The Flip Video Mino is the fourth generation of Pure Digital's popular straight-to-Web mini camcorder, designed to make shooting and sharing low-resolution videos very easy. Thinner, smaller, and lighter than its older and less expensive sibling, the Flip Video Ultra, the Mino crams similar technology into a more compact, more attractive package that integrates a rechargeable lithium ion battery. (For a comparison of the various models, the company provides a comparison chart.)
Most of the 3.3-ounce Mino is about redesign. The USB connector now flips straight up, rather than to the side, for an overall more compact footprint that should fit better in a crowded USB environment. It has a slightly smaller transflective LCD display--1.46 inches compared with 1.5 inches--that enables you to still see what's on the screen in bright daylight. The back navigation controls are snazzier than before, with touch-sensitive buttons embedded into a shiny, flush surface. The port for the AV output has been shifted down slightly and is smaller (it's smaller than the standard 2.5mm jack--a cable is included). And finally, the threaded tripod mount has been moved from the left side of the bottom of the camera to the center.
Like the 60-minute version of the Ultra, the Mino comes equipped with 2GB of memory, capable of storing 60 minutes of its VGA-resolution video (the rechargeable battery gives you about 4 hours of shooting time). And finally, you can now pause and rewind/fast-forward your videos in camera (previous models didn't have this feature).
Overall, we like the new design and appreciate it mostly for being even more pocketfriendly. We also like the new touch-sensitive buttons, which are responsive--but not too responsive. Along with the aforementioned AV cable for viewing videos on your TV, you also get a chamois-style carrying pouch that doubles as a cloth to wipe down your Mino. While the white model doesn't show fingerprints and grime like the black version does, the white Mino does show dust and fibers, so the carry pouch comes in handy for cleaning duties for both models.
For the Ultra, the company moved to what it calls the "Pure Digital Video engine 2.0." The Mino has a new 2.5 engine, which features a next-generation video chip. The incremental gain may be slight, but it helps keep the Mino--in terms of video quality--ahead of competitors from RCA and Creative. The Mino exhibits slightly sharper images with more vibrant colors--and it performs very well in low-light environments. The camcorder also has an updated--more sensitive--microphone with improved signal processing.
All that said, it's important to note that the Mino, like the cadre of other straight-to-Web camcorders, produces video that's on a par with what you'll see from relatively inexpensive still digital cameras that have improved video-capture modes. And some of those models, like the comparably priced Casio Exilim EX-Z80, even come with similar software that allows you to easily upload your videos to YouTube and other video-sharing services.
Speaking of bundled software, we didn't notice any truly significant changes to the Flip Video software that ships with the Mino, other than to note that along with YouTube and AOL, MySpace is a new partner for the company. In addition, the Mino now supports direct operation on a Mac, without requiring software installation.