If you've been reading any of the gadget blogs lately, you're probably already aware that Flip Video has a new pocket camcorder called the SlideHD. The new product was leaked last week by a Best Buy employee in advance of its official April 13 launch (it also didn't help that Best Buy was selling the camcorder before it was officially supposed to launch).
Anyway, the SlideHD is here, and it represents an interesting move for the company, which is now owned by Cisco. Instead of adding more shooting features, a wireless option, or releasing a lower-priced model, Flip has gone with a camcorder that adds more playback features, thanks to a generous 3-inch wide-screen touch-enabled LCD that "slides" up at angle. The $279 SlideHD also comes with 16GB of internal memory, which allows you to capture up to 4 hours of HD video; that's double the storage capacity of previous Flip models.
In shifting to a touch screen, Flip has reduced the number of hard buttons. Like you do with a lot of other mobile video devices and smartphones, you control the camcorder by touching virtual buttons onscreen and play back content by simply touching its thumbnail image. In our early tests with the SlideHD, we found the screen to be responsive, but it doesn't have that buttery smooth responsiveness of the iPhone 3GS, iPod Touch third generation, or the iPad, all of which have capacitive touch screens. Also, though the screen resolution is fairly sharp, it's not on par with the resolution of Apple's portable devices or Microsoft's Zune HD.
Why did Flip decide to go in this direction? Well, company reps informed us in a meeting last month that its customers told them they wanted to be able to shoot and store a lot of videos (and snapshots) on the device, then be able to share them with friends and family on the road without hooking the device up to a TV or computer. Fair enough.
To accommodate this new vision, not only has Flip preloaded its user-friendly FlipShare software onto the camcorder, but it's also added Flip Channels to the device itself, which allows you to synchronize and store video that others have shared with you. Since that video is compressed for sharing, you can actually store up to 16 hours of videos from your Flip Channels right on the SlideHD.
"It's like having your own portable life book for spontaneous viewing anywhere," Flip says in its marketing materials. "SlideHD's 3-inch wide-screen playback makes it ideal for many occasions such as entertaining the kids with their own personal video show or fine-tuning a tennis serve."
Alas, you can't store any other kind of video on your Flip (it doesn't play back AVI files, for example). And those of you comparing features with competing models like Kodak's Zi8 should take note that Flip decided not to add a macro mode (for close-ups), an expansion slot for additional memory, some form of image stabilization, or an input for an external microphone. In fact, we were told that aside from added memory, the technical specs of the SlideHD were essentially identical to the company's popular Ultra HD model, which retails for about $100 less.
In terms of design, what's interesting is that the because the camcorder has two-tone coloring (white/silver), when you look at it in profile it seems bigger than the Ultra HD, when the two models are actually the same size. (Both the first and second-generation versions of the Mino HD are more compact).
- Color: White/silver and personalized (you can choose from a variety of designs at Flip's Web site or upload your own images)
- Recording time: 4 hours
- Storage time: Up to 12 Hours
- Memory: 16GB
- Screen: 3-inch transflective touch screen
- Video resolution: HD 720p (1,280x720 pixels--30fps)
- Video format: H.264, MP4
- Battery: Internal lithium ion rechargeable
- Battery life: Up to 2 hours
- TV output: HDMI wide screen (sorry, Flip doesn't include an HDMI cable, which is irritating)
- Zoom: 2x digital
- Audio: Stereo speakers, headset jack
- Price: $279
The day Apple manages to integrate HD video capture into the iPhone or iPod Touch, Flip will be in serious trouble. But for now it remains the clear leader (by a wide margin) in the pocket camcorder space, and for some Flip fans, the SlideHD's large tilt-up screen will certainly come across as an appealing and worthwhile added feature. However, the question remains whether it's appealing enough to attract buyers at this higher price point, especially with no performance or image quality improvements.
We'll have our full review later in the week, but in the meantime feel free to let us know your thoughts. Will this new Flip be a hit like earlier models?