We liked the Flip Video Ultra Edition for its pure simplicity. But no sooner had the Ultra launched in the UK, rumours started appearing about the launch of the Mino stateside. In-between times the pocketable video camera landscape has changed. So can the Mino offer anything new?
The major change from the Flip Ultra is a move from batteries to a sealed internal rechargeable unit. This has allowed the camcorder to shrink down to 16 x 50 x 100mm, shaving millimetres off in all dimensions. Charging the internal battery now takes place when you plug the Mino into your PC via the on-board USB connector.
Around the back you get pretty much the same layout as before, with the same simple controls. Unfortunately you get the same 1.5-inch, 528 x 132 pixel resolution screen as well. We say unfortunately, because we’d expect to see something a little larger. The controls have changed however, so it no longer looks like a toy. Instead you get backlit touch controls for play, delete, volume and skipping back and forth, whilst you still get a big red button to record.
There is a dedicated power switch and a latch to flip out the USB 2.0 connector, which has now moved to the top. A nifty little white LED flashes to let you know that you are hooked up to the juice, as well as launching the on-board software that is the same as the previous outing. In the Ultra we questioned the lack of direct access to Facebook and nothing has changed in this iteration, but you still get to stick your videos straight into YouTube, MySpace and AOL Video. Through the software the conversion takes place on your PC rather than online, which speeds up the process.
In terms of recording, the Mino records 640 x 480 MPEG4 video at 30fps, and you can get 1 hour of video on to the 2GB internal memory. The device also comes 75% charged, so out of the box you’ll be able shoot some video. Thereafter the battery will give you a cited life of about 4 hours. Of course, as soon as you plug it in you are charging again, so it becomes difficult to gauge how much life you really get. That said, you only really need your hour of filming plus any showing off time.
Start-up time is one of the real bonuses here, because you can literally whip it out and get filming in seconds which beats most phones or digital cameras.
So what are the results like? Well, we are pleased to say it is the same respectable quality from the original Flip. Colours are a little too vivid as is often the case with camcorders. You’ll also find, as is common with many small video recorders, that things get very shaky once you are moving along, if you are walking and filming it is difficult to keep things steady, so if at all possible it is better to keep yourself still.
Compared to the video results that you get from most mobile phones, the Flip Mino still has things on its side delivering, overall, a much more watchable experience, bar the caveats mentioned above. The TV out jack on the side of the device (which is unfortunately 2.5mm, but you get the cable in the box) makes it simple to watch back your movies on most TVs – we watched the video on a 40-inch screen and the quality is certainly acceptable.
Sound is also surprisingly good and we didn’t detect the subtle buzz artefacts that plagued the Ultra. Indoors the sound is pretty good although things do get a little more noisy outside. You are restricted to the built-in mic with no option for an external mic. All in all, it seems like a good little bundle.
But, and there is a but, things don’t seem to have changed much. We’re 6-months on from the Ultra and we are basically looking at the same thing. In the meantime the pocket camcorder world has become a much busier place and critically, we are now looking larger screens and HD quality recording, for a similar price.
Whilst you can slip the Mino into your pocket to capture your movies on the fly, it just seems to be a little too late to the party, thanks to that unfortunate delay launching on this side of the water.