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RCA Small Wonder EZ200 review: RCA Small Wonder EZ200

RCA Small Wonder EZ200

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David Carnoy
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David Carnoy

Executive Editor / Reviews

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.

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5 min read

Until the recent arrival of Creative's Vado, the biggest competitor for Pure Digital's Flip Video products in the minicamcorder, straight-to-Web video arena has been RCA's Small Wonder. While the video quality of the Small Wonder hasn't quite measured up to the Flip Video models, it does bring some features to the table that the Flips are missing--namely, a flip-out LCD and an expansion slot for additional memory.

6.2

RCA Small Wonder EZ200

The Good

Improved low-light performance over its predecessor; flip-out LCD; ships with a removable 1GB memory card.

The Bad

Design isn't as slick as its competitors; no rechargeable battery; video quality is still fairly mediocre; bundled software isn't Mac compatible.

The Bottom Line

RCA's Small Wonder Pocket EZ205 has some significant advantages over its competitors--but it has a lot more drawbacks.

That same theme carries over to the third-generation MyLife EZ200 (also called the Small Wonder MyLife) and its similar twin, the Pocket EZ205 (also called the Small Wonder MyLife), both of which carry the RCA brand but are manufactured by Audiovox. The $10 price difference between the two is reflected by the amount of footage you can capture in the Web Quality mode. The EZ205 can record two times the amount of video as compared with the EZ200, because it uses a more efficient MPEG-4 codec compared with Motion JPEG for the EZ200. For example, on the included 1GB microSD card, the EZ205 captures up to 2 hours of video and the EZ200 captures up to an hour in Web Quality mode. If you use an optional 8GB microSD card, the EZ205 can record up to 16 hours, and the EZ200 will record up to 8 hours. Because of the different codecs, you may see differences in video quality.

Because it uses two standard AA batteries instead of a slim lithium ion rechargeable, the EZ200 isn't as compact as the Vado or Mino. But the 5.2-ounce EZ200 is still lightweight and small enough to fit in a pocket. The Small Wonder's trademark is its 1.5-inch LCD screen that flips completely out, making it easy to watch while you record yourself. The flip-out LCD is also good for shooting little kids because it allows them to watch themselves in the LCD while you shoot--which they seem to like to do.

As part of this year's redesign, the integrated USB dongle for connecting the camcorder to your computer is now cleverly hidden underneath the LCD and is accessible only when you flip open the LCD. The operational buttons have also been tweaked for the better and a button for snapping low-resolution still images (think: cameraphone quality) has been added to the mix.

The camcorder ships with a 1GB microSD card that slips into a slot in the battery compartment; you remove the camcorder's front cover to get to both the batteries and memory card. What's nice is that you can buy an additional memory card to have on hand in case you fill up the camera with video on a longer vacation, or you can simply buy a much higher-capacity card (up to 8GB) to store several hours of video. As it stands, the 1GB card gives you about 30 minutes of video at the highest quality HQ setting. You also have the option of recording at the lower-quality Web Sharing setting, but we recommend sticking with the best.

Aesthetically, the Small Wonder isn't a bad-looking minicamcorder, but the designers could have done a better job making it appear a bit more refined. As it stands, you take one glance at the EZ200 and it screams budget. Yes, the EZ200 is relatively inexpensive, but so is the more elegant Vado. The idea when you design budget products is to make them look more expensive than they really are. That's not the case here.

Apart from the design changes, still-image capture button, and improved low-light performance, there isn't much else that's new. As with previous models, you can delete undesirable clips immediately, and the EZ200 provides a video output and cable, so you can view clips on any TV with a composite-video input. As noted, the unit is powered by two AA batteries (included) and comes with an inexpensive neoprene protective carrying case, as well as a USB extender cable.

The camera's internal software, RCA Memory Manager, is only compatible with PC Windows 2000/XP or later-based computers. Sorry, Mac users. Flip out the USB connector, plug it into the USB port, and a viewer automatically pops up. The interface may not be superslick, but it is fairly straightforward and most users will have no problem figuring it out without opening a manual. You can choose to view your videos, edit, or share them. As for editing, you can do basic edits to your clips, setting start and end points, and string several clips together to make a "movie," which you can then share or store on your computer. Clips or movies saved to your computer can also be burned to DVD via your PC.

Clicking on the Share tab gives the choice of uploading your video to YouTube or Box.net (another online video- and photo-sharing service), or e-mailing it to someone. If you decide to e-mail a clip, the program automatically compresses the video to reduce the file size. Recipients simply click on the attachment and play it back using Windows Media Player. It's worth noting that previously, it could take a minute or more to compress even a short 30-second clip. But the process is much quicker now.

In order to upload your videos to YouTube or Box.net, you have to first sign up for a free account with a username and password. As part of the upload process, your video file is compressed even more than the file created for an e-mail attachment, so the quality isn't quite as good. However, viewing a streamed file online in a viewing box is arguably more convenient than opening a large e-mail attachment.

The marketing materials for the EZ200 note that the company has improved the low-light performance of the camcorder, and that appears to be the case. In fact, we thought the camera did its best work indoors, with subjects in close range. For low-resolution (640x480) video, the image appeared fairly sharp. While the EZ200 delivers better outdoor exposures than the EZ205, the videos display more compression artifacts, including visible pixel blocks and color shifts. In short, overall the image quality was passable, and we felt that the Creative Vado was better in this department. The more expensive Flip Video Ultra and Mino also offered better image quality, with the Mino leading the pack among current minicamcorders.

So, there you have it. We aren't in love with the Small Wonder Pocket EZ200's aesthetics and can't rave about its image quality, but the flip-out LCD and removable/expandable memory are in its favor. While it's hard to expect everything in a sub-$100 minicamcorder, RCA borders on being really frustrating. Depending on how you look at it, that's either a good or bad thing.

6.2

RCA Small Wonder EZ200

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 7Performance 7Image quality 5
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