Cheap Camcorder Face-Off: Flip Video Ultra vs. Flip Video Mino
Starting today, Pure Digital is selling the Flip Mino ($179 for the 60 minute model), the sleek follow up to the Flip Video Ultra, which has sold almost a million units and won our Mobile Innovation Award last year. Aside from being forty percent smaller than the Ultra, the Mino has a faster image processor, an omni-directional mic, pause, review, and fast-forward buttons, and can upload movies to MySpace. But does it deliver better video quality? And are these added features worth the extra thirty bucks? As we did just two weeks ago with the Creative Vado and Flip Video Ultra, we pit these dueling Flip Videos against each other in a face-off. Read on for round-by-round battles, and test videos taken with each camcorder. Design/Interface: Flip Video Ultra: At 4.9 ounces, the Flip Video Ultra used to be more than light enough for us. But compared to newer models– the 3.0-ounce Creative Vado and the 3.3-ounce Mino– it feels heavy. In addition to weighing less, the Mino is forty percent smaller than the Ultra, which measures a chunky 4.1 x 2.2 x 1.2 inches. Both models have a bright red record button in the middle of a four-way navigational pad, which is turn flanked by dedicated playback and delete buttons. On the Flip Ultra, these are raised buttons, and are closer to the 1.5-inch screen and to each other, making it easier to press one by accident. Of these two camcorders, the Ultra is the only one that comes in fun colors. In addition to black and white, you can buy it in white with either pink, orange, or green trim. Flip Video Mino: The Mino has the same general design as the Ultra: a solid colored body with a different color lining the sides and rimming the lens. But this one looks shinier (and picks up more fingerprints, to boot). It’s only available in black and white, which adds to the sleekness. Like the Flip Ultra, the Mino has a 1.5-inch glare-free screen. But the buttons are farther away from the screen, and the layout feels more spacious. With the exception of the record button, these are touch controls. They make for a slimmer body, for one, and are also more tactile. This is advantageous when you want to use the “+” and “-” signs to zoom in and out with subtlety, but putting less pressure on the controls than you would dedicated buttons might take some practice. Although both camcorders start up in three seconds, we pressing the Mino’s power button to holding down the Ultra’s switch. The Mino also introduces the ability to lock the delete button and mute camera sounds. Finally, it offers advanced playback options: the ability to pause, rewind, and fast-forward movies. Winner: Although we miss the Flip Video Ultra’s fun color palette, we prefer the Mino because of it’s smaller, sleeker shape, touch-sensitive, better-spaced controls, and advanced playback options.
Flip Video Ultra: As mentioned the Ultra has a 1.5-inch glare-free LCD with a resolution of 528 x 132. It records 640 x 480 video at 30 frames per second. It has 2GB flash memory and can record up to 60 minutes of footage. It includes 2X digital zoom and records videos in the MPEG-4 AVI format, which is easy to edit and play back. When you’re done editing, you can upload your movies directly to YouTube and AOL. Flip Video Mino: The Mino has all of the above specs, with a few extras. One, it has uses the Pure Digital Video Engine 2.5 for video compression, whereas the Ultra uses version 2.0. Secondly, it has an omni-directional mic, and the Ultra doesn’t. Finally, it uploads to MySpace, which the Ultra and standard Flip Video do not. Winner: The Mino. Although the two camcorders are nearly identical spec-wise, the Mino’s superior sound and compression, and extra uploading option, pushes it over the edge.
Flip Video Ultra: The Ultra takes two AA batteries. The rated battery life is two hours, unless you use Energizer batteries which are rated for five hours. Flip Video Mino: The Mino has a rechargeable battery that lasts approximately four hours. Winner: Although the Ultra can last longer than the Mino under some circumstances, we prefer the Mino’s rechargeable battery because the cost of constantly replacing AAs adds up quickly.
Flip Video Ultra: The first video shot was of a water fountain with people chattering in the background. Although its colors were dull compared to the Mino’s, we thought its brighter exposure was more accurate. Moreover, when we used the 2X digital zoom to capture more detail in the stone fountain, the picture became blurry, and the camcorder didn’t refocus until we zoomed back out. The second video shot was of a busy city scene, with moving cars and people hurriedly crossing the street. Neither camcorder does a good job bringing out the shadow detail and compensating for the harsh backlight, but the Ultra’s clip, at least, is noticeably brighter (that’s a good thing, given that it was sunny outside). The final video shows a robotic panda with glowing blue eyes moving and making noises in a dimly lit room. Flip Video Mino: We shot the same scenes with the Mino. Our video of the fountain showed richer colors, but seemed underexposed. We did notice an improvement when we used the 2X zoom; it did a better job of maintaining focus as we zoomed in on details. Although the Mino has an omni-directional mic, we didn’t notice a major improvement in the sound quality. Similarly, our street scene, looked underexposed, and had sound quality similar to the Ultra’s. Our video of the panda wasn’t as bright as the Ultra’s, which is a particular problem in low-light situations. The panda, itself, however, looked slightly sharper with more vividly blue eyes. Winner: We’re going to have to go with the Flip Video Ultra here. The two camcorders deliver similar sound and the Mino’s colors are often richer, but the Ultra’s videos are consistently brighter and more accurately exposed, particularly in low-light situations.
Although the Mino won three out of the four rounds, the Ultra took the biggest category: video quality. The Mino costs thirty dollars more, and only you can tell which features matter most to you. The Mino has a smaller, sleeker, more intuitive design, a rechargeable battery, and can upload to MySpace (it also has an omni-directional mic, but we were hard-pressed to hear the difference). If none of this matters much– or if you’re loathe to spend an extra thirty bucks– the Ultra offers slightly better video. Water Fountain