The Flip Mino and MinoHD have been a success in the U.S. for some time now and Cisco have just launched these two models in New Zealand and Australia. I was sent one for this review just before launch and can confirm that it's a success amongst my friends - geeks and non-geeks.
First the details: the Flip MinoHD is a solid state (which means internal memory, no moving parts) 4GB HD camera. It records videos up to 60 minutes on its memory. videos are stored in MP4 format, 1280 x 720 pixels. The smaller version, the Flip Mino (which I don't have one) uses the same MP4 format, but 640 x 480 pixels instead.
Both have very simple, easy to use controls. There's an on/off switch on the side, the fixed lens in the front, a LCD viewer and control buttons on the back.
The control buttons are easy to manage: a big RED button screaming CLICK ME will start/stop recording. You can zoom in or out (digitally) by pressing the Up and Down arrows. Those buttons also work as volume control during playback. You have a Play button and a Delete button.
You enter the configuration menus by pressing the big RED button during boot and browse the options with the Play and Delete buttons. Not many options though: date, time and tones.
You can easily mount the camera on a tripod, and there's a TV Out - not very high quality, but enough to see the results.
The Flip has a built-in USB plug and all the software needed ready to go - so you don't have to carry any CD around to install the software. Just plug the camera and either use it as a flash drive, which allows you to copy the videos directly to your PC, or use the built-in Flipshare software.
Battery will automatically recharge while the device is plugged to your PC, and should last for about two hours - knowing that you can only record 60 minutes it means it's plenty enough for takes, retakes and some playing around.
In my case I copy the videos we like to my Windows Home Server, which allows me to play these on the Media Center in the lounge on a HDTV, or play in any computer in our home network.
If you use the Flipshare software you can automatically import new videos to specific folders on your PC, export those to other folders, upload to social sharing sites such as YouTube or MySpace, or create channels to share those videos with friends.
The Flipshare channels are automatically updated when you drag a new video to them, and your friends with access to the channels will receive an email notification. It's not the high quality original video, but a reduced Flash-based version, but even so very handy way of sharing with friends and family.
Flipshare will also give you tools to create animated cards - just select a video and one of the many design frames to send it as an electronic card to friends. Something to use at special occasions as Christmas, Hannukah, birthdays, weddings, thank you notes, etc.
You can also use the software to create videos or DVDs from your videos - although I've noticed that when creating a video, at least on a Windows PC, the resulting WMV is enormous, and not really the same quality as the original. If you really want to do this kind of things better get the free Windows Live video Maker for example.
The video quality is very good, when you think it comes out of such a tiny device. But you will not get good results with low light. I've uploaded three original videos so you can watch and decide by yourself: