Snowflake, a portable USB microphone


Snowflake_takealook_4_2One thing I’ve noticed recently is that netbook microphones are lacking. When we first did a Skype chat on the Acer Aspire One, I had to crank the input up before James could hear me. Then we did a Skype call on the MSI Wind and sure enough, the volume was lacking. Earlier this week James called me on the Lenovo S10 and guess what… I had to punch up my speakers. I’m not sure if it’s the microphone placement, the same general sound card components or a combination of both, but there’s an opportunity for improvement.Enter Blue and their portable Snowflake USB microphone. Now the Snowflake isn’t specific to netbooks by any means, but I’m betting it’s a solid alternative to the marginal input these small notebooks get natively. It retails for $69, which is about the top end I’d spend for a plug-in mic and it’s certainly small enough to tote along with any notebook. It also stands on its own or it can be clipped to a computer. The USB device works with both Mac and PC; there’s no additional drivers needed. I’ve got a request for loaner review unit to see if it does make the Skype experience better on a netbook. Plan B would be to simply use a USB webcam with integrated microphone, but the webcams with most netbooks is more than passable. Let’s see if the Snowflake melts that poor-quality sound away!



The best solution (for XP only, however) is the Polycom Communicator portable USB speakerphone. The sound quality is superb and the speaker can fill a conference room with 15 people at a table. I’ve bought 4 or 5 for staff at my company and we use it in all sorts of situations. Most definitely pricey ($115 at Amazon) but absolutely worth it for the clarity and the ability to use easily with multiple people in one room. There is no better, simpler solution for easy Skype con-calls than this. Plus it’s better than most laptop speakers for playing music as well. I sure as hell wish they’d make Mac and Vista drivers, though. On several occasions, I’ve nearly downgraded my Vista laptop to XP just so I can use the Polycom!


I love the retro looks, but the price is definitely on the high side for a mic. You can get a passable webcam-with-mic for $25 or so, and even disable the webcam part if you find the built-in webcam better.

Or, of course the classic solution of a SoundBlaster mic mounted on a stick.


I have the Blue Snowball and love it! Apple carries them in their retail stores.


Kevin, what do you, James and Matt use for MoTR? I’ve been looking at broadcast quality mics connected to a firewire audio interface for recording online training and webinars. Overkill?

Kevin Lim

Kevin, if you’re interested, I bought the Snowflake sometime ago for my videocasts. It works well, just plug and play. :)

Note that if you find the audio recording too soft when you’re streaming through any Flash video sites (e.g. Youtube,, try turning off noise cancellation in the Flash settings.

Here’s my Snowflake flickr slideshow for your viewing pleasure:

Comments are closed.