My Kindle 2 review is up on the Sun-Times site for your glorious edification. I thought some of you might also like to see a few screenshots of the K2 in action.
Happy Pancake Tuesday! AKA, the day before Ash Wednesday on the Catholic calendar. There’s also a tradition that before you start your Lenten sacrifices, you go off and have a rich, hearty pancake breakfast.
(Ha! See? I’ve just gone and proven that Richard Dawkins is just a big stupid idiot who’s head is filled with stupid! Next time he says nothing good ever comes from religion, spit in his eye. A good, maple syrupy-scented gob of spit.)
My UPS guy met me on the way out the door. And what did he have for me?
The Kindle 2!
So I kept my date with the diner. But I was Pancaking with my right hand while I was Kindling with the left.
1) Damn, this thing finally feels like a real, richly-designed consumer product. It’s metal, and has that MacBook Air vibe where the case tapers down into thin edges. You get the impression that it’s a lot slimmer than it actually is.
2) Hallelulia! That flimsy cheap plastic back-cover is now gone. The back actually looks like a generation-one iPhone…a vast, unmarked plain of brushed metal, topped by an inch of plastic (where the wireless antennas live, npo doubt).
3) The transition from your old Kindle to the new one is simple. Natcherly it knows who you are when it arrives. Click into a setup menu and it re-downloads all of the content you’ve purchased via the Amazon Kindle Store. But none of the docs or public-domain ebooks that you might have emailed into the device will show up…that’s on your shoulders.
4) WhisperSync works fine. I was in the middle of re-reading Michael Palin’s wunnerful Python Diaries on my Kindle 1 yesterday and when I clicked the book on the 2, it opened it to (almost) the page I was on.
5) Text-to-voice is…functional. As expected, it sounds like very, very good text-to-speech. I do think it’s more of a feature for people with vision problems than any sort of replacement for the audiobook edition of a title. But it’s perfectly understandable, if a little American Idol-ish vis a vis artistically and convincingly interpreting and performing a piece. The speaker’s kind of weak. I was in a not-at-all-busy diner and I had to hold it up to my head to really hear it. The speakers are flat on the bottom-backside of the device.
6) The new interface is a five-click joybutton instead of the rolling elevator. But the MO is mostly the same. Instead of having a separate LCD stripe on the side of the screen, the thing you’re about to click on is underscored with a line. It works fine.
7) The device is devoid of all but a single mechanical sliding switch, which powers it up when it’s off and wakes it when it’s asleep.
8) I might have to take back my longstanding complaint about Kindle 1’s paddle switches for page turns. It annoyed me that I couldn’t put down the Kindle, take a two-handed bite of my sandwich, and pick it up again without being one or two pages away from where I was. The Kindle 2 has some conventional pushbuttons mounted flush with the surface of the device and I find that I have to push them with a little but of authority to get a buttonclick to register. Whereas the paddles on the K1 responded to a gormless flick of the thumb.
(I stress that this is a brand-new, out of the box device. So it’s possible that the K2’s page-turn buttons haven’t been broken in yet. It’s also possible that I’m just used to the feather-touch of the K1. But let it be noted that it’s the first thing that struck me as a step back, after a whole 21 minutes of experience with the Kindle 2).
(Added: Now I’ve been reading with it for about a half an hour. A little experimentation indicates that the “most clicky” part of the button is the edge nearest the screen. Now I’m finding it much more comfortable to use.)
9) The tech specs say that the display has been upgraded. But it’s a subtle thing. I don’t find it any more readable than the Kindle 1’s perfectly-fine screen. The only spot where I actually noticed the improvement was in the “sleep” wallpapers. So now these dead publishers’ faces are smoothly-shadded instead of stippled. Which is a win; it was kind of creepy to glance and think “Wow, Harriet Beecher Stowe really needs a shave.”
10) Damn…the “standard as hell” USB connector on the bottom of the K2 is now a “Crap! I forgot to pack the cable that charges my Kindle!” connector.
My full review for the Sun-Times will come in a couple of days. My overall first impression is that this is a step forward.
I’m actually planning a rather ambitious comparison of cheap HD cameras in the next week or so. But there’s certainly been an enthusiastic — bordering on, well, “annoying” — amount of interest in a direct comparison between the Mino HD and its natural commercial enemy: the Kodak Zi6.
And no wonder. They’re both the same sort of beastie: pockatable 720p HD cameras in an iPod-ish form factor, selling for about the same money.
(Yes, the Zi6 is about fifty bucks cheaper, but remember: that’s without any memory. Toss in a 4 gig card and you’re more or less square a bit closer to the Mino in price.)
