Flip Mino HD 2nd gen camcorder review

3.5 out of 5
£179.99

For

Better than average video in good conditions, design, metal body looks great, simple to use

Against

Background hissing in videos very obvious, low light performance not great, offers no features outside basic video capture, price

The new Flip Mino HD comes in to replace its predecessor and making a few changes to the last iteration of the pocket camcorder. We'd like to take credit for forcing Flip-now-Cisco's hand, but we're sure it wasn't down to us alone. We pulled it up on capacity, screen size and the lack of HDMI significantly. Fortunately, all those areas see changes with this new edition.

The design is instantly recognisable as a Flip pocket camcorder. Flip pretty much established this corner of the market and the design tweaks they’ve made on the new Mino HD are to its credit. A brushed metal body makes it feels like a quality device in the hand and it looks exquisite, like the unibody MacBook or the HTC Legend.

This aluminium body wraps around the front and sides, with the back being the familiar black plastic panel. Set into this back panel is the new 2-inch, 960 x 240 pixel, screen, the simple touch controls and a central red button to start and stop recording. The Flip Mino HD measures 100 x 50 x 16.7mm and weighs 116g.

On one side there is a power button, the other the catch to flip-out the signature USB connector, which has been slimmed down further than before. The overall look is sophisticated and in an increasingly congested segment of the market, we think this model is definitely the prettiest.

On the front you have the lens, which comes rated at F/2.4 and like almost all other devices in this sector, it is fixed focus. The focusing range is effective from 80cm, anything closer than this will be out of focus and there is no macro setting like you'll find on the Kodak Zi8. If doing detailed filming is important, then you're out of luck.

The Flip offers HD recording at 1280 x 720 at a solid 30 frames a second. As with other pocket camcorders, detail drops out as the distance from the lens increases, but we feel that the Flip Mino HD offers slightly higher quality than some of the rivals. The best results are somewhere just beyond that minimum focal point, so reasonably close group videos work fine. As you move into the distance, you'll find more artefacts spoiling your HD movie. It can under expose slightly too, so cloudy days appear darker than they should, lacking the punch to really make it shine.

Colour rendition is nicely balanced however and we found that skin tones looked fairly natural, perhaps with a slight flush. Moving from dark to light sees the Flip Mino HD react relatively quickly, but despite that "fast" F/2.4 lens, the low light performance isn't brilliant. As we've found with most pocket camcorders, take it away from daylight outside, and you'll find noise comes crashing in. Indoors without artificial light you'll find finer detail drops out as noise starts to come in. In low light the noise becomes much more invasive, giving average performance for this type of camcorder.

Sound has also been a point of contention on pocket camcorders and the Flip doesn't fair well. With an internal stereo mic and no option for an external mic, we found a great deal of background noise was introduced by the Flip. We don't just mean it picked up wind noise (which it does), but that it sounds like a waterfall is in the background - even when in a quiet room.

Voices are picked up fairly well and you do get some detail, but the Flip is better suited to filming noisy things that hides the background hiss. If you just want to film your mates skating and plan to throw a soundtrack over the top then no problem, but otherwise, the Flip loses marks for poor sound quality.

Sitting on the bottom of the device is the mini HDMI connection. Unfortunately you don't get a cable in the box like you do with the Creative Vado HD, but if you happen to have one, you'll be able to plug straight into your HD TV at home. Viewed on a larger TV the quality starts to show. If you plan to mainly view your content in this way, you'll be better off with a more fully-featured camcorder. If you only really want to share online, then a pocket camcorder is fine.

To help you use your content, the Flip Mino HD comes with FlipShare. This on-board application will handle viewing and sharing your video to Facebook, YouTube or MySpace and is compatible with both PC and Mac. It is simple enough to use, but after updating to the most recent version on our Mac, we found uploads wouldn't complete. In truth it is for the most part unnecessary as you can play and upload the files straight from the device without having to use FlipShare.

The Flip has an internal battery which offers around 2 hours of video capture at H.264 MPEG4, but can only be charged via the USB connection. If you plan to be out for some time, you'll need to have access to your computer to recharge it, although an accessory charger is available to buy separately. The internal memory offers 8GB, which equates to about 2 hours of filming.

A tripod mount can be found on the bottom of the camcorder, which you'll need to use as these handheld camcorders are very prone to image wobble as your hand moves around. The Flip does have a flat bottom though, so can be easily rested on surfaces for support.

Verdict

Overall the Flip Mino HD 2nd gen offers better than average daylight record and sensational looks with its compact metal body. We welcome the HDMI on the bottom for the convenience of plugging straight into an HD TV and the increased screen size makes it more pleasurable to use, and video playback looks great.

But the Flip doesn’t step beyond this. There are essentially no settings or options, which means there are basically no features other than the 720p video capture. For some that might be the attraction - it couldn't be simpler to use. For others the draw of a changeable battery or different shooting mode might swing it, especially given the Flip's price. At £179, it is one of the more expensive pocket camcorders out there.

If you are happy to pay for the good looks, the Flip Mino HD will give you good footage in the right conditions. The sound is not great however, and rival devices now offer a wider range of features that make the Flip look a little limited in its offering.