One of my photos

Flip UltraHD 8GB

November 23rd, 2010 · Posted by Skuds in Technology · 2 Comments · Technology

The Flip Ultra HD 8GB, 3rd generation. In black.

Well I have finished playing with the new Flip UltraHD which arrived from Amazon yesterday.  For anybody interested, the full specs of all the different models are here.

I was a bit frustrated that it didn’t arrive on Saturday so I could try it out at the CCAR party and a bit miffed that when it did arrive the postman just left it outside the front door whre anybody could walk off with it – but I can’t blame Amazon or Cisco for one postman’s habits.

It all turned out for the best anyway because nobody pinched it which meant that I was spared the need to trot into town to pick it up from the sorting office.

I had a little play with it yesterday, connecting it to the laptop and uploading stuff from there.  After retrieving my USB extension cable from work today I tried it on the desktop PC this evening just for the sake of completeness and to make sure it would be OK on the different operating system.

Now I have had a proper play with it, here is the full review:

I had seen the Flip described as a masterpiece of design, made to do one thing and to make that one thing really easy to do, which intrigued me, so I was glad to have the opportunity to see if the device lived up to its reputation, and I think that it does.

First impressions were good. An attractive, easy-to-open, box with slightly embossed photos of the Flip on each side and an interesting sticker on the top, of which more later.

Opening up the box I found a slim, fold-out user guide, the Flip itself, a little case for it, a wrist strap and a battery. The first pleasant surprise was that the battery was already part-charged so I could start playing straight away and not have to try and be patient for 4 hours.

The second pleasant surprise was finding that you can use 3 AAA batteries instead of the rechargeable battery in an emergency, like if you are away from computers and run the battery down. I thought that was a nice piece of design, making the one battery compartment fit both the square lithium-ion battery or standard AAAs. I don’t think you will get too much time out of AAAs but handy for emergencies.

Setting up the date and time was quick and easy so I moved on to filming the cats. As promised, it really is simple: just press the one big red button to film. I don’t think it is possible to make it any simpler and this may be the first electronic device I have seen that really is idiot-proof.

After a couple of test films I plugged the Flip into a laptop using its built-in connector, the one that flips out of the side and gives the camera its name. It was recognised immediately by Windows 7, the drivers were installed and I had the option of using the included software to view videos or to use standard Windows features. Choose the included software and it is installed for you.

The software was quite easy to use too. Without resorting to any sort of manual or help I watched the couple of short films I made, trimmed one down to a shorter length, made a .jpg snapshot from one of the frames, and uploaded the videos to my Facebook and to Youtube.

Later on I tried it on a Windows Vista desktop PC and Vista also recognised it straight away, loading up all the software and everything.

So is it perfect? Not in absolute terms, but very near perfect in the sense that works very well for the one task it was designed to do – to capture video in reasonable quality and let you share it by uploading or emailing. The picture quality is respectable for such a device – 720p HD. Nobody is going to shoot a feature-length Hollywood movie on it, but that is not what it is meant for. The quality is fine for Youtube-type use. The output looks great on a PC screen, even full-screen. You can output directly to a TV using the micro-HDMI connector, but unfortunately I don’t have a micro-HDMI lead to test that out.

The important thing is that it boots up really quickly so it is available to use straight away – one button to turn it on and the big red button to use it. See something interesting going on and you can be filming it within a couple of seconds of taking it out of your pocket, and have it uploading to the social website of your choice within a minute of reaching the nearest computer.

The case supplied is functional rather than beautiful, likewise the wrist strap. Good enough, though many people will decide to fork out for more attractive accessories. Actually uploading films to the internet takes some time, but no longer than it does by any other means. That is a limitation of the internet rather than the software.

My only real complaint is that the flip-out USB connector, while perfect for use with a laptop, is not good at all on a desktop PC. To use it you would have to hold the Flip in place or risk damage by having the connector support the camera’s weight. Not a big deal because so many people have laptops and most of the rest of us have a USB extension lead around somewhere, but if you only have a desktop then budget a couple of pounds extra for an extension lead if you don’t have one.

And what about the interesting sticker on the box? Well that gives registration codes for a couple of special offers. One is for a copy of Website X5 software and the other for a year’s web hosting with Website X5 is a product I have tested before and like the Flip itself it has limited functionality but does its one thing very well without any need for expertise. Those of us with honorary anoraks will have web hosting packages and software design packages we have chosen for their more advanced features, but for anyone who just wants to set up and host a simple website immediately these will do OK – especially for free.

It is probably apparent that I am impressed by this and I am looking forward to using it properly – i.e. for something other than the cats running around the house.

I think I will let our girl take this back to university with her.  She probably will find more things worth filming than I would – but not until I have taken it to the work’s Xmas party this week and the Spizzenergi concert next week, and as long as those two events aren’t enough to get me hooked.

I guess the big question is this: why bother with a dedicated video camera when you can get a phone that does everything?  Personally I like to keep my devices separate for several reasons.   Yes I could phone, text, listen to music, play games, surf, take photos, read books and make films on the one device but that device only has one lot of memory and one lot of batteries.  Go up to London reading a book while listening to music and you might find that the power dies just when you want to film something.

More likely in my case I would find the memory filled with music and have no space to film anything.

If you are the sort of person who does like to keep all their eggs in one basket and thinks that their own particular device combines the best mp3 player, best camera, best e-bookreader for them, then you won’t be converted, but if you are on the market for a single-purpose video camera for leisure use then I would thoroughly recommend this.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Ryan

    I wana buy this, but i wana kno if you can use this for mp3 aswell, does it take in songs?
    and is there a port where i can stuff my hear phones in? reply me to this at

  • Skuds

    It does one job only and does that job without any fuss.
    You can’t play music, play games, set alarms, send textx or anything else – just make films.