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Creative Vado HD (3rd Generation) Review

Highs

  • Superior low-light performance
  • Wide-angle lens
  • Slender and lightweight
  • Manual exposure control
  • Inexpensive

Rating

Our Score 7
User Score 0

Lows

  • Unnaturally tinted colors
  • Touch controls less precise than hard buttons
  • Poor automatic exposure adjustment
  • Half the memory as competitors, predecessor
  • No external storage slot
  • No macro mode
  • Durability issues with USB arm
A handful of updates make Creative’s fresh 720p shooter a better value, but image quality still largely lags behind leaders like Kodak and Flip.

Testing and Usage

As a go-anywhere tech accessory, the Vado HD scores right up there with the MinoHD for portability. Frankly, you can throw it in a pocket and forget it’s there.

Like seemingly every mini camcorder, the Vado HD uses a simple control scheme with a record button in the center, fast forward and rewind buttons to the right and left, and zoom controls above and below. A separate review button bounces you from live recording mode to playback mode. Although the record button itself clicks, the rest are just touch-sensitive spots on the plastic, with no feedback to speak of. They respond quickly to the lightest touch, but we still prefer a tactile control scheme, which makes it harder to accidentally trigger them with the brush of a finger.

While much of the appeal of mini HD camcorders can be derived from their point-and-shoot automation, Creative offers power users a chance to step up their game with a rare feature on this class of camera: manual exposure. By clicking left and right while shooting, you can raise and lower the exposure settings, or return it to the middle position to set it back to auto. While undeniably handy, we wish Creative had improved the sluggish automatic exposure adjustment, rather than giving us manual controls. Pan from a dim inside shot to a sunlit window, for instance, and the Kodak Zi8 lowers the exposure to compensate in a split second, while the Vado HD will dawdle on a blown out white screen while it scrambles to figure out what to do. You could master the manual controls to tame this type of effect, but when other cams do it so effectively on their own, we’re not floored by the manual option.

Like its predecessor, the Vado HD uses an extremely wide-angle lens, which makes it far easier to squeeze everything into the frame indoors than with many competing cams. Because the slight zoom effect of other cams tends to magnify jitters, we also think the wide angle tends to help smooth jerky camerawork.

Creative wasn’t kidding when it claimed low-light performance had been improved on the Vado HD. Not only does it produce exceptionally smooth footage with less noise than other mini cams, it avoids the yellowy cast that many competitors take on when the lights drop low.

Unfortunately, many of our complaints about the original Vado HD video quality still persist. Footage doesn’t quite look as sharp as the output from other cams. Indoor scenes tend to take on a bluish cast, and outdoor scenes tend to look almost purple. And without macro mode, getting in close becomes an impossibility.

Conclusion

The third-generation Vado HD isn’t as sleek as Flip’s second-generation MinoHD, and doesn’t shoot as well as Kodak’s Zi8, but a few shining high points keep it in the game. Superior low-light performance and a wide-angle lens give the Vado HD a huge boost when shooting indoors, and at $180 with 4GB of built-in memory, it’s a good value, too. While we do find the lack of an 8GB option or external storage annoying, most casual users should find 4GB plenty to play with. Still, annoyances like the peeling rubber around the USB arm, missing macro mode, and more major issues like unnatural color tinting all prevent the Vado HD from running with the top tier of mini HD cams.

Highs:

  • Superior low-light performance
  • Wide-angle lens
  • Slender and lightweight
  • Manual exposure control
  • Inexpensive

Lows:

  • Unnaturally tinted colors
  • Touch controls less precise than hard buttons
  • Poor automatic exposure adjustment
  • Half the memory as competitors, predecessor
  • No external storage slot
  • No macro mode
  • Durability issues with USB arm

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