Scott Hanselman

HD vs. SD - Flip MinoHD vs Flip Ultra - Head to Head

January 30, 2009 Comment on this post [11] Posted in Reviews | Tools
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imageI picked up a Flip Ultra in May and we love it. We use it all the time and the wife keeps it in her purse. We've taken three different camcorders to Africa on three different trips and we've enjoyed the Flip Ultra the most. (Flip Ultra Video Review here)

Now, let me preface this review with a statement. I don't like being negative. I don't like blogging negativity, and I'm likely to keep my mouth shut rather than say negative things. I know the Flip marketing folks will eventually find this review and I'm sure they worked hard on this new product. However, it's a step backward in so many ways and that needs to be said.

But, first...

The Good about the Flip MinoHD

  • It's really small, about half the volume of the Flip Ultra.
  • It's 1280x720p HD H.264 video compression, AAC audio compression, MP4 file format. 9.0 Mbps bitrate.
  • You can customize the skin online with your own pics.
  • It has decent low-light support.

The Bad about the Flip MinoHD

  • Batteries
    • The Flip Ultra uses AA batteries. This is so convenient when away from your laptop. You can get AAs anywhere.
    • The Flip MinoHD is sealed and can only be replaced via Flip Support. They are Internal Lithium-Ion batteries and they last between 3 and 4 hours. There's no included power adapter, so you need either a USB charger or a laptop to charge it. Inconvenient when on safari.
  • Resolution
    • There's a lot of artifacting. I'd have preferred a higher bit rate or even uncompressed, but I realize that this is a consumer device made for folks who don't care about that kind of stuff.
    • It's just not 1080p. You may think, "oh, HD!" but 720p vs. 480p is dramatic, but not Dramatic.
  • Field of View
    • The MinoHD has a much narrower field of view. It's not just the letter boxing, it's left-to-right also. I'd have to step back at least 2 feet to see the same visual field. Not a huge deal, but immediately noticeable vs. the Flip Ultra
  • Ergonomics
    • Here's where the profound disappointment begins. The Ultra isn't a beautiful slim device, but it can be easily used without looking at it; you can use it completely by touch. The MinoHD is pretty, almost iPod pretty, but it's smooth buttons are useless without looking. Two are indented, which is a noble attempt at tactile feedback, but it doesn't work in practice. There's sound as you click, but without an actually "clicky" feeling, you'll find yourself accidentally pressing buttons you don't mean to.
  • Video Out Port
    • This one is almost unforgiveable. The Flip Ultra uses a standard camcorder RCA video cable with 1/8" 3-ring connector. The Flip site glosses over this. The MinoHD uses a non-standard 1/16" video out cable. This is one more cable that I can't afford to keep (I have enough unmarked, unlabeled random cables, don't you?) but without it, watching videos on your TV isn't possible without first down-rezzing the videos to 480p on a DVD, or burning to Blu-Ray.
    • The real tragedy here is that this HD camcorder can't output HD to an HDTV. There's no HDMI, no DVI, not even a Component Video Adapter for sale. It outputs SDTV via Composite (Y/W/R) Cables and letterboxed at that. At this point, it appears the Creative Vado HD would have been a better choice as it includes HDMI out.
  • Color Reproduction
    • The Ultra and the MinoHD really have different CMOS sensors. The MinoHD has a red tint and a level of color saturation that's really strange. I can't decide which I think looks like real life, but I'm leaning towards the Ultra. It is more muted, but looks like real life.
    • To it's created, the low-light pickup on the MinoHD is clearly better than the Ultra, which is unusual in a cheap digital camera, video or otherwise.

Conclusion: It's not a BAD camera, by any means. It's is a step backwards from with the Ultra, save it's improved resolution. It's harder to charge, harder to view, and harder to operate.

To test, I recorded 1 minute of my random crazy family after dinner tonight. I put the two cameras right next to each other and tried bright light, low light, action, slow, far, near, etc. Here's the results, both on You Tube and on Vimeo.

