Flip UltraHD review: Flip UltraHD

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The Good Shoots 720p HD video; high-quality video for its class; easy to use; uses rechargeable AA batteries; FlipShare software compatible with both Mac and Windows machines.

The Bad Somewhat pricey; no memory card slot; no cable included for HD output to HDTVs.

The Bottom Line The Flip Video UltraHD may not be the sexiest mini camcorder out there, but it offers a respectable feature set and some of the best video we've seen from this type of cheap, YouTube-friendly camcorder.

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8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Image quality 8

Editors' note: This is the 2009 version of the Flip UltraHD. While it's still available through some retailers, note that the updated 2010 Flip UltraHD is now available.

You may have heard that Cisco will no longer be producing the Flip camcorder products. However, as long as they're still available on the market, you may want to consider buying one anyway. If so, here are some issues you should consider, and if not, here are some alternatives.

Every six months or so, Flip Video--slated to be absorbed by Cisco by the end of the year--puts out a new model or two of its popular YouTube-friendly point-and-shoot mini camcorders. Late last year it was the MinoHD. Now, for spring 2009, the company brings us two updated versions of the Ultra: a higher-end model, the UltraHD, which shoots 720p (1,280x720) high-definition video, and a less expensive Ultra, which shoots 640x480 VGA video.

On the outside at least, not much has changed from Flip's first-generation Ultra. But there are a couple of notable differences. For starters, the transflective LCD on the back is bigger, measuring 2 inches, compared with 1.5 inches. The buttons are also bigger and the UltraHD, which comes in black or white, has a sort of rubberized, matte finish that allows you to grip the device a bit more easily.

Most importantly, this model comes with a set of AA-size NiMH rechargeable batteries you can charge in the unit by simply connecting the camcorder (via its trademark flip-out USB connector) to the USB port on your computer. Alternatively, you can swap in a pair of standard AA alkaline batteries if you don't have time to charge. That standard battery backup option is a nice convenience, but there's a drawback: the batteries are bulkier and heavier than the slim lithium ion type built into the MinoHD. So by default you're getting a bigger, heavier camcorder--the UltraHD weighs 6.1 ounces versus 3.3 ounces for the MinoHD. That said, the UltraHD is still pocket-friendly, just not as pocket-friendly as the MinoHD.

One thing we don't like about the new design is the chrome plastic trim on the sides of the unit. It looks good but you'll find your self continually wiping off fingerprint smudges with the soft, velvety pouch that ships with the product. We would have preferred some sort of brushed metal, or a brushed-metal look. Another minor ding: there's an HDMI output on the side for HDTV connections, but no bundled cable. That's not a huge deal, but Kodak, for instance, includes an HDMI cable with the Zx1, which retails for about $50 less.

Like the MinoHD, the UltraHD shoots 720p video at 30fps, H.264 compressed, and encoded as MPEG-4. The unit lacks a memory card slot, which is too bad, but its 8GB of internal memory allows you to record 2 hours of video. That should be ample recording capacity for most folks, but if you're on a vacation and shoot a lot of video, it would help to have a laptop along for the ride to offload your video as you run out of memory.