The four sibling models--the JVC Everio GZ-HM300, HM320, HM340 and HD500--may be $60 to $100 less than HD competitors, but they're defined by a tiny, insufficient-resolution-for-HD sensor, a 20x zoom lens with no optical image stabilization (only electronic), and the lowest resolution LCD display in their class.
One thing the entry-level JVC models have going for them is size: they're the lightest and smallest models in their class.
In the LCD recess are the playback and recording controls, Upload (to YouTube, via computer), and a power button that also cycles through three different information screens--a surefire way to end up turning off the camcorder accidentally.
Connectors include component, AV and MiniHDMI out.
The USB connector is on the back of the camcorder--a better location than on most models. Of the membrane buttons on the LCD bezel, only OK and Menu are fixed; the other three are context-sensitive. You navigate the menus via the slider strip on the left side, which lights up as you use it. It probably demos well in retail, but it's only modestly effective as a navigation technique--it's too imprecise, leading to accidental slide-bys past your desired option.
This still photo is pretty typical of quality of the camcorder's best still shots and videos: not as good as a high-end cameraphone. That's because it interpolates from a maximum of 1.1 megapixels (or as low as 750,000 pixels) up to 2.1 (HD resolution of 1920x1080).
Not only do these camcorders have some of the worst fringing I've seen in a while--and fringing is quite common in zoomy camcorders--the fringing on the "Event Horizon" logo in the background kept vibrating between purple and yellow.
As you zoom further out, the camcorder uses a an even smaller part of the tiny, low-resolution sensor (which most other manufacturers at least call out as a special zoom mode). So at 20x, this 1920x1080 video (that's 2.07 megapixels) is created from a 750,000-pixel capture. You might as well have used digital zoom.