- Editor's Rating
- Compact size
- Affordable price
- Easy to use
- Low video quality
- Short battery life (90 minutes on a full charge)
- Easily lost, removable controls cover
Quick TakeA victim of what makes it so appealing to begin with -- its diminutive size and affordable sticker price -- the Polaroid Cube may find itself relegated to the "stocking stuffer" tier of today's action cams. But that doesn't make it unworthy of attention.
The Polaroid Cube is a mini-masterpiece, an eency-weency wonder with worthy wow factor that seems to occupy an existence somewhere between cute and rugged. Roughly a quarter the size of a Rubik’s Cube, it weighs a mere 1.6 ounces and measures just 1.4 inches square.
Intended as Polaroid’s contribution to the action cam market, it can be easily attached via built-in magnet to any metal surface, eliminating the need for bulky mounts. Although its existence isn’t going to keep GoPro execs awake at night, it just might be the ideal choice for those interested in testing the action cam product pool before diving in headfirst.
Build and Design
If inanimate objects could scream, the Cube’s cry would be: “I am simplicity, hear me squeak!” Constructed with a durable rubber exterior, this is one camera that won’t cause any panic attacks if accidentally dropped. According to Polaroid, the Cube isn’t only shockproof but it’s also weatherproof, meaning that it can take a fair licking and spraying. Detailed specs indicate it’s waterproof up to 6.5 feet, but the availability of a waterproof case with suction mount (available separately) leads us to believe that the camera shouldn’t be submerged too much.
Taking a closer look, we find the Cube’s front face equipped with a 124-degree wide angle lens and a tiny, almost invisible pinhole microphone. The rear panel is reserved for a round cap that can be unscrewed by coin to reveal a microSD slot (which supports cards up to 32 GB), a Micro USB port for charging and transferring media (cable included), and a switch to toggle between 720p and 1080p HD resolution. The only drawback here is the controls cover is fully removable, lending to the possibility of it being easily lost.
The camera’s top side is adorned by a small LED light and a large, round multifunction button that’s used to turn the Cube on or off and to activate photo or video capture. The bottom side houses the Cube’s magnet resides, allowing the camera to stick to the roofs of vehicles, the surfaces of skateboards, the handlebars of bicycles, or other metal surfaces. Additional tripod and helmet mounts can be purchased separately, all of which utilize the magnet connection method.
Controls and Performance
Activating the Cube is as simple as holding the multifunction button down for three seconds, after which a series of beeps and the lighted status of the LED tells you when the camera has been turned on or off. Once on, snapshots are captured by pressing the multifunction button a single time. A double-tap of the same button launches video record. Ending recording is as simple as performing another double-tap.
Connecting the Cube to a computer via the provided micro-USB cable launches a folder in which users can access photos and videos. This is also where settings for light frequency, timestamp, cycle recording, and beeper volume can be altered. To access these settings, the user launches a file named PolaroidCube.exe. This opens a menu that displays all of the aforementioned settings. Light frequency controls shutter speed, which can be switched between 50Hz and 60Hz.
Activating cycle recording enables continuous shooting by automatically writing over older files if the SD card gets full. If cycle recording isn’t activated, the Cube stops recording as soon as the SD card reaches maximum capacity. By default, all videos are segmented into five-minute clips, even during continuous recording.
As previously indicated, video can be recorded at either 720p (HD at 30fps) or 1080p (Full HD, also at 30fps), which puts it on par with some low-end and older smartphones. Videos are saved in .mov and photos are saved in .jpg format. Snapshot quality is 6 MP. Launching .mov video files on a Windows desktop using Windows Media Player was problematic in that the videos played back with no sound. Quicktime and the third-party video playback app VLC Media Player proved equally effective for audio and video.
Repeated impact testing during video recording showed the camera performance and overall casing design to be solid. The same could not be said of the controls cover, however, which showed signs of wearing away only a few removals, causing potential issues down the line as wear and tear take their gradual toll.
The video quality won’t wow anyone. It’s flat and drab, and the wide-angle lens significantly distorts the image. Stabilization is also an issue, and even a holding it while briskly walking will produce earthquake footage. But at least it’s all clear… that much we can say for it, and it?s all good enough to show friends and post to YouTube. Audio pickup is also spotty at best. Any distance between the subject and the onboard mic will result in muted and hollow audio. But let’s be reasonable. This thing is tiny, it’s rugged, it’s easy to use, and it’s fun. That it produces good enough video is more than good enough.
The cutesy, adorable nature of the Polaroid Cube is something that can’t be overlooked, and because of that it’s an action cam that seems destined to be used more by casual users than outdoor adventurers. Hardcore action enthusiasts will more than likely still reach for the GoPros of the world to capture their daring exploits, but that doesn’t mean there’s no market for the Cube. Priced at an affordable $99, it could find success as the device of choice among consumers shopping for a less intimidating product to test the waters — or maybe as a stocking stuffer for the shutterbug who already has it all.