Although Pure Digital kicked off the YouTube camcorder craze with the original Flip Mino, it was soon bested by other models that offered 720p resolution. Now with the Flip Mino HD, the company has jumped aboard the high-def bandwagon. Unfortunately, this pocket camcorder lacks some features its competitors offer—namely, a memory card slot and the ability to take digital stills—but the excellent video quality and unbeatably small size make the Mino HD a compelling choice.
The Flip Mino HD is identical in size and design to the standard-def Flip Mino, which means it retains the trademark flip-out USB plug. At 3.9 x 2.0 x 0.6 inches inches and 3.3 ounces, it’s the world’s smallest HD camcorder. It has a black, glass-like surface with touch-sensitive controls, including a delete button and a triple-duty play/pause/playback mode controller. While these controls were finicky on the original Flip Mino, the Mino HD provides better control; the 2X digital zoom felt especially smooth.
The downside of this Lilliputian camcorder is that the 1.5-inch LCD is smaller and dimmer than the 2.4-inch screen on the Kodak Zi6. The Mino HD has TV and tripod ports but still lacks a memory card slot; it instead has 4GB internal memory, which can store up to 60 minutes of 720p video. Oddly, the included TV-out cable uses old-school composite connectors instead of a true high-def connection such as component or HDMI.
Unlike the Zi6, which can record at VGA resolution or 720p at either 30 or 60 frames per second, the Mino HD just does 720p video at 30 fps. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; 60 fps is only necessary in the fastest-moving situations, plus it eats up battery life faster than 30-fps video. We respect Pure Digital’s effort to simplify the experience for users.
Overall, we were impressed with the Mino HD’s smooth 720p video. It performed well in a wide range of lighting conditions, always delivering pleasant, lifelike colors and loud-enough sound. Only in fast-paced action sequences—an ice-skating rink, for example—did we miss the Kodak Zi6’s 60-fps option.
In addition to a higher resolution, the Mino HD has ushered in a new version of FlipShare, the camcorder’s onboard editing and uploading program. When you plug the device into your notebook, the software, which works on Macs and PCs, installs within seconds. In addition to the Mino HD, users can pull in movies from their hard drive to edit and upload.
The interface is fool-proof. The movies’ file names appear in the left-hand pane listed in a traditional menu tree; thumbnails of each movie are displayed in the center. In the upper right corner are three icons for adjusting the size of the thumbnails. Each thumbnail is a player in its own right, so you can play a clip without exiting the library.
At the bottom of the window is a single panel of large, colorful icons, clearly labeled, which allow users to save movies to their computer, view them at full screen, e-mail them, create video greeting cards, upload to an online sharing site (AOL Video, MySpace, and YouTube), and create a movie, snapshot, or DVD.
That you can pull a snapshot from movies after the fact nearly makes up for the inability to capture still photos on the device itself. Aside from adding music, titles, and credits, there aren’t any options for editing videos. But you can always look into some decent free online options, such as Jumpcut.
The Flip Mino HD has a rated battery life of 2 hours, down from 4 with the standard-def Mino. However, since it only accommodates an hour of footage at a time you’re not likely to run out of juice before you run out of memory. In our use, the battery seemed to drain slower than the Kodak Zi6, especially when the latter was set to 60 fps. We like that all you have to do to charge the Mino HD is plug it into your notebook’s USB port.
On paper, the $229 Flip Mino HD doesn’t stand a chance against the Kodak Zi6, which won LAPTOP’s Editors’ Choice: it costs $50 more, doesn’t take digital stills, has a cramped screen, and lacks a memory card slot. But the Mino HD delivers comparable 720p video, and it is smaller and easier to use. We recommend both: the Zi6 offers the most features for the money, but the Mino HD is worth the extra bucks for people who want a pocket cam that can, you know, actually fit in their pocket.