H.264 streaming hardware? And the same on a budget?

Time to time I do some superficial research on the topic and I end up with something like this:

  • router hardware has no hardware support for it "by nature", go for *pi
  • better stick with MJPEG
  • combine logitech c920 and ffmpeg (with stability issues?)

So unless I want to plunge into the *pi world (okay, I want but don't have enough time), I should follow the "webcam on steroids" path.

Here the obvious choice is the logitech c920/925/930 line, but it is definitely not a budget solution, which is part of the "openwrt philosophy" in my eyes. Well, strictly speaking such a webcam costs still a fraction of the price of a better router, but you know what I mean.
On the other hand there is a shtload of chinese action cams and also those spying pan-tilt types too with comparable capabilities (ehm... and comparable price tag too, recently?). But no dedicated h.264 webcams in the last 5-8 years.
Why? Or did I just miss something? Or it has its logical reason? But if there is a reason then why do those logitech webcams still exist? I'm confused.

So, do you have anything to add to this interesting topic?

Because Logitech generally has superior QC and support to the cheap Chinese devices and, very often, superior optics, sensors, and firmware.

One step up from there is https://www.axis.com/en-us/products/network-cameras

Oh yes, the holy QC. But youtube is full of gopro clone action cam and dash cam videos and reviews where one doesn't really feels lack of quality. Also, why the other known names with longer history have no "proper" webcams?

Apparently because there is not a profitable market for what you define as a "proper" webcam.

There are plenty of manufacturers still in the "webcam" market, if you do an Internet or marketplace search for "top webcam" or the like.

Webcams are typically plugged into a PC. Taking the encoder out of the camera made sense as PC CPUs increased in capacity and added video acceleration instructions.

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My questions were answered with the obvious answers I guess.
Now it will go offtopic: but if it is not a profitable market and PCs are smart and strong anyway, why did it worth for logitech to enter this segment at all? Was it for market recognition, like the rx8 from mazda?

Logitech has been in the market for well over 20 years, not including the acquisition of Connectix. Peripheral devices, both as an OEM and on the retail market continue to be a profitable business.

Yes, very much rooting for logitech to stay afloat because i haven't tried to figure out what will happen to my 7 squeezeboxes when they would stop their server :thinking:

Camera wise, i was pondering to try out this gizmo:

Admittedly, i have no clue if this would give an easy option for video streaming from the camera in linux. its mipi connected which seems to be supported in linux and the cpu should support h.264 HW encode. But worst case i give up and it ends up being a top-of-tv kodi+skype STB running windows sigh.

Open-source alternatives available, though it's been a long time since I had mine up and running.

Yeah. The USA trade war is hurting Chinese traders and for some reason it looks like Chinese traders think that buyers are prepared to pay their new inflated prices, when the majority of buyers were paying previously less for lower quality goods which were cheaper than domestically available ones due to well, compromise on quality and taking a chance based upon the potential to save.

I've noticed the price creep too. With the exception of about only ten Chinese brands, the majority of the rest of the Chinese branded import stuff is still just poor quality copies and simply don't match up value wise to Western designed equivalents.

Most CPU chips nowadays have h.264 encode routines built in. So the cam doesn't need it's own encoder. Same for most dedicated GPUs.
h.265 is the new video standard for high definition and 4K video streaming from the people behind the mpegla patent pool. h.265 hardware encode and decode is in most modern CPU's too, certainly any which have been licensed.
But h.26X is a patented technology. Recent smartphone CPUs running android should be able to do VP9 hardware encode and decode because it's youtube's default format, depending upon manufacturer (if the manufacturer is a member of the mpegla pool or not and wants to prioritise mpeg codecs.)

We are of course, just recently on the path towards AV1 becoming the video streaming codec everyone uses. The largest barrier now is obviously hardware encode and decode in CPUs now that the spec is finalised.