The Samsung HMX – U20 is a distinct and relatively new product in the pocket camcorder market that is receiving a lot of attention due to some of its outstanding features like 3x optical zoom. An earlier version of this camcorder, the HMX – U10 was a fixed focus device, meaning it was very difficult to capture good, let alone great, video quality without precise circumstances. Not surprisingly, the U10 saw poor sales. Samsung’s U20 corrects the problems of the earlier U10 model and delivers a video quality that surpasses its strongest competitors, like the Flip UltraHD. In addition to packing in better video quality and resolution along with several extra features, the HMX – U20 undercuts the Ultra HD’s price, making the HMX – U20 a very attractive option to many consumers.
The Samsung HMX – U20 has several standout features. The headlining feature is the 3x optical zoom. The HMX – U20 is the first camcorder in its class to offer this zoom. The Flip UltraHD is the HMX – U20’s direct competitor. The Flip UltraHD has seen great success and offers good quality video with a simple, no frills, and compact camcorder. However, the Flip UltraHD only offers a 2x optical zoom.
The highest video resolution of the HMX – U20 is an impressive 1080p/25fps. That is twice the resolution of the Flip UltraHD. The HMX — U20 can record to four levels of quality: 1080/25p, 720/50p/25p, 576/50p. However, we have found that video captured at the highest resolution, 1080p/25fps, is a bit shaky, with the video jumping occasionally, especially when filming in panorama mode. This slight degrade in quality is actually the only reason we rate the HMX – U20’s features at a 3.8 instead of a perfect 4.
There is also a Smart Auto button on the side of the camcorder that automatically detects and selects the best picture mode for the scenario, like outdoors, night, etc. We found the Smart Auto button to be convenient and very accurate in distinguishing the proper setting.
The HMX – U20 can capture photos while recording and the photos are taken in the same quality you’re recording in at the time. Photos taken while not recording are captured at 5 megapixels. However, there is an option to capture still photos at either 8 or 10 megapixels. This feature and the image stabilizer capabilities of the HMX – U20 are a favorite of serious photographers.
While the Flip UltraHD is a no frills, simple pocket camcorder, the HMX – U20 comes jam-packed with extras. The HMX – U20 has both USB and HDMI connectivity options. The USB swings out from a side panel and allows for fast video uploads or recharging from a PC. Right next to the USB is the HDMI out port, that allows for playing your HD movies right on your monitor or HDTV from the camcorder.
The physical appearance of the HMX – U20 is the subject of mixed reviews. The entire camcorder body is bowed at a 7-degree angle, giving it quite a unique look compared to most other camcorders. According to Samsung the bowed angle is simply for a better ergonomic grip. However, some reviewers call the bowed look of the HMX – U20 a gimmicky attempt by Samsung to stand out from the crowd. Others say the bowed angle allows for more room to accommodate extra ports, like the USB and HDMI. Whatever the verdict, the bowed angle does not seem to impede video recording and does provide at minimum and interesting and different aesthetic for the camcorder.
Ease of Use: 2.7
The software in the HMX – U20 is much more sophisticated than the Flip UltraHD, although some reviewers complain that some of the features and options in the interface are unnecessary for their needs or that the interface is too complicated. The HMX – U20 also includes a one-touch upload button that allows you to post your HD videos on YouTube, Facebook and other social sharing sites.
If you like to play around with your camcorder and customize your options, then you’ll love the HMX – U20. However, if you’re someone who likes to turn your camcorder on, point and shoot or record, then you’ll find the HMX – U20 difficult to use. The HMX – U20 even needs an SD card before you can begin using it, making it not what you’d call plug and play. Therefore we have rated the HMX – U20 at a 2.7 for ease of use.
Samsung’s customer and technical support for the HMX – U20 is excellent. You can download technical manuals right from their website and access support personnel
via phone, email, live chat or even twitter from their website.
Samsung has delivered superior video quality and a more sophisticated camcorder for a lower price than its strongest competitor, the Flip UltraHD. The HMX – U20 offers the best value of all camcorders in its class, getting it a perfect score in this category.
The Samsung HMX – U20 is the first pocket camcorder in its class to offer 3x optical zoom and a highest resolution of 1080p/25fps. The direct competitor of the HMX – U20 is the Flip UltraHD and the UltraHD only has a 2x optical zoom and half of the HMX – U20’s highest resolution. Beyond this, the HMX – U20 is jam-packed with extras like USB and HDMI out ports and a software interface with advanced functionality, while the UltraHD in comparison is a simple camcorder. The price of the HMX – U20 is lower than the UltraHD, making it a great choice among pocket camcorders.