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Sanyo Xacti HD2: Smallest hi-def camcorder is reborn

Sanyo returns to CES with its renegade camcorder. The Xacti's small body and brash claims of hi-def capability shocked the world last year -- and now it's back

Camcorder fans will recall that Sanyo launched the quirky Xacti VPC-HD1 model at CES 2006. This year the company's back with a new revision of its Star-Trek-inspired hi-def camcorder. Last year we were disappointed with the HD1's performance once the initial high of using a palm-sized hi-def camcorder had worn off. The new VPC-HD2, however, features better optics and at first glance seems considerably improved.

The HD2 is $100 (about £50) cheaper than its predecessor, but shares the same essential specs of a 720p resolution at 30fps. It still writes to an internal SD or SDHC memory card. An 8GB SDHC can store around 3 hours of high-definition video, or around 8 hours of standard-definition video. Not all hi-def is born equal though, so Crave will reserve judgement on image quality until we've had a chance to do an exhaustive test with the HD2. The new Sanyo can also take 7.1-megapixel stills during a video recording -- this remains a rare feature among camcorders.

One of the problems with hi-def camcorders is the playback mechanism. Given that many consumers are opting for HD Ready televisions, it's surprising how difficult it can be to play your hi-def footage once you've shot it. Sanyo's approach is to use a docking station with an HDMI connector. This lets you run an HDMI cable from the docked HD2 to your TV set. We played about with the system and it seems a relatively intelligent way of dealing with hi-def output to a home TV.

It's invariably difficult to make a quality judgement on the footage from camcorders on the show floor at CES, but we'll be keeping an eye on this model since it remains by far the smallest HD camcorder we've seen. Sanyo expect the HD2 to be available in the US sometime in March this year and Europe soon afterwards. -CS