Whether you're working or connecting with friends and family, imore of our professional and social interactions these days are taking place online. Whichever platform you're using, video-chatting is quickly becoming the new normal, and it's time to up your game.
Upgrading your audio and video tech is easy from a technical perspective, however, and relatively affordable — and it will dramatically improve your production values in virtual meetings.
Here's a shortlist of our favorite cameras, microphones and the other gear that will enhance your video-chatting with input from CNET's on-camera video team, all of whom are working from home now, too.
Most laptops have webcams built in — and most of them are awful. A 2017-era MacBook Air will be eternally stuck with its 0.7-megapixel camera that tops out shooting 720p video. Those ancient specs won't cut it today. The newest iPhone 11, for comparison's sake, has a 12-megapixel camera that can shoot 4K video at 60fps.
Stepping up to a modern webcam (most cost between $60 and $200) is the most significant thing you can do to enhance your video chats. New for 2020, Logitech's StreamCam captures full 1080p HD video at 60 frames per second, and it automatically handles all of the details — focus, exposure, framing, image stabilization — so you can concentrate on what you're doing.
Blue Yeti USB mic
Nothing can torpedo an online meeting quicker than audio that's cutting in and out, and your laptop's lousy built-in microphone may be the culprit. Adding a decent webcam to your setup will put you in better shape, but a stand-alone microphone will make you sound clear, rich and full.
This Blue Yeti model has long been a staple of podcasters and streamers. Yes, it looks like something you'd see in a 1940s radio station recording booth, but the audio technology is 100% modern. It has three capsule microphones, four pickup patterns (for different kinds of recording) and just enough controls to help optimize the way you sound without overloading you with super-technical features.
Bower Flexible 24-inch LED ring light
If you sit in front of a white wall or uncovered windows, your webcam will try to balance it out, shrouding you in a silhouette. The solution: Position a light behind your camera that shines on your face. A desk lamp may suffice, but you'll get the best results from an LED video light. This basic $30 model from Bower that comes with 36 LEDs, a clip stand and three light modes does the job nicely.
The following CNET staff contributed to this story: senior editors Justin Jaffe and Laura K. Cucullu and copy editor Jim Hoffman. For more reviews of personal technology products, visit cnet.com.