Flip Video Cameras vs. iOS Devices: Spec Showdown

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Cisco announced four new Flip video cameras on Monday that bring high-definition video recording to every single device in the Flip line-up. table. All four cameras -- the Flip UltraHD 4GB/8GB and Flip MinoHD 4GB/8GB -- now record 720p HD video

Despite the never-ending stream of multifunction devices, Cisco's Flip cameras (Cisco bought Flip-maker, Pure Digital Technologies in 2009) continue to be popular. The company hasn't announced unit sales, but Cisco recently reported that it sold about $75 million worth of Flip video cameras between February and May 2010.

But how much longer can Flip cameras stand up against smartphones and other multifunction devices that include steadily improving cameras? If you're just looking for 720p video, for example, you can already find that functionality on the iPhone 4 and iPod Touch, as well as the Android-based Droid X and all three of Nokia's new Symbian^3 devices. Plus, smartphones give you increased functionality such as telephony, gaming, productivity apps, and Internet access.

Is it still worth it then, to purchase a single-function, Flip video camera. Let's take a look comparing the Flip to the newly announced iPod Touch and the iPhone 4. To view a spec to spec comparison chart of the two devices click here.

Flip vs. iOS

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Flip cameras are still packing some features that multifunction devices can't compete with yet, such as the video capture frame rate. The iPhone 4 and iPod Touch, for example, offer only 30 frames per second (fps), while all but one of the Flip devices (the 4G UltraHD) have 60 fps. This is significant since the higher the fps, the smoother the video motion will be. Each frame is considered a still image, so most Flip cameras will capture 60 images per second, while iOS devices can only grab 30 images.

All of the Flip cameras also feature image stabilization to reduce jerkiness and motion when panning the video camera across a scene. Apple's iOS devices offer fairly smooth video capture, but they do not have the same image stabilization capabilities the Flip cameras do. (Click on the image for a close-up of the comparison chart.)

Flip cameras also use standardized HDMI cables that will cost you less than $20 to connect with your television. Apple's iOS devices require a special $50 Apple component cable to display content on a TV.

The Flip devices let you pull still images from any video you capture, which suggests that Flip still images would have the same resolution -- 280 by 720 pixel (720p) -- that the video does. If that's the case, the Flip doesn't beat the iPhone 4's still image resolution at 1936 by 2592 -- the iPod Touch still camera resolution is 960 by 720.

The iOS devices are much thinner than the Flip making it easier to slide the iPhone 4 and iPod Touch into your pocket. The thinnest Flip video camera (the MinoHD) measures 0.63-inch depth, while the iPhone 4 is 0.37 inch and the iPod Touch is 0.28 inch.

There's a lot to love about the Flip when it comes to video quality, but it also has some drawbacks in its size and functionality.

The bottom line, at least according to the specs, is that if you want better video quality, the Flip is still your best choice (perhaps with the exception of the Flip UltraHD 4GB). But how long until iOS devices and others start offering higher frame rates and better video resolution than Cisco's Flip cameras?

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