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Jabra PanaCast 20 review: A smart 4K webcam with superb image quality

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
235
inc VAT

The Jabra PanaCast 20 packs excellent video quality and some clever AI tricks into a smart, slimline package

Pros 
Great image quality
Premium metal construction
Granular image control settings
Cons 
Mediocre microphones
Facial tracking isn’t flawless
Expensive
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With the rise of hybrid working, we’ve seen meetings move, increasingly, from the head office to the home office and the trend has continued, even as workers have returned to the office. Keen to cater to this new remote working dynamic, Jabra has expanded its line of PanaCast conferencing cameras to include an all-new personal webcam, the PanaCast 20.

Plug and play for both Windows and Apple devices, the PanaCast 20 packs 4K video support, a trio of microphones and a physical privacy cover into a slick, compact design. Through the Jabra Direct app it’s even able to offer an intelligent zoom to keep you perfectly centred throughout your call and a picture-in-picture mode for close-up demos.

This tech doesn’t come cheap, however, and at £235 Jabra is going to have to pull out all the stops to prove it’s a worthwhile investment for your home office.

Jabra PanaCast 20 webcam review: What do you get for your money?

The Jabra PanaCast 20 retails for £235 and ships with a custom-moulded carrying case and a 1.5m USB-C to Type-A cable.

The camera itself is built around a 13MP 1/3.2in sensor paired with a wide-angle 90-degree field of view lens and an aperture of f/2.25. Video streaming is supported at up to 4K and the framerate tops out at 30fps in all resolutions. For audio, the PanaCast 20 offers a trio of mics, two on either side of the lens and a third built into the top plate.

Breaking from the plastic norm, the PanaCast 20 has a fully metallic body and a slimline, soap-bar form factor. A rubber-edged fold-out monitor stand is built into the base, a standard 1/4in thread allows the camera to be mounted on tripods and other desktop stands, while a vertically oriented USB-C port sits towards the rear. There’s also a small ridged slider across the camera’s face that engages a physical privacy cover.

Plug and play connectivity is supported for both Windows and MacOS but the camera needs to be paired with the Jabra Direct software to unlock its full feature set. This comprises the aforementioned intelligent zoom and picture-in-picture modes, lets you toggle HDR on and off and manually tweak the settings for brightness, saturation, contrast, white balance and sharpening.

Jabra PanaCast 20 webcam review: What do we like?

The PanaCast 20’s design is a standout feature. In a market where even the most expensive of webcams come with delicate, plastic frames, the PanaCast 20’s all-metal shell is a cut above. It feels solid in the hand and robust enough to handle life on the road.

When it comes to video quality the PanaCast 20 is top-notch. Colours and contrast look true to life and the 4K image packs plenty of detail. The webcam’s automatic settings do a commendable job of judging the correct exposure and white balance, even under trickier lighting situations, and Jabra Direct’s granular setting controls are available for fine-tuning.

Given that platforms like Skype and Zoom only support Full HD video, the necessity of a 4K webcam is debatable. The PanaCast 20 does, however, put that extra resolution to good use with a couple of neat AI tricks.

Its intelligent zoom feature crops in automatically to keep your face centred in the frame and can also follow you as you move. Both features work well and that extra resolution means the image doesn’t soften too much by cropping in.

The same holds true for the picture-in-picture mode, which lets you show both your face and a zoomed-in close-up in the same shot. Having a 4K video stream to play with allows the PanaCast 20 to zoom in up to 3x before the quality drops below 720p.

Jabra PanaCast 20 webcam review: How could it be better?

While the PanaCast’s intelligent zoom is a neat feature, it can be jerky at times. There’s often a noticeable pause before the tracking kicks in and so with more rapid repositioning, it can sometimes look a little unnatural. Coming from recently testing the Obsbot Tiny 4K, which uses mechanical tracking rather than digital cropping, the PanaCast’s movements are nowhere near as fluid.

Despite packing a trio of microphones, audio quality is mediocre, which is disappointing considering how good the image quality is. Overall the audio sounds woolly and compressed. Jabra is perhaps hoping that users will pair the camera with its Speak 750 rather than rely solely on the in-built mics but that’s another hefty investment.

Then, of course, there’s the price tag. While it’s certainly cheaper than Jabra’s business-focused PanaCast and PanaCast 50 cameras, which will set you back £480 and a cool £945 respectively, at £235 it’s still one of the most expensive webcams we’ve looked at. You can regularly find the Logitech Brio 4K for under £150, while the Dell Ultrasharp 4K, which comes with similar facial tracking smarts will set you back around £180 – although it will need pairing with an external microphone as it doesn’t have one built in. Alternatively, if you can live without 4K, the Full HD Anker PowerConf C300, again with facial tracking abilities, can usually be picked up for around £100.

Jabra PanaCast 20 webcam review: Should you buy it?

The Jabra PanaCast 20 is a smart, professional webcam, well suited to the home office and the hybrid commute. Its true-to-life 4K image ranks comfortably among the best I’ve tested, and its all-metal construction really sets it apart.

Jabra’s companion software adds plenty of granular control over your image, and while the picture-in-picture and intelligent zoom functions can sometimes be caught out by more rapid movements, they still add plenty of value.

The only real drawbacks are the microphones, which aren’t particularly special and the high asking price. If you need a premium quality 4K cam for work that looks the business and is tough enough to commute with, then the Jabra PanaCast 20 ticks a lot of boxes. More casual users, however, will find better value elsewhere.

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