Until the recent arrival of Creative's Vado, the biggest competitor for Pure Digital's Flip Video products in the mini camcorder, straight-to-Web video arena has been RCA's Small Wonder. While the video quality of the Small Wonder hasn't quite measured up to the Flip Video models, it does bring some features to the table that the Flips are missing--namely, a flip-out LCD and an expansion slot for additional memory.
That same theme carries over to the third-generation Small Wonder Pocket EZ205 and its similar twin, the MyLife EZ200 (also called the Small Wonder MyLife), both of which carry the RCA brand but are manufactured by Audiovox. The $10 price difference between the two is reflected by the amount of footage you can capture in the Web Quality mode. The EZ205 can record two times the amount of video as compared with the EZ200, because it uses the a more efficient MPEG-4 codec compared with Motion JPEG for the EZ200. For example, on the included 1GB microSD card, the EZ205 captures up to 2 hours of video and the EZ200 captures up to an hour in Web Quality mode. If you use an optional 8GB microSD card, the EZ205 can record up to 16 hours, and the EZ200 will record up to 8 hours. Because of the different codecs, you may see differences in video quality.
Because it uses two standard AA batteries instead of a slim lithium ion rechargeable, the EZ205 isn't as compact as the Vado or Mino. But the 5.2-ounce EZ205 is still lightweight and small enough to fit in a pocket. The Small Wonder's trademark is its 1.5-inch LCD screen that flips completely out, making it easy to watch while you record yourself. The flip-out LCD is also good for shooting little kids because it allows them to watch themselves in the LCD while you shoot--which they seem to like to do.
As part of this year's redesign, the integrated USB dongle for connecting the camcorder to your computer is now cleverly hidden underneath the LCD and is accessible only when you flip open the LCD. The operational buttons have also been tweaked for the better and a button for snapping low-resolution still images (think: cameraphone quality) has been added to the mix.
The camcorder ships with a 1GB microSD card that slips into a slot in the battery compartment; you remove the camcorder's front cover to get to both the batteries and memory card. What's nice is that you can buy an additional memory card to have on hand in case you fill up the camera with video on a longer vacation, or you can simply buy a much higher-capacity card (up to 8GB) to store several hours of video. As it stands, the 1GB card gives you about 30 minutes of video at the highest quality HQ setting. You also have the option of recording at the lower-quality Web Sharing setting, but we recommend sticking with the best.
Aesthetically, the Small Wonder isn't a bad-looking mini camcorder, but the designers could have done a better job making it appear a bit more refined. As it stands, you take one glance at the EZ205 and it screams budget. Yes, the EZ205 is relatively inexpensive, but so is the more elegant Vado. The idea when you design budget products is to make them look more expensive than they really are. That's not the case here.