“The Insta360 Link offers truly excellent image quality, along with a brilliant AI-powered gimbal.”
Fantastic image quality
Excellent low light performance
Accurate AI subject tracking
Excellent companion software
Gets very hot after prolonged use
Gesture control could be improved and expanded
After the past few years, it’s safe to say that most people have been exposed to the inherent horrors of the average webcam. Even those found in expensive high-end laptops tend to be functional at best. Even upgrading to a separate dedicated webcam only really gives you a marginal improvement.
Insta360, the company known for its wearable action cameras and VR cameras, has officially entered the world of webcams to come up with a solution. The Insta360 link is much more than just a 4K webcam. It’s pricey no doubt, but for those looking for the ultimate webcam setup, this little camera’s exceptional image quality and innovative gimbal mount might be what you’ve always been waiting for.
Table of Contents
The Insta360 Link is a very compact device, with a form factor no different than many other external webcams. Its design is strikingly similar to all-in-one gimbal camera systems that have gained niche popularity for their ability to capture smooth cinematic footage.
The camera and gimbal sit on a rectangular base that features a USB-C port, touch panel, standard camera screw mount, and padded clip mounting system.
This mounting system is remarkable because it allows the Link to be easily attached to the top of almost any screen. It’s remarkably secure, yet requires little effort to operate. Combined with the screw mount, it’s possible to place the Link just about anywhere you need it. I tested the Link with two separate mounting accessories provided by Insta360 – a miniature Pygtech tripod with an extendable center column, as well as a prehensile arm that attaches via a clamp to tables and desks.
In terms of build quality, the Link is well made and quite durable. It is a device that seems to be made to last. However, I would prefer it to come with some sort of carrying case, as it is a bit difficult to carry around due to the movable gimbal design.
Typical webcams are the dullest and most boring devices you can imagine. The built-in webcams are awful, delivering abysmal image quality in good light and nearly unusable mush in dimly lit interiors. Alternatively, you can configure a camera, such as the Nikon Z6, as a webcam for extremely high video quality, but the trade-off is a bulky, clunky and expensive setup.
This is what makes the Insta360 link right then good. The Link offers a high degree of image quality in a lightweight and convenient form factor. Plus, with its built-in AI and motorized gimbal, it potentially overcomes the limitations of a static camera.
It’s really impressive how beautiful Link’s photos and videos are.
Capable of 4K 30fps (frames per second) video, the Insta360 Link is already way beyond the typical webcam just in terms of resolution, especially if we’re talking about the built-in webcams in laptops. There is certainly a solid selection of 4K webcams out there, such as the Logitech Brio, Dell UltraSharp webcam, or Lumina 4K.
But we all know that resolution is just a number. What is truly impressive is the quality of the photos and videos it captures.
Detail is crisp, color is great, and it even offers some decent-looking amount of bokeh. Even in low-light conditions, the camera performs incredibly well, and it really blows away any other webcam I’ve ever used out of the water.
This is partly due to the relatively large ½-inch sensor, which is far larger than the average webcam sensor, or even the sensors of many smartphones and compact cameras.
If it weren’t connected via USB-C, the Insta360 Link would be an above-average option for general photography and videography. HDR is also available, which is particularly useful in high contrast situations.
The three available gesture controls allow you to control the camera without ever having to step out of frame. Gestures available include holding your palm flat to start and stop tracking, creating a V shape with your fingers to enter whiteboard mode, and pointing up with your thumb to the side, then lifting and lower your hand to digitally zoom in and out.
The first two gestures work well, but the zoom control suffers from unreliable detection. With practice, I was able to learn how to operate it more reliably; you need to hold your palm very flat towards the camera and position your fingers just right while maintaining plenty of distance between you and the camera. I wish there were additional gesture controls to expand the possibilities of the camera even more, but maybe that’s something that could come in the future.
Subject tracking is remarkably effective, as is the autofocus system.
Of course, the gimbal allows the camera to follow you around the room. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a webcam mounted on an AI-powered gimbal. Subject tracking is remarkably good, as is the autofocus system, and the camera was able to track me consistently as I moved around a room. Whiteboard mode follows four included stickers and isolates the area inside those stickers, correcting the image so that it is flat and square and the whiteboard fills the frame.
For example, if you are teaching a class, you can have the camera filming you in wide angle next to the board, and by making the appropriate gesture, it will switch to whiteboard mode and zoom in on the predefined area. This makes Link a perfect tool for teaching online courses or for making professional presentations.
It should be mentioned that cameras like the Obsbot Tiny does something quite similar, although its image quality falls far short of what the Link can do.
The Insta360 Link also features a handy desktop display mode, top view mode, and portrait mode, which combine to further increase the versatility of the camera.
You will definitely want to install the Insta360 Link Controller software on your computer. This allows you to make fine adjustments to various settings, change modes, update firmware, adjust camera settings, and control camera movement via an on-screen joystick.
The software can be used to record on its own or as a taskbar overlay on other streaming and recording apps. It is very well designed and quite intuitive to use.
Although I initially encountered some stability issues due to the pre-release firmware, by the time I finished testing the link for this review, those issues had been resolved.
The only other areas of concern worth mentioning are thermal issues. The camera tends to get quite warm during use – and it doesn’t take long either. The Link heats up fairly quickly, to the point that after ten minutes or more of constant turning the temperature becomes a bit worrying.
However, it never got so hot that I was worried from a safety perspective, but it was hot enough that it could be unhealthy for its electronics. On the plus side, I didn’t notice the Link’s performance being directly affected by the increased heat. In sleep mode, the Link is slightly warm to the touch.
In terms of audio quality, the Link’s built-in microphones offer decent voice pickup capability. The noise cancellation allowed me to record in outdoor environments with lots of ambient noise, or next to a noisy desktop gaming rig without the whirring fans being audible in the video.
The quality of the recording itself isn’t up to par with a dedicated high-end mic, but I didn’t expect that. For what it is, I came away surprised at how good the quality was.
Price and availability
Insta360 Link is available now for $300. While this is certainly a high price for a webcam, it seems reasonable for such an advanced device.
Our point of view
The Insta360 Link is the best webcam currently available, although those with less to spend and don’t need a robot gimbal are better off with a simpler, cheaper webcam. For what it tries to be, the Link excels on almost every level, offering a high level of convenience, while rivaling bulky and expensive cameras in terms of quality.
There’s huge potential here for a wide range of applications and use cases – the options seem limitless. Who knew a webcam could be so interesting?
Is there a better alternative?
In terms of features and image quality, the Insta360 Link is virtually unmatched. However, it is also one of the most expensive webcams you can buy.
The Logitech Brio 4K is a popular option, offering that crisp 4K resolution for $100 less than the Insta360 link.
The Tiny Obsbot is another gimbal-attached camera concept. It also costs $100 less than the Insta360 link, but only has 1080p resolution.
How long will it last?
I’m pretty confident in the build quality of the Link, and I think it will last for many years. The moving parts could possibly inhibit potential longevity compared to a static webcam, but it’s unclear whether or not that difference in longevity would be significant if it even exists. I would expect to get at least five to 10 years out of the Link, given my experience with similar technology. For example, I’ve been using a drone with a comparable gimbal for five years, and it still works great.
Should I buy it?
Yes. If you regularly use a webcam for education, business, live streaming, or just communicating with friends and family, I highly recommend you consider the Insta360 link. Even if you’re not looking for a webcam, the Link has significant value as an automated camera operator for an easier way to record video content.