use the 2x digital zoom instead, but it’s a nice option to have up your sleeve during calls. To enable it on third-party services such as Skype and Zoom, make sure you’re using the CamEngine software as the source.
In a nod to all the streamers who use its products, AVerMedia also offers a piece of software called RECentral. This streams to the likes of Twitch, YouTube, Facebook and Niconico and includes a “Multi Mode” option with built-in support for chroma key, which means the game you’re streaming could fill the whole screen whilst you perch in the bottom right corner.
AVerMedia PW315 review: Buying time
Unlike most webcams, the AVerMedia PW315 lives on two planes. The first is a basic one, with above-average image quality, a sharp 1080p resolution and solid mics: it’s a strong partner for video calls.
The second plane is more interesting and experimental. Even as it stands, the beta AI software offers the capability to follow you around, making presentations much more dynamic than the usual sitting ramrod straight for an hour. It also offers extra features of particular interest to streamers.
I wish that AVerMedia had brought the beta CamEngine software to finished status, and note that other webcams offer strong image quality for less money than this, but the PW315 is well worth the investment if you will take advantage of all its advanced settings.