To say the Vado has a limited range of features would be an understatement. On initial setup, you can select the quality mode and anti-flicker frequency (50Hz for Europe and 60Hz for the US or Japan). Once these have been configured, only the 2x zoom is immediately available, which is digital so potentially reduces image quality. Pressing the play and delete button together calls up the initial setup again, should you need to change configuration. There is at least a standard-sized tripod screw fitting on the bottom of the Vado, and that’s the complete extent of its grown-up camcorder features.
But the Vado does have another feature which is arguably the one which will win it the most friends – built-in USB 2.0. A full-sized USB connector lurks in the bottom of the device, held in place by a magnet. This can be hinged out and plugged straight into a PC. This also doubles as the only power connection, however, so you will need to keep a computer handy for topping up. A full recharge takes three hours when accessing data or just two on its own. The Vado’s built-in USB isn’t unique, however. Pure Digital Technologies’ Flip Video also offers a built-in USB 2.0 plug.
Digital video cameras with the form factor of the Vado almost universally provide poor video quality, and low light sensitivity is primarily to blame. The Vado doesn’t particularly break the mould here. In daylight, the video quality is respectable enough, with decent colour fidelity, although areas of high brightness tend to blow out. Artificial lighting is more of a problem, however. In a living room lit by a single 100W tungsten bulb, a lot of colour information is lost and there is a considerable level of grain. The Vado does manage to maintain some colour in even lower light, but the image is too dark to be usable.
Overall, image quality is worse than Panasonic’s SDR-S7 or Canon’s FS11, although none of these models are particularly impressive in anything but optimal lighting. But it’s still a lot better than what most digital still cameras or mobile phones can muster, and is well beyond other sub-£100 digital video cameras such as the Busbi Video.