Creative Labs found a niche in the quickly growing pocket camcorder space by bringing out models that cost less than its competitors but offering many of the same features. To a degree, the same holds true for its latest model, which Creative simply calls the Vado HD 3rd Gen.
This model offers 720p HD resolution, 4GB of built-in memory, and an HDMI output, in a compact, stylish package that weighs a mere 3.3 ounces. It lists for $179, significantly less than the second-generation Flip Video MinoHD and about the same as the rival Kodak Zi8, which requires you to purchase an additional memory card because it lacks any real internal memory. Your color choices are white, purple, black, blue (cyan), and red.
Though attractive, the Vado 3rd Gen doesn't feel quite as durable as the heavier Kodak Zi8 or the metal-bodied second-generation Flip MinoHD, and since it has a shiny finish, it does seem prone to scratches. As is typical of this class of camcorders, the design is fairly basic: the operating side features a large 2-inch LCD (640x240 pixels) with only a single record button flanked by capacitive touch buttons that are quite responsive. On its side you'll find a Mini-HDMI port for outputting video to HDTVs, though no cable is included. At the bottom, there's a threaded tripod mount and flip-out USB connector, for uploading and charging via a PC. Finally, on top, you'll notice a headphone jack that also accepts optional external microphones.
We can't rave about the interface, but it's fairly straightforward and simple enough to navigate once you play around with the device for 10 or 15 minutes. You can shoot video at HD resolution (720p) and at the lower 640x480-pixel (VGA) resolution, which allows you to store more video than the typical 2 hours of HD in the 4GB of internal memory. That 2 hours is about how long the rechargeable lithium ion battery lasts as well.
Additionally, there's a still-image capture mode that produces photos just a notch above camera phone quality. And though there's no macro/close-up mode or image stabilization, it does have a motion-detection setting that triggers recording when it senses motion in front of the lens. As with all current pocket camcorders, there's a 2x digital zoom but no optical zoom.