BUILD AND DESIGN
The first thing I noticed was that the Flip is extremely light. Being the candy bar style block, I was expecting to pick up something heavier. What I found was pleasantly surprising seeing as though it not only weighed as much as a small cell phone (4.5 oz), it also comfortably fit into a pocket like one too.
The back of the device sports a 4-way controller as well as a record, playback and delete button. It can honestly be figured out in less than two minutes. With the Flip, simplicity is the goal. With the new UltraHD, they’ve once again achieved it.
The front of the Flip sports a slightly raised lens, on-board mic and a recording light.
The bottom houses the new FlipPort connector. FlipPort is broken up into two parts — one is a standard HDMI connector, the other designed for Flip-specific accessories such as a microphone. Unfortunately, all the accessories for the Flip are sold separately. Also on the bottom is a tripod notch and lock switch that secures the removable lithium ion battery cover.
Missing from the setup is a standard definition AV output that was common in the last generation of pocket camcorders (the UltaHD only shoots in HD). If you want to watch videos on the big screen, you are limited to an HD television (if you own one, which Cisco seems to assume) through the HDMI port and an HDMI cable, which is also not included.
Like most Flips, the UltraHD comes in limited colors (only white and black for the 8GB unit) but can be livened up with hundreds of design choices. In addition, artistic users can upload their own designs.
Ergonomics and Control
The UltraHD has some basic controls, buttons and ports in place, yet remains a smooth device that is comfortable to hold. It’s an example of Flip simplicity, a feature I’d argue defines the pocket camcorder product class. The white Flip that I received for review remained clean when I used it in the office, but that sheen might disappear with outdoor use. If you are concerned about cleanliness, dirty fingers will be an issue.
One of the most distinct features of the Flip is its USB dongle that swivels out from the side. I considered this a nice design feature until I had to use it. I ran into two issues: the Flip’s USB is relatively thick, making it impossible to squeeze in a crowded port with other items; and the Flip camcorder hangs from the port at an awkward and potentially damaging angle. The built-in USB is convenient in concept but the lack of a USB extension cable, which is also not included, is a drawback.
As mentioned, the screen sits flush with the Flip and the lens is only slightly raised. Really, they are entirely exposed, just as they are with other pocket camcorders. I recognize the need to keep things compact and pocket-friendly, but the lack of any kind of protection against scratches, for the lens especially, was of concern.
That said, and despite all my nitpicking, I came away impressed with the overall simplicity of the ergonomics. Squeezing down all the necessary controls of a video recorder into such a format is no easy task and sacrifices must be made.
Menus and Modes
The UltraHD has one shooting mode, 720p at 60 frames per second. That’s HD and the Flip has no standard definition option, which is probably why Cisco neglected to include a standard AV outlet. There is no stills option, a feature that just about every other pocket camcorder offers. The UltraHD’s settings include the basics: language, time and date, turning on/off the tones, and turning on/off the record light.
The library of clips is accessed using the left/right buttons on the 4-way controller and the volume is adjusted using its up/down buttons. In the center of the 4-way is a large red record button, while the play and delete buttons sit on the left and right of the controller, respectively. Recording is very responsive and starts immediately after pressing the button.
The 2.0-inch LCD display has a 320×240 resolution. There are no brightness controls, so glare from the sun can be an issue. When filming, black widescreen bars on the top and bottom of the display appear, which shrinks the view by about 15%. A recording timer and surprisingly accurate battery meter are also on display when filming.