Creative’s first-generation Vado HD may have fallen off the horse the first time we threw it in the ring in our mini HD camcorder roundup, but Creative has dusted the little guy off and come back for more. The new third-generation Vado HD departs from the first and second generations with a sleek new design, additional features like external microphone support and improved low-light recording, while oddly dropping in storage from 8GB to 4GB. Do these tweaks and a lower $180 justify snagging one over the likes of its many competitors? Let’s find out.
At 3.9 inches tall, 2.2 wide and 0.6 thick, the deck-of-cards-sized Vado HD hasn’t changed dimensions a bit for its third generation, but it has dropped a sliver of weight from 100 grams down to just 93. As far as mini HD camcorders go, this one really is a featherweight.
The design has been rounded off even more than previous versions, and dressed in a glossy checker pattern that feels a bit feminine – especially combined with violet, turquoise, bright red and black as color choices. Although the all-plastic Vado HD doesn’t exude the quality of say, the alumimum-clad Flip MinoHD, it does feel generally well put together. The one exception seemed to be the rubber around the USB port, which gets picked at when you peel it out of the recess it hides in, and started to peel away from the metal on our review unit.
Specs for the Vado HD will look very familiar to anyone who has eyed the previous models: it uses a 2-inch LCD, offers 2x digital zoom, and, as we mentioned, sports identical dimensions. Unfortunately, unlike previous iterations, third-gen is only available with 4GB of internal memory, not 8GB. The lack of any storage slots will also prevent users from adding additional space if they need it.
While Kodak, Sony and even Samsung have stepped up to 1080p resolution on their latest HD camcorders, Creative and Flip have both remained content with the 720p resolution they’ve both been touting for over a year now. While technically superior, we will concede that 1080p content also gobbles a lot more memory without a major visible difference unless you plan to show it on a 1080p set. Still, we wish Creative had included the superb 60fps option Kodak includes for shooting 720p on both its Zi6 and Zi8. The Vado HD is only good for the standard 30fps.
Like Kodak’s Zi8, the Vado HD now includes an external microphone port for recording better audio, and it doubles as a headphone jack for listening to playback on a pair of headphones. You’ll also find more common accouterments like an HDMI output jack, dedicated switch to flip between shooting stills and shooting video, and the all-important flip-out USB jack. This one is hinged on rubber for more flexibility, and handles charging as well.
With its charger and data cable built right in, the Vado HD doesn’t really need any accessories, but Creative throws in an HDMI cable for outputting video to HDTVs, and a short USB extension, which can be useful when dealing with the crowded ports on the back of a desktop. We missed the silicon skin bundled with the original Vado HD, but the accessories still stand above the likes of Flip’s MinoHD, which includes frills like an accessory pouch and lanyard, but no HDMI cable to pair with its HDMI port. We’ll opt for the HDMI and make due with a sock and string, thanks.