We'd seen demos of Muvee's full desktop application and have been impressed with its capabilities. It can take fairly boring video and make it seem pretty jazzy--or better yet, amusing. A handful of movie-mix styles are currently available, some more stylized than others. With its standalone PC software, Muvee offers you the option of buying additional "StyleLabs," but it's unclear at this point whether Pure Digital will include new ones with future software upgrades. Unfortunately, the Muvee software is still not available for Mac users. And the Xvid MPEG-4-encoded AVI clips still aren't directly importable into iMovie.
One of the key selling points of Flip Video cameras is how easy it is to get videos off the camera and distribute them. To get started, you flip out the USB connector and plug it into the USB port on your Windows (Windows 2000/XP or later) or Mac (OS X or later) machine and a link to the camcorder's integrated software quickly pops up. You can play back one clip, string several together to make the aforementioned movie mix, pull a single frame (still photo) out of the video, and share your clips with selected viewers via e-mail or the Web. When sharing via e-mail, instead of attaching a large file (even short 20-second clips can result in a 12MB to 13MB file), recipients are sent a link to your compressed video. It looks worse than your raw video footage, but it doesn't look bad.
Aside from the fact that it can take several minutes for your video file to be processed, sharing a file is very simple. Click on the "Share Video" button in the software interface and you're taken to a screen that asks you to select a video clip and choose to share it via e-mail, share a greeting (send a private video card), or share it online.
To publish directly to YouTube, AOL, or MySpace, you'll need to create an account for each service and log in. But once you do, you can automatically upload your videos to the Web for private or public viewing with a click of a button. If you're allied to some other video-sharing site, a click of a button allows you to prepare the video for uploading, but you'll have to manually upload the processed file from a folder on your desktop.
Pure Digital has also announced a make-your-own-DVD service; you upload up to an hour's worth of video to a special Web site to have it burned to a DVD, which then gets distributed to your family and friends at $19.99 a pop. The company also claims you can "keep your videos archived forever," but remember that "forever" doesn't mean the same thing to companies as it does to people.
In the end, despite a couple of small gripes, we came away feeling good about the Mino. The more compact design makes the device even more pocket-friendly than the Ultra and the addition of the rechargeable battery will save you money in the long run (because you don't have to keep buying batteries). While 2GB of memory will be ample for most people, we would have appreciated an expansion slot for more memory and it's a bit irritating that the battery isn't removable and replaceable.
The big question, of course, is whether the Mino is worth $80 or $90 more than competing models from Creative and RCA, or $30 more than the company's own Flip Video Ultra, or if it has the same value as a similarly priced but more full-featured digital camera. They're all debatable--and ideally the Mino would cost less than $150--but when you're No. 1 in your category, you can frequently get away with charging a little more.