Flip – MinoHD M3160 Video Camera

If the Flip MinoHD was a person, it’d be the kind of person that you see across the bar and your cheeks flush.
Sleek, slim and elegant with perfect curves, a beautiful outfit and you’d like nothing better than to touch them and see if they felt as good as they looked. The Flip MinoHD is the Prom Queen of the pocket video camera world. The popular one that everyone wants to be, or be friends with.
But alas, to those who know her better, behind that pretty dress and make-up our Prom Queen has some issues. She’s over-sensitive, she over-complicates things and sometimes she throws a tantrum for no good reason at all. The question is, is she worth it?
With a backside that looks as good as this one <— you’d be forgiven for overlooking her foibles – certainly I gravitate towards the MinoHD rather than her slightly chunkier (but equally well specced) sister, the Flip UltraHD – but then I own an iPhone just because it’s pretty.
The MinoHD has a built-in battery which is recharged through it’s flip-up USB stick. A full charge will last you enough time to bore the pants off anyone watching on YouTube. However, I strongly suggest you don’t run the battery all the way down, because my MinoHD completely wigs-out and freezes when the battery gets very low. Only a reset seems to solve it (There’s a secret button inside the tripod mount on Flip cameras which resets them in the event that they crash… and mine does, regularly).
The video quality is excellent. It’s 50 frames per second, so very smooth when filming fast action (like a TV) and 720p (1280 x 720 pixels) which in layman’s terms means that the quality is very good indeed and OK for full-screen on a laptop or small TV.
However, the trade-off for this enormous quality of filming is two-fold. Firstly, you need a powerful computer to deal with the files. The video below is 170Mb in size and 2min40 long. Flip’s own Flipshare programme (which comes with the camera) took 20 minutes to process this video (adding titles). And secondly, uploading to YouTube on my 1Mbs connection took a further 30 minutes. It would be nice if either the camera or Flipshare software had an option to reduce quality and file-size.
Sound recording on the MinoHD is OK. It’s got a stereo microphone and picks up sounds very well. But occassionally, as you can hear on the video, the sound drops out for no apparent reason – possibly due to background noise (?)
My main problem with the MinoHD is its buttons. Cisco (who own Flip) have chosen to use Capacitative buttons (like an iPhone screen), which is all well and good until you try to hold the camera in any way except for as shown on the advert. They’re WAY too sensitive and especially if you’re trying to film yourself it’s far too easy to accidentally press all kinds of buttons which is irritating. At least the ‘record’ button is a real push-button and much more positive to press.
SUMMARY: The MinoHD (4Gb) is a very pretty camera. It starts up very quickly so you don’t miss much action. It has a (not very good) 2x zoom, and the video quality is excellent. However, I can’t escape the facts that the capacitative buttons are more of a hindrance than a help, and that you don’t always want massive video files generated – you can’t turn the 720p resolution down. Battery life is OK and you get 1 hour of HD video on the built-in memory. If it were my money, I’d buy the UltraHD instead. It has proper buttons, takes AA batteries so if you’re on the trail you can change them, and although it’s a little chunkier, it’s easier to live with (I own one as well).

Tags and search info for this review: This is a Flip Video review. GearWeAre.com tests and reviews video, camcorder, cameras, outdoor gear and camping equipment.

  • Scottland

    Kodak Zi8 is a superior camera in every way, does 1080, 720, (30 &60 fps), has HDMI out and a microphone jack, has a wider angle lens, takes AA batteries and only costs £25 more.

    You're always going to have trouble processing HD content, it's heeyawdge and unwieldy unless you're computer is very fast indeed and you have software, (Final Cut Pro etc), that can handle transcoding it!!

  • [email protected]

    Thanks for that Scottland. Very interesting. I might go and take a look at a Zi8 in my quest to find a better blogging/self-filming camera.

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  • Psi

    This Flip UltraHD camcorder is even more impressive than the last one. As usual with Flips, it’s the ideal thing for any family hoping to videotape the kids, friends, events, etc. First of all, it’s completely idiot proof: when you get the box, there is absolutely no assembly required. Your first guess about which buttons are the power switch, record button, and USB connector release will be correct; great intuitive design. The device looks and feels great (as other reviewers have mentioned) and easily fits in your hand comfortably for long periods of time (unlike my blackberry). It is a bit larger than the last one, which helps it fit snugly in the hand, though it takes a little bit more space in your pocket. It turns on and off instantly (unlike my home computer or cell phone) so you don’t have to wait long to start recording that precious, fleeting moment.

    The screen is large and the HD video is amazing on big-screen playback. The new 60 frames per second is noticeably better, and pretty much as smooth as you’ll ever need. (Frames change twice as fast as than the eye can see, so it seems super-smooth to the human eye — I did a bit of research!) Image quality continues to be excellent, and not too shaky/bouncy. The new image stabilization seems to remove some vibrations (like when videotaping a baby laughing in a driving car) but I didn’t notice a major difference indoors since it can’t remove the effects of the larger hand tilting movements (caused by my running around stepping on toys while following the baby around). The USB connector is a bit different, on the side instead of the top, which makes it easier to connect to a laptop. Otherwise it’s the same: convenient, easy to connect, and you don’t have to go running to find any special USB connector cable (like my old digital camera). The audio is still good, picking up faint background sounds that I hadn’t even noticed at the time of recording and picking up simultaneous music and voices with great quality. The 2-hour battery life is more than I ever use, so it’s great. There is a new battery pack (very easy to install if you’ve ever had a cell phone), but it doesn’t seem to change anything for better or worse.

    The Flip Video software continues to set the standard. It is ridiculously easy to setup, automatically starts when I plug in the camcorder, and makes it completely obvious how to download the videos, play back, freeze frames to make photos, and share. And it’s fast– not much waiting for videos to load up (like other video players). It’s all in an easy-to-use, well-organized (by video date) layout very similar to the iPod control panel. I wish all software was this easy to use.

    I highly recommend this device– it’s the most impressive Flip yet, and well worth the investment.

  • wlhoppers

    I’m not happy with my Flip Cam (Model M3160) at all. I used it a couple of times and was really pleased but when I went to use it a third time the lens froze open and it wouldn’t turn off. The battery died completely and when I plugged it into my computer to recharge, the camera glowed redhot through the microphone screen.
    Obviously I pulled it out right away so as not to damage the memory card. I’ve tried resetting it several times and did attempt to plug it in one more time but it glowed redhot once again.
    I guess I’m going to have to take it in to be looked at or else break it open as the memory card has one-of-a-kind video.
    If anyone has any suggestions I would really appreciate the advice.

    • Sounds similar to the crashing I’ve experienced when the battery goes completely flat. Mine didn’t heat up, but took a very, very long time to charge after it died. I suggest returning to the point of purchase.