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)