The big thing most people will notice about the HMX10 is how relatively small it is. Samsung's crammed the whole unit into a body that measures in at a measly 61.5x67.5x117.5mm. We've tested camcorders whose lens barrels were larger than the entire HMX10 itself. This, combined with its 310g carrying weight, makes it a very easy camcorder to throw into a bag and have with you at most times, increasing its spontaneity value.
We'd like to say that the small size also makes it easy to carry around in your hand, but sadly, this isn't true. If you've held a few camcorders — we'd suggest you hold more than a few, if even only to work out what feels right in your hand — you can't help but be struck by how relatively cheap and flimsy the HMX10 feels once you do pick it up. Things don't start well with the cheap vinyl hand-strap, but the rest of the camera body doesn't exactly inspire confidence either. We weren't brave enough to try it during our test period, but we'd suggest that dropping the HMX10 would be a rather bad idea.
While tape, DVD and hard drives cling grimly to life, it's becoming increasingly clear that flash storage is rather quickly becoming the format of choice for camcorders, and the HMX10 isn't about to buck that trend, with 8GB of on-board flash memory. That might seem a touch anaemic for HD storage purposes, but the HMX10 also supports SDHC flash cards, although one is not provided with the camera.
Much of what the HMX10 sports is relatively standard in camcorders, from the 2.7-inch LCD display screen, 10x optical zoom, image stabilisation and touchscreen interface. In the ever confusing world of HD standards, it's worth noting that a large part of the HMX10's rather attractive asking price comes from the fact that its 1/4.5-inch CMOS sensor tops out at 720p quality recording. If you're after something to truly fill your 1080p panel with sickly pictures of your kids falling off swings, this isn't the camcorder for you.
Aside from the aforementioned issues with holding the camera and its awfully cheap hand-strap, using the HMX10 for actual shooting was a breeze. There's a sensible mix of touchscreen and handheld controls, with the choice of a physical zoom either on the top of the camcorder, or on the side of the LCD panel. Touchscreen controls worked well, even with fairly stubby fingers working rapidly, and it was easy enough to adjust settings on the fly. Notably, there's no night shooting mode on offer with the HMX10, which may deter some users, and there's also something of a delay in switching modes between still/video/playback modes. Video quality was in the fair range for a consumer level camcorder, and we did notice a lot of picture quality problems when shooting in less than ideal light.
Ultimately, the HMX10 is a real compromise camera. It's not up there with the best of the true 1080p camcorders, and if you're after something like that, the very similar Panasonic HDC-SD9 has the same size advantages — but then it costs almost twice as much as the street price we've seen for the HMX10. If 720p will fulfil your aspirations, and you can live without night shooting and with the very dodgy hand-strap, then the HMX10 is worthy of consideration, especially considering the relatively small price jump it commands over lesser SD camcorders.