Prising the MinoHD out of its black packaging — which, incidentally, bears more than a passing wink and nod to boxes used by a Cupertino company whose logo resembles a partially eaten malus domestica — we were struck by the camcorder's similarity to a candybar mobile phone. Suitably chic, our unit was glossy all over, had piano black smeared on its back, a dark grey finish on the front and dark chrome piping; a silver model is also available.
Controls have been kept to the bare minimum. A power switch lives on the unit's right edge; on the front there's a big red record button surrounded by a phalanx of rather aggressively back-lit capacitive buttons (+/-, left/right, play and delete). The capacitive buttons can, at times, require quite a firm prod, while at other times they're a little too sensitive to inadvertent finger grazes.
The interface is dead simple: left, right, play and delete let you access and remove previously recorded video, and, depending on what you're doing, the plus and minus buttons adjust either volume or the digital zoom. Accidental deletions can be prevented by holding down the delete button and locking that feature off. There's only one menu — accessible during start-up — which allows users to configure items like language, time, date and button noises.
The 1.5-inch transflective screen does the MinoHD a grave injustice. Oddly configured at 528x132, the poor vertical resolution means that using it for playback or shooting is akin to guessing at the meaning of tea leaves. Shooting during the day can also be hampered by reflections from the screen's shiny surface. Despite the screen being flanked by two grilles, the MinoHD only has a single speaker.
As to be expected on an AU$299 camera, even one that's able to shoot in high definition, the feature list is barren enough to make many a desert blush. The bundled composite video cable that plugs into a 2.5mm jack on the MinoHD's left side yields predictably blocky output on an HDTV; if there's an Xbox 360 or PS3 handy use it. On the bottom there's a tripod mount that's well out of whack with the lens' centre line. There aren't any inputs, so improving the Mino's mediocre mono sound via an external mic is off the table.
Like a switchblade, the USB connector flips out of the MinoHD's top. For forgetful travellers this will be a boon as there are no cables to pack or lose; on the, uhhh, flipside, however, it does mean that the device dangles precariously from some computers. As the battery is not user replaceable and the optional power brick isn't officially available in Australia, travellers will either have to pack a laptop or spend some quality time in an internet cafe.
When connected via USB, the MinoHD functions as a removable drive with all videos easily found under the DCIM folder. Preloaded on the Flip are PC and Mac versions of the FlipShare software, which allows owners to view and manage videos, as well as capture stills from footage (the camcorder has no built-in photo-taking ability). It will also enable amateur videographers to trim and mash videos together, as well as share them with others via MySpace, YouTube or email.