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The Flip Video devices have redefined our expectations of what a camcorder should be. The Ultra may have been beaten to the UK market by Vado, but it was clearly the first of its kind in the US, and its format has now even been copied by Kodak with its Zi6. Compared to its competitors, though, the Ultra may offer more sophisticated software, but its chunky form lags behind on the design stakes. Enter the Mino, which has taken the Flip on a diet.
Where the Ultra weighs 147g, the Mino is less than two thirds the size at 93g. It's also a little shorter and less wide, but most importantly half as fat. So it will slip even more easily into a jacket or trouser pocket. The overall design styling is very similar. However, whilst the Ultra is available in white, black, pink and orange, the Mino can only be purchased in black or white. The glossy finish also gives it a slightly classier, iPod-like feel.
Internally, however, the Mino is virtually the same as the Ultra. It uses an identical 1/4in CMOS sensor, recording video at 640 x 480 video at 30 frames per second. The data rate is fixed at 4.5Mbits/sec, recording as a MPEG-4 AVI. The compression firmware is Flip's Video Engine 2.5 rather than the 2.0 version in the Ultra. But you still get 2GB of onboard memory, which is enough to store up to 60 minutes of footage, and there is no slot for expanding capacity.
The 1.5in TFT is the same, too, offering 528 x 132 pixels. And, of course, it still has the trademark built-in full-size USB plug which flips out, providing the source of the Flip name. The TV output socket has shrunk from 3.5mm minijack to 2.5mm microjack. But you still get the necessary cabling in the box to hook up to a TV via composite video and stereo RCA audio, something which is an optional extra with Creative's Vado.
Apart from the difference in size, the biggest change with the Mino is the switch from removable AA batteries to a fixed rechargeable unit. This has positive and negative sides. First, it's almost certainly a major reason for the reduced proportions. Pure Digital also claims you can get four hours of use from a single charge, whereas regular alkaline AA batteries last just two hours in the Ultra.
However, whereas you can pick up new power cells for the Ultra virtually anywhere in the world, the Mino will require a nearby USB socket and time to recharge, as this is the only option. No USB charger is included in the box, either. So you will either need to invest in one, or take your laptop with you on holiday.
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