With the holidays coming up, and the chance that Todd from Process Control will make as big an ass of himself at the breakroom holiday party as he did last year, lots of people want to know which of these Discreet Little Cameras to buy. Well, my uniform is proud to serve.
I took both cameras out for a jaunt or two and shot a bunch of clips in a variety of environments. Watch. Draw your own conclusions. And then read on and see if you’re so absolutely brilliant that your conclusions are identical to mine.
Click on the “fullscreen” button to watch it at 1280×720 resolution…just keep in mind that this is nowhere near as good as the original video files.
Okay. Based solely on this footage…it’s a clear win for the Mino. I think it’s obvious even in the Vimeo (which has been processed twice already). But here in iMovie, where I can see the original footage straight from the camera…t’s absolutely no contest. The Mino video is more agile, the colors are more accurate, and the lighting is more balanced. The Zi6 routinely produces over-saturated colors and doesn’t appear to have enough bandwidth to record a full range of colors and tones. And low-light shooting is a bit of a mess.
Three full-sized frame grabs illustrate my point. These were taken straight from the original MP4 files. Click the thumbnail for the full 720p frame.
Pulling Out Into Traffic
Outdoors, On A Tripod
Inside Panera Bread
Rainy Street Corner
Okay, so this is a total slam-dunk for the Mino HD, right? It’s time for the Zi6 to slink off to the corner bar to drink itself into a state of apoplexy alongside the Zune and the Sony eBook Reader and every other bit of technology that’s been roundly spanked and made irrelevant by a superior competitor?
Naw, not at all.
Based on two days’ worth of side-by-side shooting, I’m convinced that the Mino HD’s videos are far more natural and pleasant. But I wish that Mino HD videos sounded as good as the Kodak’s. I don’t know if the Zi6’s designers did something as simple as choosing a high gain level for the microphone. Whatever the reason, the “outside Panera” clip handily demonstrates the Kodak’s superiority in this category.
The Zi6 also has the intriguing advantage of being able to go on forever. Which is something that the Mino emphatically cannot do.
The Mino is sealed up as tightly as an iPhone. Its memory and battery are locked inside and can’t be swapped. You record one hour’s worth of video and then the Mino HD becomes nothing more than a conversation piece.
But the Zi6 takes standard SDHC memory cards. To hell with the Mino’s built-in 4 gigs! Buy yourself a 16 gig card and record hours and hours of footage. And because it runs on 2 AA’s, it’ll can run forever. The Zi6 comes with a pair of rechargeables and natcherly, if you ever get caught short, you can just run to the store for some Energizers.
That’s not an inconsiderable advantage.
The Zi6 and the Mino are both “lifestyle” cameras. So I suppose the choice comes down to the sort of lifestyle that you intend to lead.
If image quality is a big item on your wish list, it’s the Mino. If your style of shooting is casual and unplanned — you want to have something handy to shoot baby’s first steps, keep something in your back pocket or your desk drawer in case the opportunity to direct and produce the next “Don’t Taze Me, Bro!” should unexpectedly present itself — it’s the Mino. If you’ll be shooting lots of stuff in low-light situations…the Mino. Already own a “real” camcorder, and want a second one for more casual shooting and the ability to shoot an event from two angles? Mino.
(Oh, I didn’t mention that the Mino is exactly the same size as the original Mino. The Zi6 is small enough to fit inside any pocket, but the Mino is so small that you’ll have to pat yourself down to figure out what pocket it’s even in.)
But if you’re going to shoot “events,” then you’ll want the Zi6. Although you’ll yearn for the higher quality of the Mino, the fact remains that (God help us all) most family weddings go on for more than an hour. And you have better things to do on vacation than keep running back to your hotel room or cabin to free up space on your camcorder. You can shoot a whole week’s worth of travelly hijinx on the Zi6.
As for the ease of editing your footage…it’s a draw. Both of these cameras record plain MP4 movie files. They imported into iMovie as easily as any other MP4 file.
Weird thing about the Flip, though: iMovie recognizes it as a camera and it immediately loads up thumbnails of all of your clips, ready for import…but the import will fail. Huh. But if you import the clips via the “File” menu — treat the Mino as though it were just a USB storage device — iMovie will copy the files into your library without a hitch. No transcoding necessary…it’s just a straight file copy.
Of course, neither of these are “real” camcorders. Spending a couple of days shooting with them made me miss the zoom lens, image-stabilization, and manual features of even a cheap standard-def camera. I guess the “lifestyle” implied by the Zi6 and the Mino involves walking straight up to people instead of recording them from a safe distance, and maintaining a steady posture as you do so.
If this is the case, then clearly I lead an alternative lifestyle.