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At $279.99 the Flip Video SlideHD minicamcorder is expensive for a category popular--at least partially--for its low prices. The higher than usual cost is attributable to a 3-inch wide-screen touch-enabled LCD and 16GB of internal memory (double the storage capacity of previous Flip models). Along with being a touch screen, the display "slides" up at an angle, giving you one more way to enjoy yours and others' home movies. Like Flip Video's other models, the SlideHD makes shooting and sharing video something just about anyone can do out of the box. Unfortunately, the rest of the package comes up short.
It's not that a larger screen for sharing isn't a good addition; it's that the overall experience of using the SlideHD isn't great and the price you pay for having the larger screen--in usability and monetarily--doesn't seem worth it.
|Key specs||Flip Video SlideHD|
|Dimensions (HWD)||4.1 x 2.2 x 1 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||5.9 ounces|
|Storage capacity, type||16GB, internal flash|
|Resolution, sensor size, type||1.6 megapixels, 1/4.5-inch CMOS|
|LCD size, resolution||3-inch LCD, 96K dots|
|Lens||Fixed focus, f2.4|
|File format (video, audio)||H.264 video, stereo AAC audio (.MP4)|
|Resolution||1,280x720 at 30fps (progressive)|
|Recording time at highest quality||4 hours|
|Image stabilization type||None|
|Battery type, rated life||Lithium ion rechargeable, 2 hours|
The SlideHD's body is two tone: white for the main body and silver for the screen. (If you want to personalize the look, you can pick a design to have imprinted on the body through Flip's Web site.) It's plastic and feels cheap compared with the metal body of the company's less-expensive second-gen MinoHD. It's bulky, too, despite being ever-so-slightly smaller than the Flip Video UltraHD. The thickness is more forgivable on that model, though, because it's powered by AA-size batteries. (Our guess is it needs to be that thick to support the tilt-up screen.)
Since most of the functions are handled through the touch screen, there are only a couple physical controls. On the right side is a small power button; on the left is a switch for flipping out the USB connector up from the top. On front is the lens flanked by mics; red record lights are hidden in the mic grilles, too. On the bottom are a Mini-HDMI port, a threaded tripod mount, and a headphone jack. Though the minicamcoder has a large 16GB of storage, there is no way to expand that amount.
The SlideHD only records when closed, but it will play back videos when it is open or closed. The LCD slides to the right, so if you're gripping it with your right hand while recording, it should block the screen from opening. Still, it would be nice to have some way to lock the screen while recording.
The touch controls mimic the set you'd find on the company's other devices: Play, Delete, Record, and four-way navigation. Since they are onscreen when recording, you don't get use of the whole display for framing your shot; it's a shame, but understandable. One thing to be aware of is that even though the picture rotates when you hold the minicamcorder horizontally, the video--and your subject--remains vertical.
The touch screen is fairly responsive, but don't expect an Apple iPhone experience or even that of a current touch-screen digital camera. For example, once you've switched to full-screen playback, getting the controls for volume, pause, fast forward, and rewind to come onscreen is a pain that more often than not caused it to exit playback of the current video. That said, getting it to record video--and stop recording--was never a problem. However, since it's all done with the screen, it's difficult to operate it without looking.
Slide it open and the screen angles up as the rest of the body becomes a base allowing you to set down the device for hands-free viewing. The screen is good enough for what it's for: showing off videos without connecting to an external display. Its resolution is overall unimpressive for the price, though. On the left and right of the LCD are small speakers that sound, well, like small speakers in a tiny mobile device. Once the screen is tilted up, it reveals a small touch strip for quickly scrolling through videos as well as a touch-sensitive spot for accessing settings, Flip Channels (more on that in a bit), and your folders of videos.
Settings are limited to time, date, and turning the Record light and operation Tones on and off. This keeps things very simple, which is, again, the best part about Flip Video's minicamcorders. If you're after things like digital image stabilization, macro focus, or multiple resolution options, this model isn't for you.
The internal lithium ion rechargeable battery lasts up to 2 hours, which is pretty good, but in testing it fell about 20 minutes shy of this mark. Since it's sealed in the body you can't swap it with a fresh battery and it takes about 3 hours to recharge from dead via USB. A $25 power adapter is available that promises to reduce that time to 2 hours.
Speaking of extras, all that's in the box with the device is a wrist strap and a microfiber pouch for storing the device. If you want to take advantage of the Mini-HDMI output or need to connect to a hard-to-reach USB port, you'll need to pony up for the cables; Flip Video will be happy to sell you either or both for $25 each, though we recommend getting them elsewhere for less.
Shooting options are nonexistent as again, the SlideHD is meant to be a simple point-and-shoot minicamcorder. The only real option is for a multistep 2x digital zoom, which really isn't good for much. Once more, price is the biggest issue here because the competition offers more options for less money. On the other hand, Flip Video continues to be the leader in easily sharing your video once it's shot.
Flip out the USB connector and plug it into your Windows (Windows XP SP2 or later) or OS X (10.5 or later) computer and up pops FlipShare, the company's sharing software. Once launched, you can browse, watch, organize, and save videos; edit and create movies with your clips adding music and titles if you want; easily grab a still image from video; and upload to Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube. Videos can be sent by e-mail (at a reduced resolution) or stuck into a greeting card. You can also upload to a personal Flip Channel and create a list of people you want to share your videos with. When you upload a video, people on your list will be alerted by e-mail that a new video has been posted. Flip also has an iPhone app that allows you or your friends and family to access those video remotely from an iPhone or iPod Touch. Of course the 3-inch screen is figured into the sharing experience, too.
Once you've externally saved movies you've shot, you can then use the FlipShare software to reformat them to a smaller size and put them back on the device--all with a couple clicks. This is how you're able to shoot and store up to 4 hours of HD video or save up to 12 hours of Space Saver video on the device. You can also use your storage for videos that others have shared with you through their Flip Channels.
Though you won't mistake the video for that of a full-fledged HD camcorder, we were once again fairly impressed with the clip quality produced by this little cam: reasonably sharp, with accurate, vibrant colors and generally smooth motion. Low-light video is noisy, but that's to be expected and all in all, it's not bad for its size.
The stereo sound was also decent, but you'll still need to be close to your subject and not have too much extraneous noise.
In the end, we're not sold on the Flip Video SlideHD. The three things we like most about Flip's devices are present: dead-simple operation, straightforward sharing, and decent results. But on the whole, the SlideHD comes across as a weak attempt to innovate a borderline commoditized product. The screen gives people one more way to experience Flip movies, we get that. But it's expensive and that's enough to keep most people from buying it. Add on its other potential issues like occasionally finicky touch-screen controls, a bulky body, lack of shooting options, and the possible need to buy extras like cables and a charger, and the package is just a really tough sell.