Flip MinoHD 8GB at a Glance
The Good: Ultra-portable and easy to use
The Bad: Lenses goes in and out of focus, somewhat hard to operate
Two MinoHD Models
Cisco sells two versions of the second generation MinoHD: an 8GB version for $229 and a 4GB version for $179. They're identical in every respect except for memory.
The Flip MinoHD's records 1280 x 720p video at 60 frames per second via a 1/4.5-inch, 1.6-megapixel CMOS sensor. In keeping with tradition, there is no other quality setting to choose from. The video quality on the Flip MinoHD is crisp and serviceable for a pocket camcorder in most environments. Color reproduction looked accurate and indoor/low light video suffered from only small amounts of noise.
The bigger issue I found on the quality front was with the focusing. The Flip MinoHD had some trouble keeping focus on moving objects - the effect is tiny but noticeable (see here). Areas of high contrast (i.e. a difference between light and dark) were also problematic. Bright areas of the video would be blown out or the details totally obscured in darkness. This is, again, somewhat typical for pocket models but it's a limitation to be aware of.
The camcorder has a 2x digital zoom which is a commonplace among pocket camcorders. Unlike many pocket models, which stutter along as you up the zoom level, the MinoHD zooms smoothly. It doesn't offer a huge boost in magnification but doesn't produce as much digital noise as comparable digital zooms, so it's a worthwhile trade-off.
Ultra Portable Design
The MinoHD is extremely svelte, at 3.9 x 1.9 x .63-inches it's closer in size to a mobile phone than a camcorder. It's a light 4.1 ounces. Since it's so small, larger hands may occasionally find themselves edging up against the lens barrel, but overall the Flip MinoHD is comfortable to hold and shoot with.
Aesthetically, the MinoHD is fairly ho-hum (or "understated" if you're the sophisticated type). If you want more splash, though, you can buy it through TheFlip.com with a custom design.
Easy to Use
The Flip remains the easiest camcorder to use, period. You turn it on, point it and hit the big, red record button and that's it. Except for buttons to zoom and to review or delete stored videos there are no other adjustments you can make to any camcorder settings. If you're tech-savvy enough to get online and read this review, you can safely operate the Flip MinoHD.
The MinoHD continues to have a flip-out USB port and built-in FlipShare software for loading videos to your computer and the Web. The software launches automatically whenever you plug the camcorder in and, as you'd expect, is quite simple to use.
While the Flip's simplicity has many obvious upsides, it does have some drawbacks. For one, there's no way to alter the look of the video if you're unhappy with the footage you're recording. As you get more comfortable recording video, the MinoHD can't "grow" with your experience. In an effort to keep things as simple as possible, Cisco cuts out a feature that could add real value to the MinoHD (indeed all their models): a removable memory card.
Short Recording Times, Battery Life
If the MinoHD is sized right to be the perfect travel companion, it's lacking in both the battery and memory department. The 8GB MinoHD can store two hours of HD footage but it does not have a slot for adding a memory card to boost your recording times. If you're on vacation with the MinoHD and you exceed your two hour limit, you'll need to bring a laptop along to transfer your files. The problem is obviously more acute for the less expensive 4GB version.
Given this, I'd recommend the 8GB version over the 4GB, which doesn't provide enough internal memory for longer trips.
As far as the battery goes, you can expect about 1.5 hours, which is pretty skimpy.
Bottom Line: Flip Fans Should Be Happy
If you loved the first generation MinoHD, you'll certainly like the improvements found on the second gen model. The Flip MinoHD is an ultra-portable pocket camcorder that's unquestionably the easiest to use in the market. It produces decent HD footage but the lens doesn't always keep focus on fast-moving subjects and occasionally struggles in environments with high contrast.