Razer Kiyo Pro Ultra review: It's so close to greatness

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My first reaction to the video of the Razer Kiyo Pro Ultra was “Wow! Finally a webcam as good as a compact vlogging camera.” My reaction after trying to adjust the settings, especially when using it with a third-party app, was “I’m going to reach for my screen and punch you right now.” Seriously: Razer’s Synapse software is the only something that keeps this $300 (£300, AU$500) 4K webcam for power streamers and video conferencing from getting an Editors’ Choice award.

It noticeably increases the quality above Razer KiyoPro – enough that the Kiyo Pro’s price has come down significantly, and at $100 the Pro is a great alternative if you just want to step up to solid 4K.

Synapse is the only way to control most settings, so it can make or break your experience. If you don’t need to change settings besides zoom, focus, or white balance as often (these are available through the Windows driver), then you’ll probably be fine. And even Synapse 3 does not work on Mac, so the webcam is not well suited for this platform.


  • Excellent quality and performance
  • Beautiful built-in lens cover design
  • Has a relatively large number of adjustable parameters which compensate for the problems experienced by other cameras

Do not like

  • Synapse camera control is glitchy and camera sometimes crashes when changing settings
  • You can only change settings when Synapse has exclusive control of the camera

The nearest non-Razer competitor to the Kiyo Pro Ultra would have been the Elgato Facecam Prowhich no longer appears to be available anywhere despite shipping in November 2022. (It used a previous generation of the Sony Starvis sensor, and it’s still possible it will be reworked with the new sensor.)

That camera supported 4K at 60fps compared to the Razer’s 30fps (at 1080p and below it can do 60fps), but otherwise the Razer has a lot of the same goodies, including manual exposure controls, user presets and other settings that can help you adjust the quality of your output, such as MJPEG quality (for streaming at 1440p or 4K) and the ability to meter your face in auto exposure mode (important if you are off-center) and lens distortion compensation.

Although it looks similar to the rest of its Kiyo siblings, the Pro and the X (on our list of best webcams we tested), it has something I’ve wanted for a while: a built-in lens cover. Razer cleverly incorporated it as an iris that closes when you rotate the outer ring.

Top marks for quality and performance

When it’s good, the Kiyo Pro Ultra is great. It incorporates a 1/1.2 inch Sony Starvis 2 sensor, which is just a bit smaller than the 1 inch sensor found in compact vlogging cameras like the Sony ZV-1 but loads bigger than other webcams’ sensors, with a good f1.7 aperture.

The larger sensor and aperture mean it displays noticeable depth of field blur. It doesn’t have as wide a field of view as many webcams, only up to 82 degrees (72 degrees with distortion correction enabled) rather than 90 or more, which might affect its suitability for your needs.

Lori Grunin/CBS

The Ultra displays an excellent tonal range for what it is, although it fails to handle bright areas. It needs some software tweaks for that I think. It has the typical HDR option, but in a backlit shot with a properly exposed foreground (as well as without) it didn’t help cut through the highlight in the back. There are toggles for dark and light rooms, but neither seem to make a noticeable difference. I’ve had other cameras that handle it better.

It measures correctly, for the most part. Center metering works best if you’re in the center – face metering weirdly overexposes without changing exposure compensation, otherwise. But if you lean to the side, the face measurement prevents him from climbing when he sees your black chair instead of your face. The white balance is very good as long as you are not in too dark an environment. Even then it’s not bad. It also doesn’t lose much color saturation.

You can toggle a few noise reduction settings and they make a significant difference in low light. Distortion compensation also makes a visible difference.

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The standard autofocus is good, like all other webcams. But there are several settings to mitigate frequent hunting, which other webcams don’t have. Face autofocus does a good job of preventing it from hunting when you move your head, and there’s a “stylized lighting” setting that helps the AF system lock on when lighting might otherwise confuse it.

The camera handles some of the image processing that might otherwise be sent to the PC, including the MJPEG compression of the stream you send, and you can set the aggressiveness of the compression, either automatically or on a performance-continuum quality.

Still needs cooking

Unfortunately, it’s still a bit too glitchy and the software unintentionally limits it. You cannot access any of Synapse’s settings – including resolution/frame rate and manual exposure (ISO and shutter speed) – unless camera preview is enabled. And Windows only allows one app to access a camera at a time.

So for example if you accidentally left the resolution at 4K but need it to be 1080p OBSto change it, you must first disable the camera in OBS — luckily OBS has that option, but Nvidia Broadcast doesn’t. Then switch to Synapse, enable preview, change resolution, disable preview, switch back to OBS and re-enable the camera. And the resolution, among other settings, doesn’t seem to be saved as part of the profiles you can create.

Doing it once is not really a problem. After the 10th time in an hour, it’s getting old.

It’s also complicated by the occasional adjustment failure, which sometimes forces you to backtrack through this on-off cycle: Why doesn’t my adjusted exposure look adjusted? Do I have to press it for autofocus to kick in? Previewing in Synapse isn’t always accurate, although that’s not unique to Synapse, but that means you can’t assume your adjustments will be correct. Synapse also froze several times while I was trying to switch between profiles.

Almost every other reasonable webcam utility lets you change settings while viewing the application you need it for. Yes, sometimes some are disabled (due to Windows), but at least they are not all unavailable. It’s possible that all of these issues could be improved with firmware and software fixes, but I’ve learned to never assume that will be the case just because they can be.

The Razer Kiyo Pro Ultra is a capable webcam that just needs some software and firmware before I’m comfortable calling it a reliable and consistent performer.

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