Its first foray into the Flip-dominated mini camcorder market, the HMX-U10, didn't seem to make serious inroads. But at least one of Samsung's follow-up model in its U series, the HMX-U20, makes some necessary updates and adds a unique new feature for the category: a 3X zoom lens.
While zoom lenses are common on traditional horizontal and pistol-grip design models, to date the candy-bar design favored by Flip Video, the Kodak z series, Creative's Vados, and so on has been limited to fixed focal-length lenses.
The U20 also adds a captive USB cable, one of the missing features on the U10 that practically defines the product category; it's not clear whether the software is now loaded on the device. Samsung has also added digital image stabilization.
In all other respects it's pretty similar to its predecessor: a tiny bit narrower, with the same angled lens, 2-inch LCD, and 1/2.3-inch CMOS chip. It records 1,920x1,080 30fps using H.264 compression and snaps 10-megapixel photos.
For $20 less, the HMX-U15 trades the zoom lens for 14-megapixel stills. That's not a particularly worthwhile tradeoff, especially since these two models are particularly pricey: in a market defined by products that cost less than $200, Samsung will be charging $229.99 for the U15 and $249.99 for the U20 when they ship in the spring.