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Summary:

HTC’s new EVO 4G handset supports HD 720p video recording – but is the recording quality good enough to make its owners ditch their Flip camcorder? We took both devices for a spin outside our office this week and show you the results side by side.

One of the many neat features of the new HTC EVO 4G is its ability to record 720p HD video. Of course, the resolution alone doesn’t say much about how the videos look, which is why we decided to take the device for a spin and have it directly compete against a Flip SlideHD.

I took both devices for a spin outside our office and recorded some additional footage in our hallway and elevator to challenge them on their ability to handle low light scenes. The results, in a nutshell: Flip maker Cisco can relax, at least for now. The EVO 4G doesn’t even come close to the crispness of the Flip, which also deals much better with challenging recording situations.

First, the specs: A closer look at the EVO 4G footage reveals that the phone’s camera captured the footage with 23.75 fps, with the resolution obviously being 1280×720. The phone offered to either record video in MP4 or H.263, and I went for the former. Audio was captured with the AMR codec as 8.000 kHz mono. The Flip, on the other hand, captured everything with 30fps and 44.100 kHz AAC stereo.

The difference in quality isn’t all that noticeable if you just watch the clips within a smaller web video player, especially if you compare the outdoor footage at the beginning of our clip. The Flip’s video definitely looks smoother, particularly segments with a lot of motion, and the EVO’s footage features some notable artifacts, but it still ain’t that bad. In fact, it looks like the EVO 4G was able to capture more light, making colors look more vibrant.

However, the Flip clearly has the upper hand once we’re dealing with less light. In the building, and particularly in the elevator, its footage still looks very crisp, and the camera quickly adjusts to changing light conditions, e.g. when the elevator door opens to our office. The EVO footage, on the other hand, looks washed out, and you can literally see the camera adjust step by step once the elevator doors open.

Of course, the real challenge for 720p video is to watch the footage full-screen, and that’s when the differences become even more apparent. Both indoor and outdoor video shot with the Flip is crisp and smooth. There are some artifacts in the dark elevator scene, but the Flip handles these challenges with grace. The video captured by the EVO, on the other hand, is full of artifacts even under optimal light conditions, and things get worse once we’re inside. In other words: It looks like something you’d expect from a cell phone, but not from a HD camcorder.

That being said, the HTC EVO 4G actually does make for a nice video capturing device, if only for the fact that it uses its entire 4.3-inch screen to preview the footage. The Flip SlideHD still makes you stare at a stamp-sized preview, despite having a 3-inch touchscreen. You do have a slightly tighter grip on the Flip, which makes it easier to shoot one-handed.

The final verdict: If you want to shoot HD video, by all means use a Flip, or a similar compact HD camcorder. The HTC EVO 4G just can’t compete with its quality. Still, I’d suspect that many EVO users will decide that the video captured by their mobile phone is good enough for many everyday situations — and it’s exactly this type of judgment that could become dangerous for Cisco and other HD camcorder makers. Their devices may still shoot better video, but it doesn’t take much improvement on the handset side to have convenience win over quality.

Related content on GigaOM Pro: The Nano & Flip: Join the Conversation (subscription required)

  1. I will await your Flip vs. iPhone 4 comparison. Based on that I will buy an EVO or iPhone. Big thanks for doing this!

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  2. Dirk DIggler Friday, June 11, 2010

    I suspect the iPhone 4 while on 5MP will be able to pounce on the Flip quality. You should stick with Apple, but if you want to do your porn than go with your EVO or Flip by all means.
    I read somewhere that the EVO is now the goto phone for registered sex offenders which is totally disgusting.

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  3. Worthless test, can’t seem much having two small boxes side by side, also depends a lot on how you compressed the footage for upload, both look poor due to poor compression settings in first place.

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  4. Actually just from your footage, the EVO looks a lot better than the Flip HD. You mention that it has more artifacts, but I see more on the Flip.

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  5. [...] today’s 3G phones. Like the HD2, the EVO has a generous 4.3-inch display and like the iPhone, can record 720p video thanks to the 8-megapixel camera and speedy processor. Like many other Android phones built by HTC, [...]

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  6. My previous attempt at a comment seems to have disappeared down a rabbit hole…

    For casual consumers (i.e., who don’t actually care much about image quality), these cell phone imaging chips are a huge threat to the Flip HD series and similar. But for people who actually want to make decent videos…

    If I’m reading the product brief right (ChipWorks IDed [1] the image sensor as the OmniVision OV8812 [2]), the Evo won’t ever be able to produce good videos under less than good lighting situations, the individual pixel sensors are tiny and most of them are ignored in video mode so all that light is simply lost. (From their other product briefs, OmniVision calls combining the output from several pixels for high sensitivity low resolution modes “binning”). If I’m wrong, then the Evo camera has a lot of potential–it’s a 1/3.2″ sensor compared to the 1/4.5″ sensor in the Flip HDs.

    The chip has some other interesting features though, it supports 120fps QVGA (slow motion!) as well as 12-bit per channel pixels, it would be nice if the Evo could use those…

    [1] ChipWorks Evo silicon-level breakdown: http://www.chipworks.com/htc-evo-teardown.aspx
    [2] OmniVision OV8812 product page: http://www.ovt.com/products/sensor.php?id=69

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    1. Sam, thanks for digging up those details – and sorry you had to post this twice, stuff with links sometimes gets caught up in our spam filter.

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  7. Thanks for doing this. Very useful. Hope you will repeat the test against flip when the new iphone comes out.

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  8. Once you change your Encoding on the HTC EVO, from Mpeg4 your video drops from 720 to 352 x 288 on h.263.

    So not sure how your recoding in 720 with h.263 this could be a reason for your video not looking as good as it should.

    If there is a trick which I don’t think there is please enlighten me.

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    1. I didn’t record with h.263, but with MPEG4. Sorry if that was unclear.

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  9. [...] today’s 3G phones. Like the HD2, the EVO has a generous 4.3-inch display and like the iPhone, can record 720p video thanks to the 8-megapixel camera and speedy processor. Like many other Android phones built by HTC, [...]

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  10. [...] today’s 3G phones. Like the HD2, the EVO has a generous 4.3-inch display and like the iPhone, can record 720p video thanks to the 8-megapixel camera and speedy processor. Like many other Android phones built by HTC, [...]

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