Earlier this year, Kodak released the , a mini-camcorder with high-definition resolution. The HD angle upped the ante for Flip Video, a market leader in the straight-to-Web mini-camcorder category. While we like the Zi6, it has some small drawbacks that make it hard to fully endorse over the smaller Flip Video Mino and less-expensive Ultra. Still, Flip Video has been under some pressure to release an HD model. And now it has: the MinoHD, priced at around £170.
The MinoHD looks identical to its standard-definition sibling, the Mino, and we appreciate its pocket-friendly design. Both models are super-compact and weigh 94g.
The MinoHD's USB connector flips straight up, rather than to the side, for a smaller footprint that should fit better in a crowded USB environment. It has a smallish 38mm (1.5-inch) transflective LCD display that enables you to see what's on the screen even in bright daylight. Responsive touch-sensitive navigation buttons are embedded into a shiny, flush surface on the back. While we like the buttons, you'll occasionally touch the wrong one by accident.
A tripod mount sits on the centre of the camera's bottom. The port for the AV output features the Mino's same lilliputian jack -- it's smaller than the standard 2.5mm jack -- and, while Flip includes a cable for connecting to a TV, the AV jack outputs only standard-definition video. By comparison, the Zi6's output supports HD and it ships with a cable that allows you to connect to the component-video jacks on your TV. That said, the video you get out of the MinoHD's composite connection looks sharper than that of the standard-definition Mino and Ultra. Along with the cable, you get a carrying pouch that doubles as a cloth to wipe down your MinoHD.
Like its siblings, the MinoHD is designed to be extremely simple to use, and it is. Unlike some of its competitors, it provides virtually no settings to fiddle with, apart from the date and time. You shoot in one resolution and that's it. There's no choice to drop to a lower video resolution to store more video, but why would you want to? Really, the MinoHD is all about pushing the red button to start and stop recording and hitting the playback button to see what you've recorded. That's pretty much it.
The same non-removable, rechargeable lithium-ion battery as the Mino's powers the MinoHD. However, it only shoots up to 2 hours, compared with the standard Mino's 4 hours or so. In addition, to accommodate bigger, high-resolution video files, the MinoHD comes equipped with double the memory: 4GB, capable of storing 60 minutes of 1,280x720-pixel resolution video.
The MinoHD has been upgraded to Flip Video's Pure Digital Video Engine 3.0 processor, from version 2.5, and incorporates a slightly bigger 1/4.5-inch HD CMOS sensor. Additionally, it has improved low-light sensitivity and uses a 9Mbps encoding rate, as opposed to the Mino's 4Mbps. Finally, the MinoHD uses the H.264 video-compression scheme instead of Advanced Profile MPEG-4 AVI.
One of the key selling points of Flip Video's camcorders is how easy it is to get videos off the devices and distribute them, and the MinoHD is no exception. You simply flip out the USB connector and plug it into your Mac or Windows machine and up pops FlipShare, the company's newly redesigned software. You can play back one clip, string several together to make a movie, pull a single frame out of a video, or share your clips with selected viewers via email or the Web.
When sharing via email, instead of attaching a large file -- even short 20-second clips can result in a 25MB file -- recipients are sent a link to your compressed video. It looks worse than your raw video footage, but it's not bad and Flip Video has made an effort to preserve some of the sharpness and HD qualities.
Aside from the fact that it can take several minutes to process a video, sharing a file is very simple. Click on the 'share video' button in the software interface and it takes you to a screen that asks you to select a video clip. You then choose to share the selected clip via email, share a greeting (that is, send a private video card), or share the clip online.
To publish directly to YouTube, AOL or MySpace, you'll need to create an account for each and log in. Once you've done that, you can automatically upload your videos to the Web for private or public viewing with the click of a button. If you're allied to some other video-sharing site, the same button will allow you to prepare the video for uploading, but you'll have to manually upload the processed file from a folder on your desktop.
Overall, FlipShare's got a cleaner look and seems easier to use. But the video-trimming feature is buried and it no longer has the Movie Mix feature, which we really liked. Previously, you could select the clips you liked, click a button and, a few minutes later, the software spat out a movie complete with transitions, special effects and even some background music of your choice. But, by sacrificing Muvee, which powered the Movie Mix feature, the MinoHD has gained Mac and iMovie compatibility. Now you can trim your clips, string them together and add titles and music, but not with one press of a button.
In our review of the Mino, we concluded that the video was pretty sharp, with fairly accurate, vibrant colours. But it didn't scale well -- to keep it sharp, you had to watch the video in a small box on your computer screen. With the MinoHD, you can play a full-screen clip with no significant degradation. You won't confuse the video for that of a 'real' HD camcorder, but the video quality is pretty impressive for a camcorder this tiny.