Creative Vado camcorder

Sporting the moniker "Pocket Video Cam", Creative are lining up against Flip Video in the battle to be the video in your pocket. But can the new Vado knock the Flip from its perch? We get filming to find out.

The device is slimmer that the Flip, with the lens and screen being flush to the body rather than protruding, again, there is no lens cover. Creative have taken a different design tack to the rival Flip, choosing a sleek silver or hot pink colouring, and giving the Vado a compact sensible design compared with the Flip’s somewhat toy-like appearance.

The slimmer design is thanks to the lithium-ion battery, rather than the AA batteries of the Flip. This is an interesting move and Creative have thought to give you a fast charge option which will power-up the Vado in 2 hours. You also get 2 hours from the battery, meaning you can fill the 2GB memory before the battery dies. In essence, it makes sense to have a rechargeable battery, as you’ll need to plug in the unit to extract the files anyway.

In terms of buttons, you get a discrete power button on the side, whilst the back features the main record button in the centre of a four-way control for zoom/volume and skipping through your videos, depending on whether you are recording or playing back. Other than that there are the delete and playback buttons.

Hiding behind these buttons there is a sneaky menu, accessed by pressing the delete and playback together, which will allows you to change the video quality from the default HQ (high quality; VGA, 640 x 480) to SP (standard playback), language, "flicker" (50 or 60Hz) and set the date and time. The step down in quality to SP allows the Vado to sport the claim of 2 hours recording, which makes sense if you plan to further compress the files for sharing online. Video compression is handled by Xvid, so you’ll find the DivX video logo embossed in the corner.

The USB connection is housed in the bottom of the device, with a soft tab to pull it out. Whilst the connector itself is smaller than the Flip, we think that Creative have committed a design faux-pas here. The tab means the Vado won’t stand up, so if you wanted to film yourself without holding it, you’ll definitely need a tripod or some sort of stand.

There is the standard tripod mount on the bottom as well as an AV out, allowing you to plug into a TV, although Creative don’t supply a composite cable for you to do this. The display this time is a 2in LCD in the back, which looks good and will be adequate for the filming you are expecting to do with this device.

Plug the unit in, and the on-board Vado software launches. Unlike the Flip, however, there is no Mac support, so Mac users will have to manually browse the connected device to extract the files, and will have to install the Xvid plugin required to play them. That said, the software is extremely basic, allowing playback and a shortcut to YouTube and Photobucket. We couldn’t get the YouTube uploader to work, despite having a working account.

So what of the actual video quality? Well, you don’t expect much but it certainly compares with the competition. For grabbing quick videos out and about, it is simple and adequate quality to throw onto the Internet, but obviously not going to give you the quality to burn on to DVD and watch on your 40in TV.

There are problems with moving from dark to light conditions and it takes a while for the Vado to adjust itself, so worth considering whilst you are out and about to avoid a complete whiteout. You’ll also find that hand movement can cause a great deal of noise to be picked up through the mic. Whilst the 2x zoom appears to be silent, there is a chance that using the button will in introduce noise, but otherwise it appeared to be pretty good.

On balance though, considering we are looking at pocketable video cameras, there is little between the Flip and the Vado, certainly, both suffer under tough conditions as you’d expect. The Vado doesn’t seem to suffer from the audio artefacts we found on the Flip, so perhaps steps ahead in quality.

Verdict

The software supporting the Vado does not compare to the offering from Flip and practically serves no purpose for those on their home computer; granted, those in internet cafes or on the move might depend on those sharing options (although we could not get YouTube to work...). The omission of the cable to hook-up to a TV seems miserly from a company as established as Creative, so the Flip feels like the more complete package.

However, the Vado stands-up against the Flip in a number of areas: the rechargeable battery and the slimmer profile will appeal. Likewise, the option of step down in quality to get an extra hour from the memory is an option that makes this a much more versatile device. The screen is bigger, the design more conservative and the price lower.

The battle lines are drawn, so let the video shoot-out commence!