With the success of the Flip Video Ultra, a lot more companies are taking a hard look at the straight-to-Web mini camcorder market. Enter Creative, jumping into the fray with its superslim $99 Vado Pocket Video Cam. The Vado, which includes 2GB of internal memory and a removable rechargeable battery, offers features and specs that are very similar to competing models from Flip Video and RCA. While it's stylistically on par with Flip Video's higher-end Mino, it's significantly less expensive.
Like its mini camcorder brethren, the Vado doesn't use tapes, instead recording MPEG-4 AVI video to the device's 2GB internal flash memory--and it's designed to be very easy to use. The memory fits 60 minutes of video at the best setting, HQ, and 2 hours at the lower quality SP setting (the rechargeable battery gives you about 2 hours of shooting). Because the video isn't all that great to begin with--the resolution is 640x480 pixels, like most of its competitors--you should probably stick with the HQ setting. But if you've got to shoot a longer event and don't have a computer nearby to transfer your videos to, we can see where the lower setting might come in handy.
Overall, we liked the design of the Vado, which currently comes in silver and pink; Creative plans to add additional colors in the future. At a little over a half an inch thick and about 4 inches tall, the Vado is about the same size as a folded-up Motorola Razr cell phone and truly pocket-friendly. There's a threaded tripod mount on the bottom and an ample-size 2-inch antiglare LCD (for recording and playback) on the back that delivers a fairly sharp picture and doesn't wash out completely in direct sunlight. The rubberized finish of the camera has a nice feel to it, but it's worth noting that it'll absorb stains more easily than a camera with a hard, shiny plastic finish. For instance, we accidentally touched the Vado with the tip of a pen, and it left a small mark that was difficult to completely remove.
Like the Flip Video and RCA's Small Wonder camcorders, the Vado has a built-in USB connector so you can plug it into your Windows or Mac system as if it were a thumbdrive. The unit recharges through USB.