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Flip’s SlideHD reminds us of Rocky Balboa. Unfortunately, not the Rocky Balboa of the original Rocky or even Rocky II. Instead, we’re thinking of Rocky III, where The Champ comes in out of shape and loses to, of all people, Mr. T.
What else would you think after picking up Cisco’s Flip SlideHD? Unlike the Flip MinoHD 8GB, which is truly svelte, the SlideHD feels chunky.
You can thank the camera’s “slide” feature for much of the chunk. Unlike previous Flips that have a tiny two-inch screen integrated in the back, the back of the Flip SlideHD sports a much larger three-inch touch screen that flips open and sits at a 45-degree angle to the rest of the unit for video playback.
In an odd interface choice, you use a thin touch strip on the camera’s base to scroll or “slide” through the videos on the unit. Touching the slide strip will play or stop the video. We say the slide strip is odd because, given the unit’s good-size touch-sensitive screen, wouldn’t it make more sense to just do your sliding there? Also irritating is the inability to change the volume levels when the unit is in slide mode. To change the volume, you have to flip the screen shut and stab a set of virtual buttons. It’s clunky, to say the least.
That brings us to another complaint: In shooting mode, instead of incorporating a new UI for the touch screen, Flip decided to emulate the controls of its physical units. On one level it makes sense that buyers of the SlideHD are likely to own other Flip cameras, so the same UI makes for less confusion. Unfortunately, the virtual UI looks antiquated.
Shooting with the SlideHD is really no different than with all previous HD video iterations. The lens is a fairly fast f/2.4 but slightly tighter than the MinoHD’s, which might make it tough to video a group of people up close. The 720p video at 30fps is slightly more efficient than the MinoHD’s. With 16GB of memory onboard, that gives you about four hours of footage. The battery runtime is rated at two hours. Files are stored as MPEG-4 files and encoded with 3ivx’s codec, which makes it a bit difficult to share the files directly. Since the codec is not free, users will have to install the Flip software just to view videos on their friends’ machines.
We thought this whole review was going to result in a TKO for the SlideHD, but just like Rocky, the big Palooka came back swinging in our video test. Shooting simultaneously with the SlideHD, MinoHD, and Kodak Zi8, we actually found the SlideHD’s video to be the winner. It looked slightly crisper than those produced on the MinoHD, and has better white-balance and fewer compression artifacts than the Zi8’s output. Low-light performance was also better than with the others, but not great. (Hey, it’s time you guys put LEDs into these puppies for low light, or add a night mode.) Don’t get your hopes too high, however—the video still can’t touch output from those obsolete HDV camcorders. But those don’t fit in your pocket, either.
So where does this leave us? By a split decision, we’d say the SlideHD needs work on its UI and could shed some weight, but ultimately, its superior video gives it a slight edge over its lighter and more feature-rich competitors.
Audio-out at last! Large screen is viewable in direct sunlight.
Thick around the waist; expensive; no charger or HDMI cable; clunky interface.