How to Optimize Your Webcam's Performance: Troubleshooting Tips
By: Tobin Carlberg & Derek Wells I August 1, 2022
Webcams send and receive a significant amount of data while in use, and any disruption of that process can cause issues with the camera’s performance. If your webcam has issues like poor video quality, slowdowns, crashing, or no video at all, these may be due to your settings (such as resolution and fps) or the limitations of the USB port the webcam is plugged into.
Here are a few things you can try to fix when your webcam is experiencing performance issues.
1. Unplug some other USB devices.
Each USB port has a limited amount of bandwidth, which is the amount of data it can transfer in a certain amount of time. The port also has to provide current to power the device, and complex devices such as webcams are often designed to draw as much current as possible from the port they’re connected to. Therefore, it’s important to consider this when troubleshooting any USB device.
Your computer’s motherboard may not have the bandwidth necessary to fully power multiple USB devices at once. To determine if this is the issue, unplug all other USB devices you currently have plugged in, leaving only the webcam. If the webcam’s performance improves, this means that another device is drawing too much power. You can begin adding other devices back until you notice a problem, then remove the last one you added to bring the system back to stability.
2. Plug the webcam directly into your computer’s USB port.
If you have multiple devices connected to a USB hub, each device is competing for the limited bandwidth of the USB port the hub is connected to. As such, plugging your webcam straight into your computer will ensure that it’s able to use as much of the port’s bandwidth as it needs.
3. Ensure your webcam is plugged into the correct type of USB port.
USB 3.0 (blue inside the port) is much faster than USB 2.0 (black inside), so if your webcam comes with a USB 3.0 cable you should plug it into a USB 3.0 port. USB 3.0 is 10 times faster than a USB 2.0, offering transfer rates of up to 4.8 Gbps. Many 4K webcams, for example, require a USB 3.0 cable to display 4K video without major latency.
On the other hand, most 1080p webcams are fully functional when connected to a USB 1.0 or 2.0 port. This includes all NexiGo 1080p webcams. So depending on which ports you have available, selecting the one that is most appropriate for your webcam needs will allow you to get the best quality possible and will limit the possibility of issues.
4. Use a shorter USB cable.
Sadly, USB cables are not perfect. And while inconvenient, they are subject to the same limitations as any piece of tech out there. As such, the longer a cable is, the greater chance it has to lose signal. This is a significant factor to consider if you have long cable runs and you are experiencing troubles with your webcam.
A cable longer than six feet simply may not provide enough bandwidth to properly run your webcam, or it may provide too many opportunities for data loss to occur. If your webcam has a removable cable, try using a shorter one. And if you’re using a USB extension, make sure it’s an active repeater cable. While more expensive, these cables have built-in hardware that allows for signals to travel much greater distances, though there is still a limit to their effectiveness.
5. Lower the resolution.
4K is actually four times as many pixels as 2K, and likewise, 2K is four times as many pixels as 1080p. This means a dramatic increase in bandwidth requirements when moving from one step to the next, which may be more than your computer can support. Changing the webcam’s settings to run at a lower resolution (using video recording software like OBS or the NexiGo settings app) can help with that if this is an issue.
It’s important to note that running your webcam at higher resolutions is mostly beneficial for recording. Video calling apps like Zoom and Teams cap their resolution (at 1080p and 720p respectively) and most other streaming platforms do not currently recommend resolutions above 1080p at 60fps, even if they support 4K. Therefore, you won’t necessarily need the higher resolutions if you’re just using your webcam for basic video calls.
6. Reduce the FPS.
One potential video quality issue that many people will unknowingly have is less than optimal frame rate settings. Most computers and modern electronics work at either 30 or 60 frames per second (fps). Higher fps means that movement will be much smoother, but it also means that your hardware will have to work harder to display those extra frames.
For those who care more about high-resolution video than smooth motion, you can reduce the webcam’s frame rate from 60fps to 30fps. Since this halves the number of frames the webcam is trying to send out, it requires much less bandwidth and should resolve any lag issues caused by the higher fps setting. 30fps is the rate of most TV programs and faster than film (which traditionally uses 24fps), so it looks very natural and you are unlikely to see differences in most use cases.
Get the most out of your webcam
After troubleshooting with a few of these steps, your device should be running faster and looking better than ever. However, if it’s still having problems, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to help you solve them.
For more tech tips about webcams and how to improve your everyday life with technology, check the NexiGo blog every Monday!