Editors' note: You may have heard that Cisco will no longer be producing the Flip camcorder products. However, as long as they're still available on the market, you may want to consider buying one anyway. If so, here are some issues you should consider, and if not, here are some alternatives.
At $279.99 the Flip Video SlideHD minicamcorder is expensive for a category popular--at least partially--for its low prices. The higher than usual cost is attributable to a 3-inch wide-screen touch-enabled LCD and 16GB of internal memory (double the storage capacity of previous Flip models). Along with being a touch screen, the display "slides" up at an angle, giving you one more way to enjoy yours and others' home movies. Like Flip Video's other models, the SlideHD makes shooting and sharing video something just about anyone can do out of the box. Unfortunately, the rest of the package comes up short.
It's not that a larger screen for sharing isn't a good addition; it's that the overall experience of using the SlideHD isn't great and the price you pay for having the larger screen--in usability and monetarily--doesn't seem worth it.
|Key specs||Flip Video SlideHD|
|Dimensions (HWD)||4.1 x 2.2 x 1 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||5.9 ounces|
|Storage capacity, type||16GB, internal flash|
|Resolution, sensor size, type||1.6 megapixels, 1/4.5-inch CMOS|
|LCD size, resolution||3-inch LCD, 96K dots|
|Lens||Fixed focus, f2.4|
|File format (video, audio)||H.264 video, stereo AAC audio (.MP4)|
|Resolution||1,280x720 at 30fps (progressive)|
|Recording time at highest quality||4 hours|
|Image stabilization type||None|
|Battery type, rated life||Lithium ion rechargeable, 2 hours|
The SlideHD's body is two tone: white for the main body and silver for the screen. (If you want to personalize the look, you can pick a design to have imprinted on the body through Flip's Web site.) It's plastic and feels cheap compared with the metal body of the company's less-expensive second-gen MinoHD. It's bulky, too, despite being ever-so-slightly smaller than the Flip Video UltraHD. The thickness is more forgivable on that model, though, because it's powered by AA-size batteries. (Our guess is it needs to be that thick to support the tilt-up screen.)
Since most of the functions are handled through the touch screen, there are only a couple physical controls. On the right side is a small power button; on the left is a switch for flipping out the USB connector up from the top. On front is the lens flanked by mics; red record lights are hidden in the mic grilles, too. On the bottom are a Mini-HDMI port, a threaded tripod mount, and a headphone jack. Though the minicamcoder has a large 16GB of storage, there is no way to expand that amount.
The SlideHD only records when closed, but it will play back videos when it is open or closed. The LCD slides to the right, so if you're gripping it with your right hand while recording, it should block the screen from opening. Still, it would be nice to have some way to lock the screen while recording.
The touch controls mimic the set you'd find on the company's other devices: Play, Delete, Record, and four-way navigation. Since they are onscreen when recording, you don't get use of the whole display for framing your shot; it's a shame, but understandable. One thing to be aware of is that even though the picture rotates when you hold the minicamcorder horizontally, the video--and your subject--remains vertical.
The touch screen is fairly responsive, but don't expect an Apple iPhone experience or even that of a current touch-screen digital camera. For example, once you've switched to full-screen playback, getting the controls for volume, pause, fast forward, and rewind to come onscreen is a pain that more often than not caused it to exit playback of the current video. That said, getting it to record video--and stop recording--was never a problem. However, since it's all done with the screen, it's difficult to operate it without looking.
Slide it open and the screen angles up as the rest of the body becomes a base allowing you to set down the device for hands-free viewing. The screen is good enough for what it's for: showing off videos without connecting to an external display. Its resolution is overall unimpressive for the price, though. On the left and right of the LCD are small speakers that sound, well, like small speakers in a tiny mobile device. Once the screen is tilted up, it reveals a small touch strip for quickly scrolling through videos as well as a touch-sensitive spot for accessing settings, Flip Channels (more on that in a bit), and your folders of videos.
Settings are limited to time, date, and turning the Record light and operation Tones on and off. This keeps things very simple, which is, again, the best part about Flip Video's minicamcorders. If you're after things like digital image stabilization, macro focus, or multiple resolution options, this model isn't for you.