Razer Kiyo Pro review: Good for HDR, not so great for 4K

Quick verdict: For a moderate price the Razer Kiyo Pro delivers a great upgrade to your ordinary laptop webcam, although it's better suited to PC users than Mac users.

Pros

  • Great video quality
  • HDR adds detail where other cameras struggle
  • Focus and lighting adjustments are sharp and quick
Cons

  • No 4K support
  • Mac support is sketchy
  • Connection cable is short

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Razer Kiyo Pro

Razer's best known for its gaming gear, but these days, having a camera is all part of the gaming scene. Its second generation Razer Kiyo Pro webcam omits the ring light found in the first generation model, but works well even in lower light situations, whether you're delivering a high energy gaming stream or simply want to look a little sharper on your next work Zoom call.


Design: Is this a webcam, or is it a DSLR lens?

Razer Kiyo Pro review

Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Usually when I unpack a Razer product, I can tell it's Razer in 2 simple ways. Razer's green snake logo will blare out at me from somewhere, and it's most likely going to be from some level of RGB lighting, as befits Razer's strong gaming focus. If I'm not being bathed in green reptilian light, is it really a Razer product at all?

In this case, yes.

The Razer Kiyo Pro doesn't immediately feel like it belongs in the Razer world because it has neither snake logo nor RGB lighting. Honestly, I had to squint to even make out the Razer brand name, etched beneath the camera lens on what looks remarkably like a 50mm DSLR lens, sans camera.

The first generation of the Razer Kiyo Pro used its circular shape to incorporate a ring light, the idea being that you'd get a better and smoother face shape with included lighting. That's no longer part of the kit, so what you're faced with instead is a somewhat HAL-like eye staring at you from atop your monitor or laptop screen.

Another factor that does sell the Razer Kiyo Pro is the build quality. It's a solid chunk of webcam with a gorilla glass front. If you do need to travel with your webcam, the Kiyo Pro should be able to manage that without issue. The clip stand folds out to form its own very solid stand if you wanted to use it standalone, but there's also support for a standard tripod screw if you needed to mount it in place.

Razer Kiyo Pro review

Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

The Razer Kiyo Pro isn't light, and that does invite a design issue if you're a laptop user. The mount forms a folding hanger for placing over a screen. However, on a thinner laptop screen, and especially if you needed to use it while mobile, its weight can cause it to tip over backwards. My low-tech solution for this involved a dab of Blu Tack to make it behave, but that won't work on laptops with very thin bezels.

That build quality extends to the USB-C cable it uses for connectivity, which has a nice durable braided thread cover. My criticism here is that the USB-C cable could be a little longer. Mounting the Razer Kiyo Pro onto a monitor and hooking it up to a desktop PC on the floor stretched it to capacity. Sure, I could move my PC, but I don't want to do that, Razer.


Performance: Good for lower light situations, but be ready to tweak

Razer Kiyo Pro review

Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

The original Kiyo Pro with the included ring light topped out at 720p 60fps, but the newer model can handle up to 1080p 60fps, which is a nice enough upgrade, although still well behind models such as the 4K-capable Jabra PanaCast 20. Then again, you can almost certainly score a Razer Kiyo Pro for less than half the price of the Jabra, so you've got to weigh up exactly what it is you need from a webcam.

Razer's contention is that the larger pixel sensors on the Kiyo Pro make up for the lack of 4K, because they allow you to do a whole lot more without needing additional lighting in place. If you're looking at it as a pro gaming streaming camera, some friendly and flattering lights would only help, for sure. I didn't have a 4K-compliant webcam to do a comparison against, but I was able to test out how well the Kiyo Pro could handle some less-than-optimal lighting situations.

Typically, it does so very well even with a stock configuration. On video calls across Zoom and Microsoft Teams, respondents noted that they could grab more detail of both my face and my surroundings, although that's not always going to be a plus if you have a messy home office. Not that I do. Ahem.

