I tried several times to connect and stream using three public hot spots in New York City (there's a built-in minibrowser for agreeing to terms of service) and almost as soon as I would connect, it would drop the signal. And then pick it up again. And then drop it. This also happened in CNET's New York office where there are more than a dozen networks I can connect to from my desk. I would connect to a network and I could be standing right next to the router and the connection would drop out. However, in my home, where there's just one wireless network, it locked on and stayed connected.
Once you start live streaming, there's a slight delay of a few seconds and, again, as long as you have a solid connection, the video plays smoothly. People viewing at Qik.com can leave comments that appear in real time on the Live's screen. The video is streamed and stored on Qik, but the Live simultaneously captures HD video to the device.
The wireless can also be used to create an ad hoc network between the Live and an Android or iOS device. Once connected, you can see all of the photos and videos on the Live and transfer them off to your smartphone or tablet. Video is sent at 480x270-pixel resolution, again making for quick transfers and easy uploading.
You also get the option to tag movies and photos for uploading to Facebook, YouTube, Picasa, Flickr, and DailyMotion, as well as Sony's newest cloud service, PlayMemories Online.
So again, the Wi-Fi is the main attraction with this model, so if you don't want that, there are really no other reasons to buy the Live. The video is good, but in this case you're paying a premium for wireless functions, and the rest of this Bloggie's features are pretty standard on minicamcorders.
Sony's changed the name of its organizing and sharing software that comes with the Live to PlayMemories to go along with the launch of its cloud service. It's attractive and simple, but you can't do much with it other than organize, share, and trim video clips. It does those things well enough, but in comparison to what you get on Kodak or Samsung minicamcorders, the offering is weak. The software is Windows only (the device's file formats are supported by iPhoto), but a Mac uploader for Sony's PlayMemories Online service will be available in spring 2012, when the service is available.
As for design, the Bloggie Live looks quite nice, but functionally could be better. The casing is brushed metal and there's nothing on the front except for the lens and an LED lamp. On the back are the 3-inch touch-screen LCD and a record button. The device is held horizontally for shooting wide-screen video, so you can use the whole screen for framing your shots. The Bloggie Live does have an autorotation sensor, though, which means if you turn the device vertically so goes your video. Basically you'll get a long, thin portrait video instead of a wide-screen video. That is, if you turn it before you start recording. Turn it once you've pressed record and you end up with video on its side, as if you tilted your head.
Holding the minicamcorder horizontally puts a power button and shutter release for photos under your right index finger. The buttons are flush with the body, so if you're not looking or paying attention, you could accidentally power off the Live instead of taking a picture. Not a big problem if you're shooting photos, but a bit of an issue if you try to capture a still while recording video.
At the bottom or right side of the video camera is a pop-out USB connector for transferring files to and from a computer as well as charging the battery. Next to it is a threaded tripod receptacle, which is poor placement because the device has to be positioned horizontally to capture wide-screen video. It should really be on the bottom/left side with the Mini-HDMI port, but that would ruin the design.
One last thing: the battery is built in, so you can't easily swap it out when it dies, and a full charge takes more than 3 hours via USB to a computer; using a wall adapter cuts that in half. Using the Wi-Fi will understandably eat into battery life, which is something to keep in mind if you're considering this for streaming long events.
Considering the way the minicamcorder market is going, this quite possibly could be the first and last Bloggie Live. It's not a bad product; it does what it's designed to do and does it pretty well, especially for $250. Then again, for that price you have to really want to be able to record HD video while simultaneously live streaming a low-res version. Everything else that it does can be done with a pocket camera for the same or less money, and you can get better features like a zoom lens, optical image stabilization, and faster performance.
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