HandlingThe U20 has an unusual and original design. The casing curves out slightly to an angle of about 7° and there's a huge ring around the lens. In many ways it looks more like a mobile phone than a pocket camcorder and you'll probably either love or hate this eye-catching design. The product is finished to a high standard with very pleasant black lacquered plastic (also available in red, blue and silver). There are several flat, touch-sensitive controls on the rear of the camcorder set into its casing. A Play button is on hand for watching back videos on the 2-inch LCD and a Menu button for selecting the picture/video quality. There are four arrow buttons for navigation through the internal menus and an OK button for selecting your options. However, we would have preferred a classic four-way controller button, as it would be easier to use than these touch-sensitive controls. Once you power up, just press the camera or camcorder button to take a photo or start filming. A zoom control is also available for controlling the 3x optical zoom lens.
To transfer files from the U20 to a PC there's a USB connector cleverly concealed in the memory card slot (which is quick and easy to open). The SD card slips into the slot on the underside of the camcorder alongside the Lithium-ion battery. A fully charged battery can record for 110 mins in HD mode and can be easily recharged by hooking it up to your computer's USB port (in 360 minutes), or with the USB/mains charger supplied (in 180 minutes).
Image QualityThe images are really quite good for a pocket camcorder. When watching the clips back on a 46'' Full HD TV, the 1080p pictures look remarkably sharp. The colours are also very flattering, even though they're not entirely faithful to the originals due to strongly contrasted tones (a blue sky looks very blue and green grass looks very green). It may not be accurate, but the world may look like a prettier place seen though the U20. We are, however, less forgiving of the annoying glitches and jumps when the camera is moved around quickly when filming in 1080p mode. If you try filming a panorama, the image clearly has trouble staying smooth. You either have to make sure you move the camera very slowly or switch to 720/50p mode, which handles camera movements much better. Pressing the Smart Auto button on the side of the camcorder automatically selects the best picture setting for the situation in hand (landscape, night etc.) and can be used in both video and photo mode (photos are taken in a resolution of 5 Megapixels).
The U20 can film to four different levels of quality: 1080/25p, 720/50p/25p, 576/50p. A 32 GB SD card can store up to 225 mins of 1080p video or 313 mins of 720p video. The U20 can also take pictures while you film, but these are in the same resolution as the video you're shooting, i.e. 1920 x 1080 pixels. Footage is recorded in the MPEG-4/H.264 format, which can be pretty problematic for post-editing. That said, this product is more designed for shooting clips or films to share straight away on YouTube, FlickR or Facebook, as like any good pocket camcorder, the U20 can upload files directly to the Internet via the integrated Intelli-studio 2 software (launched via the menu). Finally, the U20 films to SD/SDHC cards only (no card supplied) and has no internal memory.