HP 960 4K Streaming Webcam review: Software messes with a perfectly good webcam

It's almost perfect!

HP 960 4K
(Image: © Future)

iMore Verdict

It might be expensive, but the HP 960 4K Streaming Webcam is a truly stellar webcam that exceeds in almost every area, from picture quality to its sleek, modern design.

Pros

  • +

    Crisp 4K video quality

  • +

    Good built-in microphone performance

  • +

    Excellent build quality

Cons

  • -

    Undeniably expensive even for a 4K webcam

  • -

    Software situation is currently frustrating

  • -

    USB-A cable means you might need a USB hub

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Straight out of the box, the HP 960 4K Streaming Webcam looks and feels like a winner. With a brushed metal finish and tube-shaped chassis, it offers excellent 4K picture quality and surprisingly good integrated microphone performance, making it a solid choice for streamers and professionals who don’t want to invest in a full desktop mic setup.

However, I would stop just short of saying it’s the best webcam I’ve ever reviewed. Why? Well, I’m about to get to that…

HP 960 4K: Price and availability

HP 960 4K

(Image credit: Future)

I’ll be blunt here: this is one expensive webcam. At $219.99/£180, it’s fairly pricey even for a 4K cam - Logitech and Anker are both respectable brands with cheaper 4K offerings, although you could easily spend more if you pick a premium brand like Razer. It’s currently available to purchase at HP’s own online store, as well as Amazon and other major retailers.

If money is no object for you, the HP 960 4K is an easy recommendation. The video quality and physical design are excellent. But if you’re just looking for a high-res webcam so you look good in Zoom calls, you might get more bang for your buck elsewhere. Mind you, at the time of writing the HP 960 4K is on sale both in the US and the UK, and at a lower price this package becomes far more attractive.

HP 960 4K: Ease of use

HP 960 4K

(Image credit: Future)

While the HP 960 4K does feature the plug-and-play accessibility that I typically like to see in peripherals like webcams and microphones, it’s always worth setting up the proprietary companion software to see what settings you can fiddle with.

Once upon a time, this was the HP Accessory Center: a fantastic piece of software with a nice, easy-to-navigate interface and a selection of useful settings. However, HP has recently decided that if it ain’t broke, they should fix it; HPAC no longer supports webcams, and instead HP now offers its new Poly Lens software.

I’m going to be honest with you, reader (and you, HP) - Poly Lens is kind of… bad. Not only is its business-focused interface less approachable than HPAC’s, but it actually lacks some of the features that were previously available - the Auto Frame feature that HPAC already offered is listed as ‘Coming Soon’ in the Poly Lens app, and the Auto Scene Setting option is nowhere to be found. Poly Lens does have a few unique features, like periodically reminding you to stay hydrated - but that’s not going to score it any points in a webcam review. It’s frustrating that HP had a perfectly functional supporting tool for what is otherwise a very good webcam, but decided to ditch it after buying Poly (which was formerly an independent video communication company).

Now, the app will presumably (hopefully!) be improved in the future, but at the time of writing, it’s unimpressive. If you don’t care about adjusting your webcam settings and just want something that will work straight out of the box, then I’d advise you simply give Poly Lens a miss. The HP 960 4K works perfectly well - albeit minus the HDR mode - without any software whatsoever.

HP 960 4K: Build

HP 960 4K

(Image credit: Future)

Build quality is arguably the best feature of this webcam. It just feels premium, with robust hinges on its adjustable mount and a generally very sturdy finish despite its somewhat unique and stylish design.

The included USB-C to USB-A cable is adequately long at 1.5m, making connecting it to a separate desktop easy - though bear in mind that you’ll need an adapter or a USB hub if you’re using a newer Mac device without USB-A ports. There’s also a camera cover, which snaps magnetically to the front of the barrel-like chassis to cover the webcam when you want some privacy.

HP 960 4K: Features

HP 960 4K

(Image credit: Future)

The two-point mount of the HP 960 4K Streaming Webcam makes it easy to connect to the top of any display, whether it’s a standalone monitor or an upgrade to your laptop webcam. The ‘lip’ takes up minimal space over your display, unlike some webcams I’ve reviewed where the mount takes an annoying rectangular chunk out of your screen real estate.

If you’re a bit more particular about how your webcam is set up, there’s also a standard quarter-inch UNC thread for attaching it to most conventional camera mounts, like various tripods. The camera is highly adjustable, with 360-degree rotation and up to 90-degree tilt. It sits quite firmly in place while mounted atop a monitor, so I was able to adjust it by hand easily - although once HP sorts out Poly Lens, the AI-powered Auto Frame feature will do that for you.

In terms of the actual camera feed itself, the quality is fantastic and I was very impressed with how sharp the image was during live videos, with either 4K at 30fps or 1080p at 60fps modes. The low-light performance is solid (though perhaps not the very best I’ve seen) and the autofocus works well. The FOV can only be set between three fixed positions and might be a little narrow for some users, but I doubt it’ll be a concern for the majority of potential buyers. The integrated dual-array microphone is also very good, though not better than a standalone desktop or boom mic.

There’s a digital zoom feature available in the Poly Lens app, which is a virtually mandatory inclusion for all but the most budget webcams, and it works pretty well given the camera’s initial high resolution. I could make out individual beard hairs on my face with the digital zoom at maximum.

While I’m not going to give the actual product any extra points for this, it’s worth mentioning that HP is adopting a ‘thoughtful packaging’ approach with products like the HP 960 4K. That means no plastic - fully recyclable packaging that won’t end up in a landfill. It doesn’t make the webcam any better, but it’s still good to see.

HP 960 4K: Competition

HP 960 4K

(Image credit: Future)

 
At this price point, the most immediate competitor to HP’s premium webcam is the Razer Kiyo Pro, which costs $200/£200. However, that lacks a Mac-compatible companion app, so a more reasonable comparison might be Logitech’s $200/£240 Brio 4K Pro, which offers similarly excellent 4K performance and also packs a superior software suite that is macOS-supported. 

HP 960 4K: Verdict

You should buy it if…

 

  • You want great video quality
  • You like an easy setup
  • You don’t care about software

You shouldn’t buy it if…


  • You’re on a budget
  • You want a great companion app
  • You want a USB-C webcam

HP 960 4K: Verdict

At the end of the day, this is a premium webcam for people who take their streaming (or their Zoom calls) seriously. It’s a bit strange that HP appears to have positioned the 960 as a powerful video conferencing camera, since its name - and the promotional images on the HP website - put it more as a device for streamers and artists.

Despite this case of confused identity, though, the HP 960 4K Streaming Webcam is still a stellar product. If HP can iron out the kinks with the new Poly Lens desktop app, it could prove to be one of the best options out there for both office professionals and content creators.

Christian Guyton
Contributor

Christian is TechRadar’s UK-based Computing Editor. He came to us from Maximum PC magazine, where he fell in love with computer hardware and building PCs. He was a regular fixture amongst our freelance review team before making the jump to TechRadar, and can usually be found drooling over the latest high-end graphics card or gaming laptop before looking at his bank account balance and crying.


Christian is a keen campaigner for LGBTQ+ rights and the owner of a charming rescue dog named Lucy, having adopted her after he beat cancer in 2021. She keeps him fit and healthy through a combination of face-licking and long walks, and only occasionally barks at him to demand treats when he’s trying to work from home.