Operation and Extras
The XR350 ships with an AC adaptor, component and standard AV cable, USB cable, remote control, PMB software CD-ROM and external battery. Missing of course is the HDMI cable, which is hardly surprising considering no major camcorder manufacturers include one, but disappointing none-the-less.
I like the PMB software that ships with current Sony camcorders. It's much more polished and useful than other proprietary editing suites and enables users to organize footage, perform simple edits, burn to disc, email and upload to sharing sites.
Just like the CX110, the HD videos are MPEG4 AVC/H.264 and take the form of .m2ts files. They play back just fine with the PMB software, but you'll need the proper codec package to see them via Windows Media Player. PMB is not compatible with Macs, but Apple fans should have no trouble using iMovie instead.
One last feature worth noting is the XR350 GPS. When on, it geotags photos and videos. Then, when playing back the videos or images, you can check out where they were shot on a Google map in the XR350 display or through "Map View" on the PMB software. A thumbnail image appears along with the file time and date. You can also view a map index with each photo or location marked and the file accessible through a touch or click.
The HDR-XR350 is ultimately a tale of two Handycams. There are three major flaws: the small display, clunky menu system and missing audio jack. There is also the large hard drive, which adds significantly to the price and bulk. However, I can't fairly count that against the XR350 as I assume most consumers know what they are buying when they decide on this particular model. Besides, the XR350 hard drive was quiet and stayed cool throughout my testing. I still prefer the smaller and cheaper flash-based models, but now only marginally so.
The XR350 also does a lot right. It shoots great video in both bright and low light and produces notable stills. In addition, it's loaded with features. The Golf Shot form analysis is extremely useful for both real competitors and "athletes" like myself, and smooth slow record makes even the most basic movements look action-movie cool.
If plusses outweigh the minuses in your mind - and in my mind, they do - I would suggest saving $200 by picking up the $800 HDR-CX300, which is essentially the same camcorder with 16GB of flash memory instead of a hard drive. If you heart is set on a hard drive model, then the XR350 is worth a hard look for the video quality and features alone.
Design/Ease of Use
* Ratings averaged to produce final score
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