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    Vado zooms in on camcorder niche

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2008 First published in Business in Vancouver June 17-23, 2008; issue 973

    High Tech Office column

    There are a lot of nice things about living in Canada. Less nice, however: we tend to be six months to a year behind our more populous neighbour to the south for when tech gadgets make it to market. And I’m not just talking about the long-awaited iPhone.

    One of last year’s tech toy hits in the United States that still isn’t available in Canada is a pocket-sized video recorder, the Flip, from Pure Digital. Since its first day on the market, it’s been’s best selling camcorder and now accounts for some 13% of the camcorder market – at least in the U.S.

    While the Flip still hasn’t arrived locally, a Flip competitor, Creative Labs’ Vado, is being made available here at about the same time as its U.S.-release. It should be in stores by the time you read this.

    Like the Flip, Creative’s Vado is a simple pocket-sized video recorder with a pop-out USB plug for quick computer connection.

    Both work with Windows or Mac with minimal fuss or software installation. Both include 2x digital zooms and produce 640 x 480-pixel video clips, which will (more or less) fill a standard-size TV screen, and both save files in non-proprietary MPEG4 AVI formats that can be viewed by most computer media players and uploaded to YouTube or other websites without problem.

    Both do a surprisingly good job in low-light.

    The Vado beats out the Flip in a number of ways, though. About the size of an iPod, it’s noticeably thinner and lighter (84 grams compared with 136 grams) than the Flip, making it the more pocket-sized pocket-sized camcorder. It has a larger LCD screen (two inches versus 1.5 inches) sporting more pixels for better display.

    The Flip sells for US$99 for a version that can store 30 minutes of video and $149 for a model with 60 minutes of storage. The $99 Vado has two gigabytes of storage, enough for 60 minutes of high quality video storage or 120 minutes of standard quality clips. (Neither product offers a slot for removable memory cards, which would be a plus.)
    The Flip uses standard AA batteries; the Vado has a removable rechargeable battery – holding about two hours of shooting life on a charge. This might be a plus. It’s nice to be able to charge it up by simply plugging its USB plug into a computer. But while it’s possible to carry around a spare Vado battery, it’s more convenient to buy AA batteries if you run out of juice at an inconvenient time.

    (I have the same ambivalence with digital cameras. I can’t decide whether a built-in rechargeable battery is better or worse than using AAs.)

    The Vado can be attached to a tripod. This is only the case for the more expensive Flip model. However, both Flip models include a cable for connection to TVs; this A/V cable is a $10 added extra with the Vado.

    Many mobile phone and digital camera models can also take video clips, but they typically allow only a few minutes of lower-quality video. It can also be difficult to get the video off phones and onto a computer. Easy to carry, easy to use, with non-trivial amounts of video storage, the Vado or the Flip represent a breakthrough in making digital video always available. I find the Vado’s two-hour capacity especially usable to record meetings, for example.

    Lots of gadgets promise more features, but more features typically equal more complexity. Kudos to Pure Digital and Creative for managing to keep their products simple, for keeping their eyes on what users really need.

    But in comparing Pure Digital’s Flip and Creative’s Vado, in Canada perhaps only one thing really matters. The Vado is available here. Now. •

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan
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