Flip's followup to the successful, caveman-easy Mino HD is fundamentally the same product, slightly better. The improvements are welcome, but there are still some issues I wish Flip would address.
The original Mino HD was one of the simplest, easiest-to-use pocket cams out there. Its video quality was nothing to write home about (and paled in comparison to, say, the Kodak Zi8), but it sold boatloads based on its good looks and respectable performance. So what does the new Mino HD bring to the table?
The new Mino HD definitely feels better in the hand than its predecessor. It's only marginally smaller (about 1.5 millimeters thinner, same width and height) but the upgrade to aluminum from glossy plastic makes it feel much more solid and expensive. The other improvements are welcome as well—the new screen is both larger (2 inches compared to 1.5) and significantly sharper, and it's now packing 8GB of internal memory, twice that of the first Mino HD. That 8GB of memory allows for about two hours of 720p recording. Also new is an HDMI-out jack for sharing videos on HD screens, and it also boasts a faster processor (I didn't see a difference in performance, but Flip says battery life is improved).
As it's packing the same sensor as the first Mino HD, this new version shares the same strengths and suffers from the same flaws: Good in solid lighting and close-ups, but noisy in low-light and choppy while panning. It still can't take stills, there's no optical zoom, and there's no image stabilizer. Also unchanged are those damn touch-sensitive buttons. I accidentally hit the "Play" touch-button several times because you don't have to depress an actual, tactile button to make commands, which is super annoying. Tactile buttons would be a lot more accurate and result in less accidental presses.
As always, we should mention that the days of dedicated pocket cams like the Mino HD are numbered. They're surrounded on all sides, with the iPod Nano hitting them from the low-end and smartphones hitting them from the high. Since convergence is already killing PMPs, we don't see this kind of gadget lasting all that much longer. That being said...
The Flip Mino HD is a solid choice for a pocket cam, since it's sort of the distillation of what the pocket cam category aims for: It's dead simple, to a fault sometimes, takes decent but not amazing video, and is sleek and pocketable. We'd really have liked to see some improvements to the Mino HD's sensor (as well as the merciless execution of those touch-buttons), but overall it's still a pretty decent cam. This new version sells for $230, while the older 4GB model drops to $200—and we'd say the improvements are worth the extra $30 if you're torn between the two. The Flip Mino HD is available now.
Solid-feeling aluminum case
Doubled memory, bigger and better screen, and HDMI-out are welcome additions
Dead simple UI, but it lacks more advanced features
Video quality is okay, but unchanged from last-gen
Touch-sensitive buttons seem designed purely to infuriate