RCA Small Wonder EZ201 review: RCA Small Wonder EZ201

The Good RCA has improved its Small Wonder lightweight video camera with a few design tweaks, the addition of an SD/MMC card slot, better built-in software, and a lower street price. With its nifty hideaway USB connector, EZ201 makes it very easy to capture and send low-resolution video e-mails, then share them on the Web via the free Box.net video-sharing site. Also, there's a tripod mount on the bottom of the unit.

The Bad Video quality is still pretty mediocre; not Mac compatible; 2x zoom is digital, not optical.

The Bottom Line While its video quality doesn't nearly measure up to that of a true digital camcorder, RCA's affordable Small Wonder EZ201 will appeal to technophobes looking for an idiot-proof way to quickly share video clips with friends and family.

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7.0 Overall

Last year, Pure Digital Technologies put out a simple plug-and-play video camera called the Point & Shoot Video Camcorder that featured a hideaway USB connector and built-in software that made viewing and sharing your videos incredibly easy. At the same time, RCA licensed the technology from Pure Digital and released its own version of the camera, marketing it under the name RCA Small Wonder EZ101 for the same price ($130). Both versions had similar flaws, and while they didn't score terribly well in our tests, they did show promise.

For 2007, both companies are shipping new models. Pure Digital is serving up the Flip and RCA has the Small Wonder EZ201. The two share much in common, but RCA has gone out of its way to differentiate its Small Wonder, giving it a white case, a more flexible and sharper LCD monitor, and an expansion slot for SD/MMC cards, allowing you to shoot and store much more video if you buy an optional memory card (out of the box, the cameras stores as much as 30 minutes of VGA-quality video (the manual calls it HQ or "best") on 512MB of internal flash memory. You can also opt to toggle down the video setting to LP or "good" quality and store as much as 60 minutes in the internal memory.

Like the earlier EZ101, the EZ201 is very lightweight (5 ounces) and compact enough to fit in a pocket. The 1.5-inch LCD screen flips completely out, making it easy to shoot yourself while watching yourself in the small screen. You can delete any undesirable clips right away, and the EZ201 has a video output, so you can view clips on any TV with a composite-video input (cable included). The unit is powered by two AA batteries and comes with a protective felt carrying case.

Currently, there are several inexpensive cameras on the market with the sole purpose of capturing MPEG-4 video, which is more compressed--and, thus, lower in quality--than the MPEG-2 video recorded by MiniDV camcorders. Video quality is steadily improving with these types of cameras, but it's really designed to be viewed in small windows (read: not at full screen) or on portable devices with small screens. Though the video is generally smooth, it's usually a little grainy and sometimes pixilated. In other words, it's a step up from the video quality of a camera phone, but it's on a par with what you'd record on a basic digital camera's Movie mode.

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