Last year, when Creative unveiled its first pocket camcorder, the Vado, we praised its design, specs, and rechargeable battery, but panned its video quality. The $229 Vado HD makes a better impression, thanks to its more detailed image quality, and included HDMI cable. It’s not quite as good as the Flip UltraHD, however, but Creative’s latest effort is a solid pick if you want something that you can slip into your pocket.
At just 3.9 x 2.2 x 0.6 inches, the Vado HD is the only pocket camcorder slim enough to rival Pure Digital’s diminutive Flip Mino HD. Its satin finish feels soft, yet durable; we’d feel more comfortable letting it be jostled inside our bag than, say, the glossy, scratch-prone Mino series. On the front side, there’s a 2-inch LCD, which we had no problem seeing while shooting outdoors. Below the LCD, a five-way, square navigational pad is flush left.
Dedicated buttons for deleting and playing back movies are on the right side of the front. The tiny lens protrudes slightly from the Vado HD’s back near the top. Although it sticks out only a few millimeters, we still think a flat lens would have looked sleeker. Occasionally, the buttons weren’t as responsive as we would have liked; we had to press them several times, and in a concerted manner, to get feedback.
On the camcorder’s left side, you’ll find an HDMI port, something not all HD pocket cams offer. (The Vado HD also comes with an HDMI and a longer USB cable.) Next to the HDMI port, there’s a standard-def AV out port. On the underside is a USB connection, and a tripod mount. Unlike the Flip camcorders and Kodak’s Zi6, the connector doesn’t flip out with the push of a button. Rather, you pull it out, using a small rubber toggle. Once you push it back in, it snaps into place, thanks to a magnet.
The Vado HD’s user interface is pretty foolproof, and easy to learn. The up and down arrows control the zoom in record mode, and the volume in playback mode. To exit playback mode, just press the record button, located in the center of the navigational pad.
By default, the Vado HD shoots 720p video, but you can also shoot lower-res VGA video. Depending on which resolution you choose, the 8GB internal memory can store between 2 and 8 hours of video. There’s no expansion slot, so 8GB worth of video is the maximum. (Pure Digital’s Flip UltraHD also has 8GB storage, and no expansion slot, although most other pocket camcorders rely mostly or entirely on memory cards.) It doesn’t take still photos, but based on our hands-on time with camcorders—such as the Kodak Zi6—which do, you’re not missing much.
To start with, the good news: our 720p video showed plenty of detail, such as a bird’s feathers, cigarette smoke, closely packed leaves blowing in the wind, and rippling water in a fountain. We noticed motion blur only in extremely fast-moving situations, such as when traffic rumbled past. We especially enjoyed the 2X digital zoom, which worked much more smoothly than zooms on other pocket camcorders, such as the Sony MHS-PM1 or the Kodak Zx1.
That said, our footage looked dimmer than videos we took with the Flip UltraHD, so much so that we had trouble making out shadow detail even in videos that we shot outdoors in the shade. The colors were slightly off, as well; oversaturated at points, often with a greenish cast.
The audio from the Vado HD was also weaker than that of the Flip Ultra HD’s footage. In fact, the sound often cut out a few seconds before our clips ended.
The onboard Vado Central software allows users to upload videos to Box.net, Photobucket, and YouTube. It’s simple, but it’s also light on editing features. And, unfortunately, it’s PC-compatible only, so Mac users will have to manually drag and drop their camcorder files.
Battery Life and Warranty
The Vado HD has a rated battery life of two hours. After spending nearly a half hour in the park shooting (and often forgetting to turn off the camcorder between clips), we still saw a full battery-life icon. We also noticed that this camcorder turns itself off when it’s been idle for a few minutes, which surely helps to conserve power. Creative backs the Vado HD with a one-year warranty.
As with the original Creative Vado, we feel that the $229 Vado HD bests its competitors in many categories—slimness, internal storage, and the inclusion of both an HDMI port and cable. Our 720p video showed an impressive amount of detail, however, the footage was dimmer than that of clips we took with cheaper, competing models; the sound was also weaker and less reliable. We prefer the $229 Pure Digital UltraHD ($200 at Newegg.com) for its sharper HD video, stronger sound, and better bundled software, but the sleeker Vado HD is worth a look.
Here's video we shot with the Vado HD. Please note that it has been compressed from its original 720p resolution.