Whether you’re looking to stay in touch with loved ones while you travel or you need to chat face to face with a colleague or client, video calling is now an essential activity for many laptop owners. In fact, Skype users alone spent 97 billion minutes last year on video calls. Your typical budget laptop has a mediocre webcam that might capture grainy or blurry video, but if you’re willing to spend a little more you can get a notebook with an HD webcam for capturing clearer, smoother images. Plus, most of today’s video calling laptops add fun effects and offer smarter software to help you look your best.
To help you pick the best video chat partner we put six notebooks—from 11 inches all the way up to 17 inches—to the test.
Alienware has a reputation for making killer gaming laptops, and the M11x R3 is the brand’s littlest assassin. Despite its pint-sized footprint, the 11-inch machine boasts an excellent webcam that performed flawlessly.
Powered by Creative Live! Central software, the camera captures pictures and video at a maximum 1600 x 1200-pixel resolution. The software lets you control the backlight, brightness, color, contrast, and even frame rate. In addition, users can choose to share their whole desktop, portions of it, or images and PowerPoint files during video calls.
The M11x R3’s webcam also supports face tracking, which lets you use such humorous avatars as kitty cats and babies while video chatting. Continuing the fun are many cartoon-like backgrounds, such as cityscapes and party scenes. Audio effects can transform your voice to from male to female, deepen it, or apply an accent.
Hilarity aside, the Alienware M11x R3 delivered excellent image quality on our tests. Details were extremely clear, and colors were warm and well saturated. Playback of recorded content was also smooth with no noticeable lag or blur. People on the other end of our Skype video calls reported sharp visuals and clean audio. Though the M11x R3’s webcam didn’t operate in total darkness, the laptop offered pleasing quality in low-light conditions.