Flip SlideHD Is a Fine Recorder but Lousy Viewer

Cisco's Flip SlideHD video camera fails to deliver viewing capabilities on par with its simple recording experience.

Cisco Systems differentiates the Flip SlideHD video camera from its predecessors by promising a great on-device viewing experience, on par with the now-familiar and simple recording capabilities delivered by previous Flip cameras. Sadly, I found the viewing experience so lackluster I found it best to think of the SlideHD as an UltraHD with a lot of storage and ignore the rest of the mediocre feature set.

At $280, the SlideHD offers double the storage capacity of any other Flip camera, with 16GB of built-in storage. For that reason alone, the SlideHD stacks up decently against the $230 MinoHD or $200 UltraHD, which both come with 8GB of storage.

A boxy 4.13 by 2.17 by 0.98 inches and 5.9 ounces, the SlideHD is a near-carbon copy of the UltraHD. The SlideHD also features a lens similar to the UltraHD's, with auto-focus as close as 1.5 meters plus a 2x digital zoom.

The SlideHD has a much larger screen than previous Flip models: a 3-inch diagonal, resistive TFT touch screen (400 by 240 pixel resolution). To make way for the larger screen, the physical record, play, trash and directional buttons have been replaced by touch-screen iterations that unnecessarily occupy the lion's share of the space on the screen. The touch screen was fairly sensitive, and I occasionally found I had accidentally stopped a recording by shifting my hand slightly while holding the device.

Because the on-screen buttons are so large, the recording viewfinder uses a minority of the screen real estate, measuring a paltry 1.75 inches diagonally. Unfortunately, the small viewfinder can't render everything captured by the camera, making it hard to properly frame a shot without capturing extraneous details on the sides.

Although I could watch previously recorded videos in this fashion on the miniscreen, the full screen can be used by spinning the device to landscape mode and sliding open the screen, which pops up to a 45 degree angle, similar to a smartphone with a side-slide keyboard. But instead of a keyboard, the SlideHD has capacitive touchpad that can be used to navigate between the videos stored on the device and to start and stop playback.

When oriented to landscape, the larger screen shows the full content as recorded rather than the slightly cropped view shown in portrait mode, but, sadly, the device controls are crippled in landscape mode and the device doesn't make it easy to move between orientations when watching a video.

For instance, the SlideHD volume controls are on screen, but are only accessible via portrait mode menus. If I started watching a video in landscape position and decided to increase the volume, I needed to close the slider. Unfortunately, this stops video playback without bookmarking my spot. Once in portrait mode, I would then have to search for my video again, click play (which starts the video at the beginning), adjust the volume and then reopen the slider. Oddly, when the slider is reopened, playback will continue from where it left off-it just doesn't work the other way around.

Cisco advertises that the SlideHD can record 2 hours of content in a single charge, although I found the device fell short of that mark. Twice I fully charged the battery (to the best of my knowledge, as the device doesn't provide detailed battery metrics) and then recorded material until the device automatically shut down. In those two tests, I measured 1 hour and 48 minutes, and 1 hour and 42 minutes, respectively, of recording time.

With its 16GB of on-board storage, the SlideHD promises 4 hours of storage at the native 720p format (1280 by 720 at 30 frames per second). In my tests, the device neared that mark, delivering 3 hours and 58 minutes of storage. Users can also adjust the amount of storage by changing the video encoding settings when the device is connected to a PC or Mac running Cisco's FlipShare software.

The SlideHD also offers a headphone port and an HDMI port for connecting to an external video display.