Things are heating up in the mini-camcorder space, as , , and now Creative all have high-definition models. Flip Video leads the market with its popular Mino HD camcorder, but Creative has done some interesting things with its Vado HD, to make your choice that much harder. It's available now for around £200.
The Vado HD retains many of the appealing design traits of the original , including an ample 51mm (2-inch) anti-glare LCD (for recording and playback), with some small modifications. The Vado HD comes in black and its lens extends out from the body, instead of being slightly recessed. The new model is also a smidgen thicker and weighs slightly more (100g, as opposed to 94g), and the mic has been shifted to the other side of the lens.
More importantly, however, the Vado HD has something that neither the Kodak Zi6 nor the Mino HD has: a mini HDMI connector, for outputting 1080i video to your HDTV, along with a standard composite AV output. Surprisingly, Creative also bundles an HDMI cable, though not a composite cable. Plus, the Vado HD comes with 8GB of built-in memory versus the MinoHD's 4GB. That allows you to store 2 hours of HD video.
In our review of the original Vado, we knocked it a little for its no-frills implementation, and Creative seems to have taken that to heart. Along with the HDMI cable, the company has thrown in a protective silicone skin and a more robust software package for tweaking your videos after you shoot them.
Like the Mino HD, it captures H.264 encoded videos at 30 frames per second with a 1,280x720-pixel CMOS sensor, but saves them as AVI instead of MPEG-4, and gives you about 2 hours of battery life from its removable rechargeable battery (Creative sells extra batteries in case you want to carry a backup). You can also shoot 640x480-pixel VGA video if you want. The Vado HD has a threaded tripod mount on the bottom -- it helps to use a tripod to keep the camcorder steady and ensure your video isn't too jittery.
As we said with the original Vado, the rubberised finish has a pleasant feel to it, but it's worth noting that it'll absorb stains more easily than a camera with a hard, shiny plastic finish. It's good that this model is black because, when we accidentally touched the silver Vado with the tip of a pen, it left a small mark that was difficult to completely remove. Another minor gripe is that we would have preferred the silicone skin to be completely clear or a dark colour. It's a kind of milky off-white and doesn't look great on the camcorder -- the device looks slicker naked. We hope that Creative will offer some additional colour choices in the future.
Like its mini-camcorder brethren, the Vado HD has a flip-out USB connector, so you can plug it into your Windows or Mac system as if it were a thumbdrive. The unit recharges through USB. When you plug the camcorder into your Windows PC, the software automatically pops up and offers the options of playing videos; uploading them to YouTube (you need to input your account information the first time) or Photobucket; and, after installing a plug-in, creating a movie and stringing together several video clips.
All in all, we found the software simple to use and the interface elegant. There aren't many features -- don't expect a full editing package -- but there's enough to help you make a little more out of your videos without having to turn to another software package. A good touch is that the Vado HD doesn't force you to install the software to simply play the video from the camcorder, like the Mino does, which is convenient if you're viewing on a friend's system.
While the software is designed for Windows users, Mac users can manually drag and copy their videos from the camcorder to the computer and then upload them to YouTube or import them into iMovie or another editing package. In other words, the camcorder is geared toward Windows users, but is compatible with Macs.
Overall, we were pretty impressed with the video quality. To be clear, this is not a true HD video camcorder -- you can only expect so much from a low-resolution sensor and a tiny, no-zoom lens -- but, as with the Mino HD, the key is that you can view videos at full screen size on your computer and they remain relatively sharp.