Aiptek Pocket DV3100 review: Aiptek Pocket DV3100

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The Good Four-in-one device; CompactFlash memory-expansion slot; has both an LCD and an optical viewfinder; mini tripod included.

The Bad Skimpy internal memory; subpar video quality; noisy images.

The Bottom Line This four-function mini cam is affordable, versatile, and portable, but don't expect its images to be anywhere near high-quality.

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5.2 Overall

In the competition between pint-size devices, Aiptek's Pocket DV3100 earns bonus points for cramming four functions into a tiny package. In addition to capturing AVI video and photos, this mini cam works as a Webcam and a voice recorder. While it doesn't do any of its jobs especially well, the DV3100 is not a bad deal.

Measuring 3.3 by 2.7 by 1.7 inches and weighing 5.9 ounces with batteries and media installed, the DV3100's plastic case is small and fairly lightweight. But the mini cam feels somewhat chintzy compared with its sturdier competitor, Gateway's DV-S20. The DV3100 is a little shorter than most vertically oriented models, but the flip-out LCD viewfinder sticks out quite a bit when closed, making the device less pocket-friendly. Controls are logically arranged on the back, and the menus are easy to read on the bright 1.5-inch screen.

No optical zoom is available, but you do get a 2X digital zoom. And though there's no autofocus, you can switch between macro and landscape focus by turning a ring on the lens. Unlike the SD/MMC-carrying DV-S20 and SiPix DV100, the DV3100 uses an optional CompactFlash card. You'll probably want to pick one up; the internal memory is only 16MB.

The device runs on two AAs. Aiptek recommends using alkaline batteries, but we had no problems with rechargeable nickel-metal-hydride cells. The DV3100 also has a battery-saving feature that's unusual in a mini cam: the electronic viewfinder has an on/off switch and an optical counterpart.

Compared with competing tapeless mini cams, the DV3100 has a typical 320x240-pixel video resolution but a slow maximum frame rate of 10 frames per second, which made movies excessively jerky. When you use the device as a Webcam, those numbers can improve to 320x240 at 24fps or 640x480 at 10fps, but video in the latter mode was so jumpy that it was barely watchable. All in all, the DV3100's footage was the usual for a low-cost mini cam: very far below DV camcorder standards but fine for casual viewing. Our captures had reasonably accurate and consistent color, and exposure adjusted smoothly when we panned between light and dark areas. You can also record up to 60 minutes of audio to the built-in memory.

The DV3100 offers three photo resolutions: 2,048x1,536, 1,600x1,200, and 1,280x1,024. As the midlevel option is the sensor's native resolution, the highest-res mode will yield larger but not better pictures. Image quality varied but generally kept the DV3100 in the realm of the toy camera. Color rendition was more accurate than that of either the DV-S20 or the DV100. Low-light interior shots, however, showed excessive noise.

It's hard to argue with the utility of four cool functions in a single shirt pocket-size device. As long as your image-quality expectations are low enough, you'll likely enjoy the convenience and the flexibility of the Pocket DV3100.

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