We’re seeing a lot of companies with gaming accessory product lines branch out into new categories this year. For instance, just this week SteelSeries announced its Alias and Alias Pro microphones plus mixer designed specifically for streamers Wednesday, a natural extension of its headset tk. And today HyperX did much the same — it announced the HyperX Caster mic and Audio Mixer Interface, which won’t be available until next year — and the HyperX Vision S, a $200 4K Webcam intended for streamers, along the lines of the Elgato Facecam Pro and Razer Kiyo Pro Ultra.
HyperX hasn’t traditionally done webcams, but its owner HP does; that’s why its HyperX Armada monitor made a certain kind of sense when it launched last year as well. And in fact, the Vision S is eerily similar to the HP 960, with the same barrel design, mount and awkward lens cover — it’s slippery and the magnet doesn’t exert enough pull to make it decisively snap into place.
HyperX Vision S
Although $200 isn’t cheap for a webcam, it is when the better models are $300. Like the HP, it does 4K at 30fps or 1080p at 60fps and a selection of resolutions below that (Ino 1440p), but oddly is a lot less flexible. That’s partly the software, HyperX’s Ngenuity utility, which doesn’t offer much in the way of setting: just the basics for auto and manual focus, auto and manual-ish exposure, auto and manual white balance, and sliders for global brightness, contrast, saturation and sharpness. Plus “optimize” checkboxes for low light, backlight and antiflicker.
There’s no way in the app to frame yourself — in other words, zoom — much less save particular groups of settings, for example. It looks like it’s a front end for Windows’ properties, and doesn’t let you change a lot of the driver settings (which is okay, since those are rather blunt tools).
And the features that are there don’t always work very well. The autofocus pulses (at best), but at worst completely loses focus and you have to force it off and on to reengage it. You’re better off sticking with manual, even if you go out of focus briefly when you move.
The autoexposure meters off the entire room rather than your face or your immediate area, so your face may be too bright or too dark depending upon your lighting and what’s behind you. That’s why it needs the backlight option; and all that does is bump up the gain in shadows, which is noisy. The low light doesn’t seem to do much either.
The auto white balance works pretty well, which is good, because like most webcams it’s nearly impossible to manually adjust it given the simple cold to warm (bluer to yellower) slider. Cold to warm really only works to tweak the overall tone (for any camera), not correct for poor color.
All of these are fixable with software updates, unless there’s something really off with the hardware. But despite being compatible with Macs, there’s no version of the app for them as far as I can tell, which means some changes may not trickle down.
In general, the video image looks okay in both 4K and 1080p, though you can tell it’s doing some signal processing; at one point my face looked like it had done too much noise reduction — it was oddly smooth — while everything behind me was sharp. In extreme circumstances. The video looks a little more high contrast than I expected, so I lowered it a bit in the app. It also handles distortion pretty well, but it has a maximum field of view of 90 degrees which doesn’t create much of it.
Because of my layout, the when I turned on a light behind me to test the backlight, the flat plastic piece at the end of the optical path which protects the camera reflected directly back at my shirt. The video then had a magenta patch on my torso right where the reflection vector put it. That’s not a major problem unless you can’t tweak your setup so that no light directly hits the front of the camera, but it’s also the first time I encountered the phenomenon with a webcam.
There’s no mic in the camera, but that’s pretty typical for streaming-focused models; most people who use them have independent, better quality mics or headsets. It does require a USB 3.x connection or you won’t get 4K, and it ships with a really nice cable with a red and black braided sleeve. But I wish the software would notify you if you’re connected to a USB 2.x port. Every other model that I’ve tested which has this constraint tells you when you’re connected to a port that’s suboptimal.
You can a lot more control and better quality if you shell out for the pricier models, but if you have simple needs and have eyes that don’t nitpick image quality for a hobby, it makes sense to save money and buy the less expensive HyperX Vision S. It gets the job done.