NOTE: You'll need to visit the video pages directly and hit "Watch in HD" or whatever the highest res available is, to be sure you're getting a good comparison. Put them next to either other and hit Play at the same time and mute the sound to get a good comparison. (Yes, I realize the videos have been double compressed, so it's not 100% fair. However, that's why I put them on two different sites as mitigation.)

Sample - Flip Ultra Video on YouTube (Standard Res)

Sample - Flip Ultra Video on YouTube (HD Res)

Sample - Flip Ultra Video on Vimeo (Standard Res)

Family Video Test using Flip Ultra at 640x480 from Scott Hanselman on Vimeo.

Sample - Flip Ultra Video on Vimeo (HD Res)

I'm not able to embed my Vimeo HD version. Click the video below and visit the site for HD.

Family Video Test using Flip Mino HD at 1280x720 from Scott Hanselman on Vimeo.

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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January 30, 2009 12:00
Hi Scott,

With all the disadvantages, do you use the MinoHD at all, or are you content with the lower res of the Ultra?

btw, the Vimeo versions seem to have some problems - neither plays the whole way through for me (I tried a second PC as well - same problem). The Youtube ones work fine though.
January 30, 2009 12:53
Odd...All the videos play all the way through for me.

At this point, the Ultra is FINE for DVD quality video...I'm going to burn a few from the HD source though and see if the 720p->480p transition is smooth and see if the 16:9 ratio helps.
January 30, 2009 18:51
Thanks Scott, I was just looking at the MinoHD to provide to colleagues for tradeshows and other events.

By the way, tried OpenID, doesn't work. It says my credentials aren't good enough for your site. If I didn't know any better I'd feel insulted :)
January 30, 2009 19:07
Hi Scott,

I almost purchased the mino hd before christmas, but I found some of the videos that people had taken using it and I personally thought the video was very "jumpy" when there was any kind of movement on the screen. Capturing movement would seem to be important for a video camera..., but I was wondering if you have noticed this?

January 30, 2009 19:22
Thanks for the timely review... I've been looking at getting something like the MinoHD. I haven't been able to find one in stores to play with, but now I can stop looking and check out something else.
January 30, 2009 19:57
I just bought the Sanyo Xacti for my wife. She had a stroke last year and only has the use of one hand.
It takes 9MP photos, and MP4 video.
I am very happy with this unit, and the price is good.

there is an HD model too.
January 30, 2009 20:03
Cute videos and a most detailed review I have seen about Flip. Last year, I was quite excited to launch a video cast and trying to find a mini cam suits my needs. In the end of the day I bought a Sanyo Xacti HD1000 for more professional stuff but still looking for a tiny device I can carry around.
February 02, 2009 0:03
I got my MinoHD for Christmas and the video is not a jittery or pixelated on mine, regardless of the lighting conditions. Would it be possible the firmware on your MinoHD is an older version?

Maybe the people at Flip will see your review and comment.
February 02, 2009 2:26
Scott, this is a very transparent ploy to post videos of your children on the Internet. Absolutely shameless.

(Very cute, though)
February 04, 2009 3:14
Is it me, or is it inexcusable in both of these Flip models that the encoding on the video doesn't let you just put the thing in your USB and play on Windows?

What I want is a camera that I plug into the USB port, it shows up as a drive, I drag/drop the video to my desktop, and then I can double-click and play the video, or email it and it will play.

Astonishingly, the Flip can't do this simple task. The video encoding on Windows won't play without installing a codec. You can't just email the vids to your friends - you first have to run them through an app to change to a format that can be played on other PCs (and this loses resolution).

I returned my flip because it couldn't meet this simple "it just works" scenario ...

March 03, 2009 8:04
Just bought a MinoHD and would like to know the easiest way to burn movies to a DVD (being a PC users)

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.