Overall, the Jabra PanaCast 20 provides a crisp, clean image in well-lit areas. In lower-lit places, there is increased digital noise in the image. The design of the device is great. It's compact and has a fantastic traveling case. While the camera and app are not difficult to use, the fact that the app has to be enabled for the special features to be enabled or customized means the Ease of Use rating suffers. The price is high in comparison to other 4K webcams.
- EASE OF USE
- APP INTEGRATION
- PICTURE QUALITY
PanaCast 20 provides a high-quality image for video conferencing, but the companion utility app needs improvements.
Since September 2020, I’ve been working 100% from home and I have no less than three video meetings per week. Even though I don’t always have video conferences scheduled, I have to be ready to have them at a moment’s notice. So, I need a reliable camera that not only provides a clear, high-quality picture but also has to work seamlessly with a variety of video conferencing programs. The Jabra Panacast 20 is a great option for this very purpose.
The Jabra Panacast series of conference cameras actually has three models – the PanaCast, the PanaCast 50, and the PanaCast 20. The PanaCast 20 is designed for personal use while the other two models are designed for flexible use and meeting rooms respectively. All three of the cameras feature Panoramic-4K resolution (3840 x 1080 at 30fps).
The PanaCast 20 has 1 x 13 MP camera (the other two models each have 3 x 13 MP cameras) and a 90º horizontal field of view (the other two models feature a 180º field of view). A 1.5m USB-C to USB-A cable is included and the PanaCast 20 does not have speakers built-in. It does, however, come with 3 built-in microphones.
PanaCast 20 Main Features
- AI-powered 4K Ultra-HD video provides a crystal-clear image with virtually no latency.
- The Intelligent Zoom feature uses powerful AI to continuously scan and adjust your picture in real-time, ensuring you’re always in the center of the frame.
- Intelligent Lighting Optimization analyzes your environment and automatically adjusts your image in real-time to enhance the video quality.
- Intuitive Picture-in-Picture mode enables you to share a close-up as your main image while continuing to present in a smaller window, thanks to onboard Edge processing that combines two real-time video streams into one.
- On-device processing with an Edge AI chipset drives all of the intelligent features, as well as processing your video on the device itself to reduce the risk of data breaches.
- Integrated privacy cover gives you total control. Simply slide the privacy cover across your camera lens when you need privacy, and slide it back again when you’re ready to turn your video on.
- Optimized for all leading UC platforms including Microsoft Teams and Zoom to ensure a seamless experience.
The Jabra PanaCast 20 is compatible with Windows 10 or later and macOS 10.15 or later and does not require extra drivers.
I had the opportunity to test out the original PanaCast camera not long after I started working from home. I found it to be a great piece of hardware, but for my uses, it was a little too much. It is designed more for conference room set-ups and it got really warm after any type of use. So, I eventually moved back to the Logitech HD Pro C920 Webcam. It’s a simple, but reliable camera.
When Jabra released the PanaCast 20, which is the first camera from the company that is purely designed for consumer use and not business, I thought I would give it another try. There are some wonderfully designed elements to this camera. First of all, it has a semi-hardshell travel case that is meant for the camera and its connector cable. There is a mesh pouch where the user guide or other adapters can be stored, too.
Second, the camera has a physical security shield built into the camera. This is a great feature for consumer-grade cameras since many people – like me – are working from home and everything is not meant for business eyes. The switch for the camera is on the front of the camera and it’s easily accessible even when the camera is mounted to a monitor.
The camera has a hearty chassis. Its body feels as though it’s mostly metal and can withstand bumps and even some falls. The only downside to this harder shell is that it can cause damage, too. I accidentally knocked it off my monitor during setup and it fell to my desktop – leaving a notch/dent where it landed.
The PanaCast 20 does have a small mount arm that folds down from its body. This arm has a 90-degree folding angle and that’s it. It doesn’t rotate farther so it doesn’t accommodate thicker monitors well. You do, however, have the option to secure the camera with a tripod.
The PanaCast 20 can be used without any additional software. When you plug it into your system, your computer [a MacBook Air (2020, M1) running macOS 12.4 (Monterey) in my case] will automatically recognize it as an external camera. Even though you can operate the PanaCast 20 without the Jabra Direct software, you don’t get to utilize the bulk of the features that make the PanaCast special if you aren’t running the app.
