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Flip MinoHD Upgrade: Better Simplicity

Pure Digital has had tremendous success with its Flip Video line of pocket camcorders. It turns out there is a place in the market between camera phones and more traditional digital camcorders -- these small, truly pocket-sized devices are easy to carry, simple to use, and fun to share.

But as a market matures, it's tempting to bulk up new versions of products with additional options and features. After all, even Apple has succumbed to this trend by loading up its newest iPod nano, adding FM radio, microphone, speaker, video camera, and even a pedometer (see previous post).

Similarly in pocket camcorders, products like the Kodak Zx8 and Zx1 do it all, with multiple video resolutions, still photos, and an external memory slot. Others, like the RCA Small Wonder line, offer a broad array of different models and designs, with features including removable batteries, flip-out displays, and a DVD recorder dock.

In contrast, the Flip has maintained its focus on simplicity, so you just power on and shoot, without worrying about set-up or options. The Flip line has two models: the sleek Flip Mino at around 3.3 ounces (see previous post), and the slightly larger Flip Ultra with removable batteries at around 6 ounces (see previous post). Each of these models is available in two versions, standard-definition (VGA 640 x 480) and HD (720p, 1280 x 720).

The key trade-offs in these designs are size and weight vs. screen size and recording time (memory capacity and battery life). As a result, the Ultra models have 2" screens (960 x 240 resolution) and shoot for two hours, while the compact Mino models have smaller 1.5 inch screens (528 x 132) and shoot for only one hour. (The HD models look and work the same as the SD versions, they just shoot in higher resolution -- and have double the storage to provide the same recording time.)

Which brings us to the new Flip MinoHD 120 minute model, just announced today. This doubles the recording time of the original Flip MinoHD 60 min. model, increases the screen size to 2 inches (matching the Ultra), and adds a HDMI connector so you can play videos directly on an HDTV.

Yet the new MinoHD still keeps the same form and size -- albeit with a new brushed metal front (yes, metal, not plastic). As a result, it is slightly heavier, growing from 3.3 to 4 ounces. But it keeps the same basic simplicity of operation, with only subtle refinements like the ability to zoom before recording and a new more rugged all-metal pop-out USB connector.

The built-in FlipShare software also has been upgraded, adding direct sharing to Facebook, and Magic Movie creation to automatically trim and arrange selected videos into a movie. The software will be rolling into the entire Flip line later this month, and can be downloaded from the Flip website (see previous post).

As a bonus, the new Flip MinoHD 120 min. model is priced at $229, the same price as the original 60 min. model when it was introduced last year. The current Mino model prices also have been reduced: the Flip Mino (SD) is now $149, and the original Flip MinoHD 60 min. is $199. The Flip Ultra continues at $149, and the Flip UltraHD at $199.

The Flip Mino design works great as a take-anywhere camcorder, small enough to keep in your pocket or bag to catch the spontaneous moments that you would never get if you had to think about bringing along a conventional camcorder along with its assorted accessories. The new Flip MinoHD 120 min. is a welcome addition -- The two-hour recording time gives you more of a safety margin when you're away from a computer, and the two-inch screen is a significant improvement, brighter and with truer colors.

Check the Flip site to compare the Mino and Ultra models

See my Digital Camcorders Gallery for more on the Flip line and other digital camcoders.

    Find the Flip MinoHD 120 min. on Amazon.com

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