Razer Kiyo Pro review

Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

My podcast, Vertical Hold is audio only, but we use video for interviews as it's a better way to engage our subjects, and the difference there was again noted from my regular old laptop webcam.

If you just want a set-and-forget option, the Kiyo Pro will deliver that fairly easily from its default settings, but you'd only be scratching at the surface of what it can do. Like so much Razer gear, it relies on Razer's Synapse software for configuration, allowing you to fine-tune settings like HDR, camera angles and default focus style.

Synapse is Windows only, and you'll need to at least run it once if you want its extra features to kick in. It's worth fine-tuning to make the most of the Kiyo Pro, because this is absolutely a tweaker's camera if you want the most out of it.

A minor annoyance here is that Synapse takes over the camera while you're changing settings. That makes sense because you're going to want to see how your fine-tuning applies in real time. However, it also means that any other camera app will instantly lose access to the camera while you're doing so. There's no way to adjust its settings without dropping camera access from other apps.

I tend to work on a MacBook, and Synapse doesn't exist for that platform, although you can bypass some of that with the purchase of the Webcam Settings app if you do need to work cross-platform. It's a pity, really, because outside of the M1 iMac, Apple's webcams are generally just lousy. Get on it, Razer.

The Kiyo Pro offers 3 default angle choices: from narrow for that classic head and shoulders look, to medium if I want to show off my office, up to wide if there's a group of you on the call. The wide angle does rather predictably have a slight fish-eye effect in play, but it's nice at least to be able to pick and choose depending on your needs.

HDR is a big part of the Kiyo Pro's selling proposition, and it can do some remarkable work improving images. From my home office, there's a gap in the curtains that blows out to near sheer white with other webcams, but the Kiyo Pro on HDR manages to keep everything balanced and pick up parts of my backyard along the way. The price you pay there is in frame rate, because HDR drops you down to just 30fps from the much smoother 60fps range.

The Razer Kiyo Pro also incorporates its own stereo microphones, which gives it an edge if you don't want to use an external mic. You're naturally a little stuck with where it sits relative to your head, and it does pick up a fair degree of ambient noise. Still, it's way better than the microphones you'll find in most laptops if you've been making do in the middle of a pandemic.


Should you buy the Razer Kiyo Pro?

Razer Kiyo Pro review

Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

  • Buy it if you're happy to tweak settings on a Windows PC and favour HDR over 4K.
  • Don't buy it if you need 4K or work on a Mac.

In a whole host of ways, the Razer Kiyo Pro sells best to Razer's core constituency of gamers. Gamers already au fait with Razer's brand are exactly the market that will take to tweaking, fine-tuning and then tweaking settings again in any aspect of their gaming life, whether that's squeezing out a few more FPS in a game, or in this case getting the visuals exactly right.

It does feel like a pity that Razer hasn't yet gotten on board with 4K, and without a little tweaking you're not going to get the best out of the Razer Kiyo Pro, even if you're not a gamer. If you're thinking of it from a business perspective, you'd have to bear in mind that this will involve setting up Razer Synapse at least once to enable features like HDR, although it's a very capable webcam that's a step up from the usual grimy 720p models found in most laptops.


Pricing and availability

Razer Kiyo Pro

How we tested

I tested the Razer Kiyo Pro over a 2-week period using a variety of video conferencing and recording platforms, including Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Zencastr. I purchased the model used for review, which is why I'm so au fait with its pricing structure.

I have more than 2 decades of tech product reviewing under my belt and am a multi-time Australian IT Journo award winner, including awards for best reviewer and best technical journalist.


Specifications

Camera

Max Video Resolution
1080p @ 60/30/24FPS / 720p @ 60FPS / 480p @ 30FPS / 360p @ 30FPS
Image Resolution
2.1 Megapixels
Still Image Resolution
1920 x 1080
Lens
F2.0 with corning Gorilla Glass 3
Sensor
IMX327 with Sony STARVIS technology
Connectivity
USB 3.0
Software
Razer Synapse
Color
Black
Cable
1.5 meters braided cable
Case Dimensions
2.71

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