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Flip UltraHD series (2010 review: Flip UltraHD series (2010

Flip UltraHD series (2010

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman

Senior Editor / Reviews

Joshua Goldman is a senior editor for CNET Reviews, covering laptops and the occasional action cam or drone and related accessories. He has been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software since 2000.

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Editors' note: Several of the design, features, and shooting options are identical between the Flip UltraHD 1 Hour and the Flip UltraHD 2 Hour we reviewed earlier, so readers of the earlier review may experience some deja vu when reading the same sections below.

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6.8

Flip UltraHD series (2010

The Good

Powered by AA batteries; simple recording controls; embedded FlipShare software remains excellent; adds Twitter support.

The Bad

Mediocre video quality; no memory expansion; no HDMI cable included; no macro focus; no mic, headphone jacks; resolution fixed to 720p at 30fps; lacks new FlipPort for add-on accessories.

The Bottom Line

The Flip UltraHD 1 Hour is an OK entry-level mini camcorder if you just need something simple to shoot and share video, but there are better options.

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.

Cisco's Flip Video UltraHD comes in 1-hour and 2-hour versions, though there's more than just recording time that separates the models. The $149.99 1-hour version reviewed here is basically the same as 2009's UltraHD, but with a smaller storage capacity. The UltraHD 2 Hour (2H) gets all the new features including improvements to video quality and a proprietary port for adding third-party accessories made specifically for Flip's cams. In the end you get your money's worth for the $50 extra you'll pay for the 2-hour.

However, the only reason to get the UltraHD 1 Hour (1H) is if you need the simplest way to shoot and share videos online. Otherwise there are similarly priced models from other manufacturers that offer better video quality. And if you aren't interested in accessories and would like things such as a mic or headphone jack, expandable memory, more than one shooting resolution, or the ability to shoot still photos or play with creative video filters, this and the rest of Flip's lineup are not for you.

Key specs Flip UltraHD 1 Hour
Price (MSRP) $149.99
Dimensions (HWD) 4.3 x 2.2 x 1.2 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 5.7 ounces
Storage capacity, type 4GB, internal flash
Resolution, sensor size, type 1.6 megapixels, 1/4.5-inch CMOS
LCD size, resolution 2-inch LCD, 76K dots
Lens Fixed focus, f2.4
File format (video, audio) H.264 video, stereo AAC audio (.MP4)
Resolution 1,280x720 pixels at 30fps (8.8Mbps; progressive)
Recording time at highest quality 1 hour
Image stabilization type None
Battery type, rated life AA (two, alkaline included)

With the exception of a small Cisco logo on its back at the bottom, the UltraHD 1H's body follows the same look as the previous model. It's available in white with silver, blue, or magenta trim, or it can be personalized when purchased on Flip's Web site.

On front is the lens flanked by a mic and a red recording indicator light. On the right side is a small power button, and on the left is a switch for flipping out the USB connector and a Mini-HDMI port for connecting directly to an HDTV or monitor. On the bottom are a threaded tripod mount and a lock for securing the battery compartment cover. Missing is the new FlipPort that gives third-party manufacturers the ability to create accessories specifically for Flip devices, such as add-on microphones or a portable pico projector.

Speaking of accessories, all that's in the box with the device is a pair of AA-size batteries. 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. Also, the battery life is brief when running on alkaline batteries; it would be wise to invest in rechargeable AAs or get the $24.99 rechargeable pack from Flip.

Features Flip UltraHD 1 Hour
Inputs/Outputs None/Mini-HDMI, USB
White balance Auto
Scene modes None
Focus Auto
Color effects None
Lens cover (auto or manual) None

Again, one of the main reasons to buy a Flip is the easy operation. The control panel is the same one you'd find on all Flip video cameras; there are buttons for Play, Delete, Record, and four-way directional pad, but that's it. When recording, pressing up and down on the pad controls the 2x digital zoom; during playback, it controls volume. Left and right navigate through your recordings regardless of mode. There is no menu system with the exception of some setup options: language, time, date, and turning on and off button sounds and the record light. This means that basically you can hand this device to anyone and they'll be able to shoot a video. Sharing your movies takes more effort, of course, but the embedded FlipShare software continues to be one of the best packages for doing it directly from the device.

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. 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, YouTube, and now Twitter. 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 videos remotely from an iPhone or iPod Touch.

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. You can also use your storage for videos that others have shared with you through their Flip Channels.

As for video quality, it's subpar with what we've come to expect from Flip, and you certainly won't mistake it for video from a full-fledged HD camcorder. Compared with the UltraHD 2H, well, there is no comparison: the 2H is markedly better. Colors seem muted and scenes are generally underexposed. Though the 2H's video may be a little oversharpened, subjects appear fuzzy and soft with the 1H. And if you're shooting any action or panning the camera, there's enough judder to make the video unwatchable. Low-light video is noisy, but that's to be expected. In the end, the movies are suitable for Web sharing, but viewing on a large HDTV is less than thrilling.

The Flip UltraHD 1 Hour is only worth considering if you need a foolproof way to record video clips and share them with friends and family online. For $50 more, the UltraHD 2 Hour is a far better product with more features and storage and nicer-looking video. If you don't have the extra money to spend and don't need AA batteries for power, you're better off going with the Kodak Playsport.

Find out more about how we test camcorders.

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6.8

Flip UltraHD series (2010

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 6Performance 6Image quality 6