When networking specialist Cisco acquired Flip maker Pure Digital in 2009, rumors swirled that the next-generation Flip would be a connected device that could possibly enable wireless and effortless video sharing, given Flip's proclivity for simplicity.
It turns out the rumors were wrong. With its latest offering, the Flip SlideHD, Cisco instead focuses on playback with the addition of a slide-out-and-up 3-inch touchscreen that gives the gadget the appearance of a portable media player. Other than that tweak and an increased capacity to 16GB, Cisco hasn't changed much from the UltraHD and MinoHD. Like those Flips, the SlideHD has one shooting mode at 720p/30fps, a fixed-focus lens, and is extremely easy to operate.
But with pocket camcorders now offering 1080p resolution, optical zoom and other additional "advanced" features at prices well below the SlideHD's MSRP of $280, is the Flip formula still enough? Or does the Flip's easy HD trump all? Read the review to find out.
BUILD AND DESIGN
The SlideHD sports the familiar Flip candy bar design, although it's a bit thicker than the MinoHD or UltraHD due to the new touchscreen display. The 3-inch LCD slides out 45 degrees from the back of the device, revealing a sensor strip for navigating video clips and speakers It's a nifty feature, and certainly impressed DigitalCameraReview.com's Allison Johnson who called SlideHD a "spiffy looking camcorder."
The available Flip patterns are also cool. While our review unit is just white and silver, Cisco has long partnered with Caf Press to offer a plethora of available colors and prints, including NBA team logos, celebrity-inspired designs and more than 50 Hello Kitty patterns. Budding artists can even create their own Flip print, either through an app in The Flip Store or by uploading a JPEG or PNG file.
Despite the added thickness, the SlideHD is still literally pocket-sized. It's also quite sturdy and feels solid in my hand. While it's less solid than the Mino or Ultra due to the SlideHD's moving/sliding parts, it is still well constructed.
Ergonomics and Control
Scan the Flip and you'll find a fixed-focus lens, microphone and recording light on the front and a touchscreen on the back. One side houses the power button while the USB dongle release switch resides on the other. The USB dongle is on the top of the Flip, and the mini-HDMI out (cable not included), tripod slot, headphone jack and wrist-strap notch are on the bottom. With most of the camera controlled through the touchscreen, it's about as minimalist as a functional camcorder gets.
One issue with the Flip design is that the lens is flush against the device, so it's easy to accidently touch it and leave a greasy fingerprint. This happened to me constantly with the SlideHD. Even while recording, my finger made its way over the lens multiple times. Otherwise, shooting with it feels comfortable and natural.
You can upload videos from the SlideHD to a PC through the USB, and since Cisco didn't pack an AC adapter, it's the only way to charge the device out of the box. It's unfortunate too, since the USB dongle is very rigid with no vertical flexibility. Plug it into a USB slot from a raised surface, and the SlideHD hangs and droops while straining your PC's USB port. Also, the SlideHD takes up a lot of real estate when connected and can block other USB inputs with its bulk.
Menus and Modes
The Flip SlideHD has one shooting mode, 720p at 30 frames per second. There is no option for stills, a feature that just about every other pocket camcorder offers. The SlideHD touchscreen divides into thirds when the display is closed and flushes against the back of the Flip, with the top-third containing the viewfinder/monitor and the bottom two-thirds containing the record "button," zoom/volume control, play icon, delete icon and arrows to navigate clips.
Open the SlideHD and it reverts exclusively to playback mode. Here, users can navigate and play clips as described above, access the SlideHD settings (limited to the time and date, turning off/on the record light, and turning off/on the button tones), play imported videos through Flip Channels (more on that later) and access shortcuts to tagged stills (either imported and taken as screenshots from clips) and movies.
The Flip SlideHD controls all picture settings, including white balance and exposure controls.
The 3-inch transflective touchscreen has a resolution of 400 x 240 pixels, which provides enough detail for a decent playback experience. Like other touchscreens I've encountered, it's difficult to see in bright sunlight, so you'll want to show off videos in a shaded area.
The SlideHD touchscreen is also reasonably responsive. The big red record icon reacted with every touch, as did the digital zoom and volume control. Though, it lost some responsiveness when I navigated and played clips by swiping and tapping the screen. You can also navigate clips by sliding a finger over the sensor strip, which I found to be the more effective method.
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