Creative Vado HD camcorder review

4 out of 5
£199.99

For

Video quality, HDMI connection, easy to use, on-board software link to YouTube

Against

No AV cable supplied, a little pricy

The pocket camcorder revolution is continuing apace, with Creative now putting forward this offering, the Vado HD. But is it worth jumping on the HD bandwagon with a device this small?

The Vado HD follows the same design lines as the standard Vado that we looked at last year, but now looks slightly less plasticy and a little more meaty, with the gun metal grey body looking a little more serious than the lighter grey of the standard version. The lens now protrudes from the body, but apart from that that, is pretty much the same.

A welcome addition, however, is the mini HDMI connection on the side concealed under a rubber flap. Enclosed in the box you’ll find the cable so you can hook the Vado HD straight up to your HDTV or other HDMI equipped device. We like this move because in terms of practical usage you know you can just plug into your TV and get watching, taking advantage of the high-definition output.

The inclusion of the cable too is perhaps worth a mention, firstly because if you don’t already have a camcorder, you probably won’t have a mini HDMI cable, and secondly because many devices neglect to supply one. Strangely the standard AV cable is not supplied, although they are cheap and widely available, but if you’ve not yet joined the HD revolution, then you’ll need one to hook-up to your TV.

The back of the device features the 2-inch display, with the controls underneath. There is a basic menu structure accessed by pressing the play and delete buttons simultaneously, allowing you to set your output standard, recording settings and so on. In terms of video capture you have three 30fps options: VGA (640 x 480), HD, HD+ (1280 x 720), which will respectively give you 2, 4 or 8 hours from the internal 8GB memory. There is no option to extend this with an additional memory card, which has advantages and disadvantages so should be a consideration before you purchase.

The internal battery is charged when connected up to your PC using the on-board flip-out USB connector, which, like the previous version, is located on the bottom of the device with a tab to pull it out. We do have a slight issue with this, as we did previously, because if you want to video yourself, you can’t stand it up. There is a standard tripod mount, so if you want to use it for video diaries without holding it, then this is your best bet.

Creative have also seen fit to supply a USB extension cable, meaning you don’t have to try and wedge your camcorder alongside anything else in your USB slots, so again, it is simple to use if you are pressed for space.

The battery will give you about 2 hours of recording, but creative do sell spare batteries and chargers for their standard Vado model, so we suspect compatible accessories for the Vado HD will be available too.

With few controls, recording is as simple pressing the button on the back. One problem with small format camcorders is that they do get very shaky and you’ll find this is the biggest problem here. The Vado HD is best used where you can keep it as stable as possible to take advantage of the 720p video capture, otherwise you’ll just get a shaky HD mess.

Having seen a number of HD devices of varying performance, we were pleasantly surprised by the Vado HD, especially considering the size. Given good conditions (plenty of ambient light and a stable position) you’ll find the video results are pretty good. Piped through to your large HDTV you can see a fair amount of noise and some problems with high-contrast areas, with a fair amount of purple fringing around bright areas, but on the whole it is pretty good, beating, in our opinion, some compact cameras offering HD video.

It copes with low or poor lighting conditions relatively well, but it does take some time to adapt exposure to cope with changes from light to dark, such as stepping out of building. Audio quality was also surprisingly good, capturing enough detail to be usable. Of course the microphone is very exposed so does suffer from environmental noise, either wind or background noise, but in isolation gives a satisfactory account for itself.

In the box you also get a silicon cover, which works well enough, but doesn’t do much aesthetically for the device and being silicon, it attracts fluff, so is constantly hairy.

Verdict

The on-board software is simple to use giving you playback options and letting you do some basic editing after the installation of an additional plugin. You don't have to use the software, you can just open up the folder and extract the AVI files that you want for playback or editing in a separate package if you wish.

You also get options to upload directly into YouTube, Photobucket and Box.net from within the software. The YouTube option is likely to be the most popular here, and with YouTube HD picking up popularity, the Vado HD will put up your video for people to view in HD online.

This option makes the Vado HD make sense: plugging into a TV is great, but with only 8GB memory and no way to navigate the clips other than basic forward and back, it is not a long-term solution. However you’ll find that your carefully captured HD results look excellent on your PC and shared online, giving you the edge of SD rivals.

But you are also paying for that package and with a retail price of £200, the Vado HD is knocking on the door of budget HD camcorders, and compact cameras offering HD. Overall, however, the Vado is a very easy to use camcorder, easily pocketable and highly capable.

The price is a little too high for us, but otherwise, an impressive array of features producing respectable results.