Hands On Review: FLIP UltraHD Video Recorder

flip1Are you ready to Flip? I am! In fact, I did — I got the Flip UltraHD as gift for the holidays and I love it. This device makes everyone, including the technology-challenged, want to film some video. They’ve addressed what I consider to be some of the main challenges to be with video cameras for the novice: a) too many buttons and switches, and b) complex computer integration. The Flip has embraced the “i-(fill in the blank)” generation by creating a simplistic device that only has two or three main buttons and integrates super-easy with a computer. The company that makes the product is called Pure Digital™ and was recently bought out by Cisco™ for $590 million. After trying this puppy out, I can see why and say, honestly, it was worth every penny.

Okay, first some tech-specs (just the highlights): The Flip features a 2” color LCD screen which looks great! It’s bright and the resolution is 960×240 (very clear). The UltraHD version can record for 2 hours and is available in a black or white case. The device bears a stark resemblance to an iPod or iPhone (go figure). The resolution of the video image is 1280×720 and is 30 frames/second. The resulting file is in an .mp4 format. And, you can pick this puppy up for about $160-$200.

Those were some of the basics. Here are some of the specs that make this thing special: The Flip comes with rechargeable AA batteries that can be recharged by plugging it into a computer via the USB connection. Oh, and, yes, it has a USB connection — with pre-loaded software (i.e., no CD, DVD, or download). So, the first time you plug it in to your computer, it will automatically self-install and be ready for use. There is also a HDMI jack for plugging it directly into your digital TV/cable box and watching it right from the device. Oh, and HD, dammit!

flip2So, what’s the skinny from a real user? Well, I’m fortunate to have two new nephews who are quite amenable to filming, so they became my test subjects over the past week. And, no lie, I put in the batteries, pressed the power button, clicked the big, red record button…and I had my first video recorded of my nephews putting food in their hair. This is the easiest video recorder in the world. The LCD screen looked great and the ease of use was fantastic (there are only four buttons on the device). I was pleased already, but, then, I plugged it into the USB port on my laptop (Dell XPS M1330, Vista, 2.1 GHz, 4 GB RAM). I was expecting all kind of issues, but it initiated and completed installation in a breeze (one restart required and it switched screen profiles from Aero to Basic automatically).

After that, the software starts up automatically whenever the Flip is plugged into the computer and the software provided was far simpler and convenient to use than any other video editing program I’ve seen. In fact, it enables you to upload directly to YouTube™, MySpace™, FaceBook™, it enables you to burn a DVD, make a movie, grab stills, email or save videos, edit scenes, etc. If you’re connected to the internet, the software will automatically update itself AND the Flip, too. I was impressed. The website (www.theflip.com) is very helpful in providing a product comparison chart, knowledge base, etc.

Okay, there must be some “cons” to this thing, right? After all, nobody’s perfect. Well, I have to say there are some, uh, points of improvement, I’ll say. Remember that great, 2” color LCD screen? Well, it gets smudged quite easily. Also, I’m curious as to what is the long-term potential for this device considering that cell phones and PDA’s are getting better and better at video at an increasingly rapid rate. These things said, I still give my Flip UltraHD a huge, double-thumbs up (and two snaps in Z-formation, for the In Living Color fans). The Flip will finally make me into the strange artist I’ve always wanted to be.