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Creative Vado review:

Creative Vado

Unfortunately, the Vado Central software is Windows only--Mac users must manually drag-and-copy files and there are no quick links to video-sharing services. On Macs, videos play back in QuickTime so long as you install the Xvid decoder plug-in.

Some will appreciate how simple and rudimentary Vado Central is, but we think it's a bit too basic compared with what you get with the Flip Video camcorders. The biggest hole is the absence of any sort of editing software that lets you string several video clips together or single out a still image from a clip. In contrast, Flip Video models include these features along with a stripped-down version of the Muvee program, which automatically edits a set of clips into a "movie," complete with background music (if you so choose). Flip Video also has more sharing options, including video greeting card-style e-mail options. They can be a little cheesy, but it's nice to have a somewhat more robust software package on board, especially if you're the type of novice user some of these cameras are marketed toward. Perhaps, however, Creative is going for a younger, more tech-savvy audience who's used to using its own inexpensive--or free--video-editing programs. Be warned, though, that if you do want to edit the video from the Vado, as with video from its competing models, you'll have to troll the Web for appropriate transcoding software in order to get software like iMovie to import the files.

One other small gripe: The Vado doesn't come with any accessories. Excluding an audiovisual cable (yes, there's an AV output) for connecting your camera to a TV is forgivable. But not including some sort of protective case, even a cheap one, isn't. A little felt pouch, such as the ones that come with the Flip or RCA Small Wonder, isn't too much to ask for, is it? An optional protective pouch will run you $14.99, a spare battery $14.99, a charging station $29.99, and an AV cable $9.99. Considering we've seen the Vado selling for less than $90, we understand the corner-cutting measures, but understand you're getting just the camera and nothing but the camera.

Missing frills and features aside, the real question is whether the Vado matches up to the Flip Video models in terms of video quality. The answer is: not quite. The Vado performs well enough--the video certainly meets our minimum criteria for Web-only video--but the Flip Video Ultra's footage looks sharper, the exposures brighter, and the colors more vibrant. Also, low-light performance on the Flip is significantly better. Finally, the mic on the Flip seems a little more sensitive.

In the final analysis, Creative has done a nice job with its first entry into the straight-to-Web mini camcorder market. The small chassis and inclusion of a rechargeable battery are big pluses, and the ultralow price tag keeps it from competing with decent point-and-shoot cameras. But if you want better video quality and more robust software features in the box, so to speak, the Flip Ultra or Mino are better choices for your straight-to-Web video.

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