With the world going hi-def, it seems a strange time for dirt-cheap, USB camcorders to become hot property. But this netbook moment in shooting video is all thanks to two things: YouTube, and the Flip Video.

Of course, being the original web camcorder doesn’t mean the Flip can afford to rest on its USB connector. Hot competition from the likes of Kodak’s Zi6 and Creative’s Vado has arrived, so the Flip has reinvented itself as the Ultra and, now, the smaller, touch-sensitive Mino.

Sleeker and sexier

Flip has added these touch-sensitive buttons around the incredibly tactile record button, and also whacked in a rechargeable lithium ion battery.

The result is a sleeker, sexier, more attractive piece of kit that will fit easily in your pocket, rather than stretching the stitching on your jeans like the Ultra.

Easy USB

The flick-out USB connector has moved to the top of the device, which is good news for those short on space around their computer ports.

Finding your way around the Flip Mino is as easy as ever. Once you fire it up, it’s simply a matter of pressing the red record button to roll, and again to stop. You can flick through your footage with the horizontal touch sensitive LED buttons, which double up as fast forward and rewind, and the vertical buttons serve as both volume and zoom controls.

Unfortunately, the controls are a little sensitive and it’s very easy to accidentally to brush a button and delete a clip.

No memory card slot

Onboard storage remains an adequate 2GB, although we were disappointed to find no card slot added for expandable memory. That equates to about an hour of VGA quality footage or two hours if you choose the lower quality video option.

Picture quality is pleasingly sharp in bright conditions with good detail as long as you don’t get too close to your subject. Although there is a zoom control, we wouldn’t recommend using it as your footage will suffer. It’s much better to use a ‘physical’ zoom and just get closer.

Although we can live without the hi-def talents of the Kodak Zi6, we’d have liked to see a larger screen as reviewing clips on the small 1.5in LCD screen is tiring on the eyes after a while.  

Be kind, rewind

Thankfully, the Mino now supports fast forwarding and rewinding so you can pinpoint a place in a clip rather than watching the whole thing through, while uploading to your computer is as joyously simple as ever.

If you’re using a PC, the Mino will automatically install bespoke software for reviewing clips and doing basic editing like cuts or setting them to music. There’s also one touch uploading to YouTube, AOL and Myspace. For Mac-heads, the Mino will appear as an external hard drive, from which you can easily drag your .mov encoded video files.

On paper the Flip Mino looks expensive for its specs when compared to the cheaper, HD shooting Zi6. But if you can live without the better quality hi-def video, its pocketable form and useability, it’s the web camcorder to go for.

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Stuff says... 

Flip Mino review

It still lacks hi-def shooting and a memory card slot, but the Mino is a big improvement on the Ultra