According to the user manual, the following features can only be accessed or controlled through Jabra Direct.
- Firmware updates can only be made through the Jabra Direct portal.
- Intelligent Zoom is enabled by default and can only be disabled with Jabra Direct.
- Vivid HDR is disabled by default and can only be enabled by Jabra Direct.
- The Picture-in-Picture Main view can be adjusted to focus on an area of interest using the Jabra Direct camera controller.
- Video Adjustments can only be made through the app. The image quality settings and camera adjustments are temporary and will automatically reset to the default values when the connected computer is unplugged from the camera.
- The microphone is turned off by default but can be turned on or off by the Jabra Direct app.
I’ve used the PanaCast 20 with Zoom and Microsoft Teams and my fiancé has used it with FaceTime. In my experience, the camera does a good job of finding the subject (a.k.a my face), but when it first turns on, there is a moment or two where the zoom has to identify the elements in the room before it focuses on the main subject. Once it does, the image is very clear and well-defined. I asked a couple of my colleagues over Zoom what they thought of the picture and they said it looked very good.
When my fiancé used the camera with FaceTime, his friend said that the picture was pristine. There was a small issue with cropping though. My fiancé was on his MacBook Pro and his friend was on an iPhone. When his friend would turn the iPhone to landscape mode, my fiancé’s head would get cut off, but when it was it was in portrait mode, the cropping was fine.
My office space is well-lit so I didn’t have any issues with picture clarity as far as lighting goes. We did notice at night in my fiancé’s office that the background would fall off and become a little grainy. I haven’t ever noticed noise like that with my Logitech C920 or even with the iPhone’s front-facing camera.
I did have an issue with the Intelligent Zoom feature. My dog likes to hang out in my office and when I started a meeting the camera caught the movement of him walking into the room and decided to try to include him in the shot. Since I was attempting to use the camera without the Jabra Direct software, I didn’t have a way to stop the Intelligent Zoom.
One of the reasons I was trying to avoid using the Jabra Direct app was because I noticed from previous tests with the original PanaCast camera that the app was resource-intensive. As a test, I downloaded the Jabra Direct app to my current computer with Activity Monitor open and I watched to see how many processes were active because of the app. Right after I finished the installation process, there were four active processes that were using a total of 42% of the CPU processes.
I exited the menu bar utility and reopened the app. With the app actually open, there were 8 processes active. They were connected to a device at the time so the CPU use was low, but the sheer amount of processes was what surprised me. I think the most I saw was 9 processes. I used the TrashMe 3 utility to remove the files when I was done testing it. There were a total of 268.8 MB of files that I was able to remove.
So, even though the camera doesn’t require extra drivers to operate, the Jabra Direct app is really essential for the camera’s effective operation in most cases. One of the other things to be aware of with the PanaCast cameras is that they heat up. They don’t overheat, but they do warm-up. This passage was taken from the PanaCast 20’s user manual about the warm-up issue.
“The camera may become warm to the touch when connected to power. Due to the multiple processors, it is normal for the camera to operate at an elevated temperature. This elevated temperature is completely within safety operating requirements and has no bearing on the lifespan of the camera.”
While I really like the hardware part of the Jabra PanaCast 20, I think the software side of the package needs some work. The Jabra Direct app works and has a lot of handy features incorporated, but I always found it cumbersome to have to switch between the Jabra Direct app and the conferencing app I was using just to make adjustments to the camera.
I had to make frequent adjustments to the camera because it didn’t retain the settings I made when the camera was unplugged. I unplug the camera at the end of every workday because my laptop is connected to a dock. For my personal set-up, the Jabra PanaCast 20 is just not a good match.
The PanaCast 20 is extremely portable and the set-up is simple. The camera has some great features, but since you have to enable a secondary piece of software to use those features to their full ability, that becomes a negative in my mind. At this point in time, the PanaCast 20 is available for $329 on Amazon.
This is a huge jump in price from its consumer-grade competitors such as the Logitech Brio ($199 MSRP). There are also a lot of high-quality 1080p HD webcams that could compete with the PanaCast given the low-light noise we saw.
Depending on your setup, the PanaCast 20 could be a very strong option for your video conferencing needs.