Flip Video’s range of portable, easy to use digital video recorders has proven popular since they first broke into the market two years ago, and this is in no small part down to an impressive combination of performance and ease of use. Upgrading the Mino series for 2010 is the new MinoHD, which brings a choice of 4GB or 8GB capacities and 720p HD quality to the same form factor as the original device.
The 8GB (or 120 minutes of footage) model on test here offers a 2-inch, 320 x 240 TFT display, a typically minimalist set of controls and a brushed aluminium body that’s around the size of a typical mobile phone, resulting in a device that’s both solid and comfortable in the hand. Setting it up is very simple and involves selecting a language, date, time and some rudimentary visual and audio settings from the wizard that appears when it is first turned on.
Using the MinoHD really couldn’t be any easier. A range of controls include a main start/stop button for recording, access to a 2x digital zoom and the ability to preview and delete clips stored in the internal memory. A USB connector ‘flips’ up from the top of the casing to connect it to a computer, and it’s now also possible to connect it directly to a TV via a mini-HDMI port, though sadly a cable isn’t supplied and must be purchased separately.
Thankfully the MinoHD backs up its impressive ease of use with some equally impressive quality, and in terms of potential at least, it’s possible to get some superbly crisp and clean video from what might initially appear to be a device aimed more at casual users.
We tested it in a range of settings from poorly lit indoor scenes to both bright and dull days outside, and while the LCD display doesn’t always show an accurate representation of lighting on video previews and still seems a little small, once you load the content onto a computer it really is quite impressive. Colours are very accurate and it compensates nicely for changes in lighting to maintain a good overall balance, with images sharp and of a high enough resolution to save and print out as digital photos.
Audio is also very good and comes courtesy of a stereo microphone that does an excellent job of reproducing speech both by a user when held at arms length, and of sounds in the surrounding environment.
Providing some basic rules of video capture are taken into account it is possible to record scenes at the sort of quality found with far more expensive digital video cameras, and this is certainly one of the biggest advantages on offer.
If anything our main issues are really that it’s a little too simplistic. It’s not possible to adjust the quality or format of recordings (which as standard is set to H.264 video at 30 frames per second). There’s no image stabilisation built in either (though it is possible to fit a tripod via a mount on the underside), and anyone who has attempted to record video on a mobile phone for any length of time will attest to the fact that it’s not overly comfortable to hold a device in such a fashion, and equally difficult to keep it steady when moving around.
A few other niggles include the occasional crash or freeze, which requires a restart, and the fact that it’s not always obvious that you’re actually recording, or a little too easy to leave it recording inadvertently. None of these issues are serious enough to undermine the benefits of the Mino, but they do detract slightly from what is otherwise a very impressive product.
Part of the reason why these easy to use compact video recorders have become so popular is that they appeal to the YouTube generation, or those that are keen to be able to capture footage at any time when out and about. This is backed up by the Flipshare application that comes preinstalled and can be used to view and organise videos, publish clips online and perform some rudimentary editing.
Using the software it’s possible to create a movie file or a DVD from a collection of clips by dragging and dropping a selection onto a timeline. From here, titles and credits can be added and an audio file overlaid, and while this is extremely simple to do, it’s disappointing not to see a bit more control over transitions or some basic video editing and conversion, though it is possible to trim clips and take snapshots from specific frames of a file.
Finally, you can add video to a range of greeting card templates, send via email and upload to MySpace or YouTube, effectively offering shortcuts to the traditional methods of uploading, though there’s still no option here to manually adjust video quality and upload size.
Company: Flip Video
The Flip MinoHD is undoubtedly a healthy evolution of a popular product, but like its predecessors it can suffer from being a bit too simplistic and omitting some key features that may still be helpful for beginners. As pocket camcorders go though, it's an impressive device and for the most part ticks enough of the bigger boxes to outweigh our more minor grievances. Those who prioritise portability without sacrificing quality will still find the MinoHD to be a highly capable solution.