It wasn't that long ago that we were in a webcam crisis. When the coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020, the vast majority of people — now forced to work from home — realized that their computer either didn't have a webcam, or that the webcam that it did have, sucked. But they couldn't buy one...because all the most popular webcams were sold out. For months. And months. And months.
Fast forward to present day, and it's a brave new webcam world. Most laptop and computer makers have committed to boosting the quality of their webcams; for example, all the newest MacBooks and iMacs have been upgraded with 1080p webcams, after years of being 720p or worse. And there are more high-quality webcams — even some that can capture 4K — than ever before.
And, yes, you can actually buy them.
Yet, this shift to a new work environment has also spawned a kind of new breed of webcam — ones that attempt to be an all-in-one solution for video calls. Anker's newest external webcam, the AnkerWork B600 Video Bar, might be the best example of this. It packs a 1440p (a.k.a. 2K) webcam, built-in speakers and microphones and the kicker is that it also has a built-in light to glam you up. Of course, this all-in-one package comes at the cost of a fairly sizable chunk of change: $220.
I've been using the AnkerWork B600 Video Bar for the last several weeks — as a replacement for the webcam, the Logitech C920S HD Pro ($70), that I bought last year when webcams started to become available again — and I have to say that it works well. The image quality is much better than my 2016 MacBook's webcam. The speakers are pretty decent, although the built-in mics leave a little bit desired, admittedly (it doesn't do the best job at filtering out background noise). And the glow light...well, it works.
Now, the AnkerWork B600 Video Bar is far from the first webcam to try to solve multiple workstation problems, but very few try to solve all of them. The Logitech 4K Pro Webcam ($160) and the Dell UltraSharp webcam ($200), for example, are two high-end options with fantastic high-resolution camera and built-in mics, but both lack speakers and a glow light.
The biggest caveat to the AnkerWork B600 Video Bar is, obviously, price. At over $200, it's an expensive webcam (even compared to higher-resolution webcams) because all those integrated components add up. And it actually poses a pretty interesting question for consumers: do you really need an all-in-one webcam?
For someone like me, who has spent has been building out their work-from-home setup for the last near-on two years — I have a Blue Snowball mic ($40), Logitech webcam (mentioned above), and bookshelf speaker system powered by an Audioengine N22 amp ($199) — the answer is: probably not.
In fact, I found that having an all-in-one webcam on top of my other desktop gear a little bit annoying. I use various different video conferencing platforms — Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and several others — and too often would I realize that my speakers or external mic (which are better than those integrated in the webcam) were getting monopolized by the AnkerWork B600 Video Bar. I wanted to use it as webcam, and that's it. It wasn't difficult switching back to my defeat speakers and mic — but, again, I found it a little bit tedious.
Obviously, an all-in-one webcam like the AnkerWork B600 Video Bar is a good and easy (and yes, pricey) solution for people who want to improve most aspects of their workstation in one fell swoop. It just so happens that, given a lot of people have been working from home for a while now and likely already have an external gadgets that up their video conference game, it might not be right for you.