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Google Clips review: the $249 smart camera that shoots for you
Are you a parent or pet owner? If so, you are probably frustrated with your inability to share enough content online. Don’t worry, Google’s here to help. The search giant has released Google Clips to help make sure every single person in your friend lists sees your little creatures, furry or otherwise.
We’ve played around with one for some time and we’re ready to give you our full Google Clips review. Google Clips is a small camera that captures short videos, so we will keep this review appropriately short and simple.
Design and build quality
Google Clips focuses on simplicity. The tiny square weighs only 60.6 grams (with the clip on) and measures two square inches. It is equipped with a large shutter button, three LED lights, a rotatable lens, a nearly invisible reset button, and a USB-C port.
Everything feels solid. The colorful back makes it look fun. The spotted white clip case offers both protection and functionality. Nothing feels loose, the button offers good feedback, and the lens can be rotated with complete confidence.
A minimalist device is judged by the details, and we can say Google didn't miss a single one with the Clips camera. Edgar Cervantes
A minimalist device is judged by the details, and Google didn’t miss any here. The search giant has given you what you need and nothing more. It looks like a smaller, more elegant action camera, but its features make it something else entirely.
A bit on the specs and performance
Google Clips touts a 12MP sensor with 1.55μm pixels, so it can handle low light situations with minimal noise. The clips I recorded in the darker environments looked rather clean.
The Google Clips' biggest caveat is it shoots at 15 fps, which is crazy slow for video.Edgar Cervantes
The 130-degree field of view also makes it simple to get potential subjects in frame. That field of view is especially important because the camera has no viewfinder. You can see a live preview using the smartphone app, but that is only for peace of mind. Once you get a feel for how wide the lens is, it is very easy to just wing it.
The camera’s biggest caveat is it shoots at 15fps, which is crazy slow for video. This is because it is meant to produce short, shareable clips, but we must also keep in mind pets are an important part of the equation. Pets can be fast; especially my bengal cat. I had to scrap some of the videos because the frame rate just couldn’t keep up with some of its movements.
The f/2.4 aperture offers a good balance, letting in enough light to keep shots well exposed without much noise and keeping a healthy depth of field for that fixed focus.
Under three hours of battery life is not great for a camera that just sits there waiting for stuff to happen. Edgar Cervantes
Another downside is battery life. Google claims about three hours per charge. I found it was usually a little less than two and a half hours. It’s not horrible, but I wish it was more. The camera is meant to be waiting for stuff to happen, after all — it’s not like you can really ration that juice.
There’s also no audio — videos will be silent. That’s definitely a downside for many of us, but according to Google it’s all part of the plan. They only made this to produce light, shareable clips. Audio would apparently hurt the cause (also remember that in many places it’s illegal to record video and audio of an unsuspecting person, but silent video is OK).
The only other thing you need to know is the camera uses Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth LE to connect to your smartphone. Those work well and make for a fast connection.
How Google Clips works
You can’t do much manually with Google Clips, but that is the whole point. This camera will do everything for you. It can recognize people, animals, and fun moments. The camera will simply start recording seven-second clips when the time is right — or at least, that is the claim.
Google Clips picks its shots using its baked-in smart system, powered by artificial intelligence which Google trained with the help of professional photographers. It can also sync with your Google Photos account, which the camera will use to recognize familiar faces. Furthermore, Google states the camera will learn to better recognize people, pets, and potential clips of interest with time and use.
It all works as part of Google’s magic algorithm. Simply turn the lens to the right, point it in the direction of your desired subject, and let it do its thing. Of course, the shutter button will also force Google Clips to start recording when you know there’s a picture or clip to be had.
How does Google Clips work? In summary: it's all part of Google's magic algorithm.Edgar Cervantes
It has 16GB of storage, which I found was enough. It will take a while before you start feeling the need to delete anything. I never went past 15 percent of its capacity before offloading what I had.
Does it do a good job?
For the sake of testing Google’s AI, we decided not to touch the shutter button. This is not exactly a test of camera quality (though that matters too), we just wanted to know if Google Clips is actually smart enough to capture the right moments.
The truth is it didn’t get all the moments I wanted. It’s better to think about Google Clips as a bonus round rather than as your sole camera of record. Like, there was a time at the beach when I saw a dude popping a sick wheelie on his bike. I thought the camera would definitely get that. It didn’t. Maybe the bike was too fast, I don’t know. I was also shooting my cat and noticed him sprinting around his favorite dead tree, chasing a ball he pushed himself. It didn’t record that either.
Regardless, it will probably capture more than you, though. In both instances, I probably wouldn’t have been able to record the moments, even if I rushed for my camera phone. Clips also captured plenty of normally impossible shots, which were great.
Want to see some of them? We converted the videos to GIFs for the sake of web viewing. In addition, the GIF files have also been compressed, as the originals are about 10 MB each. Depending on your data plan, these clips might not so shareable, after all, huh?
Sorry parents, I don’t have any kids to test it with — maybe one day. Let’s focus on these clips for now. As you can see, the camera struggled with dynamic range. If the background was too bright, it blacked out the subjects. You can still appreciate them, but we wish they were better exposed.
We also took Google Clips out for a ride on my motorcycle. This may not be an action camera, but it did an alright job at it.
Can’t complain about much else. These are pretty fun short videos. Google Clips did its job pretty well.
You don’t need the app to shoot, but it will help for retrieving videos and getting the details right. Just like the device, the application is pretty straightforward. The clips show up in a vertical stream and play as you scroll over them.
Tap on the clips and you will be shown three options: save, edit, and delete. There isn’t much in the way of editing here — basically all you can do is crop the clip.
There is also a toggle on the top-right corner. Switch it on and the icon will turn into that Assistant logo from Google Photos. Google Clips already uses its artificial intelligence to get curated clips, but this switch pretty much grabs the best out of the bunch and presents them to you in an even more exclusive list.
Tap the Google Clips icon on the top and more options will show up. You can see a live preview from there. In addition, a settings button will appear on top, in between battery and storage percentage indicators.
The settings is where you can make pretty much all the important decisions, like if you want to output footage in GIF, MP4 or live photo formats. You can also improve the video quality, modify the capture rate, modify the Hz, and more.
I like this application. It is intuitive and there is not much of a learning curve to worry about. It does what it is meant to do in a very efficient way. I have had no problems with it so far, which makes it amazing in my book.
Price and conclusion
Google Clips turned out to be a pretty fun device. It produces some good quality short videos you can easily share online without wasting all your data. They show more than a simple photo, but provide more snackable content than a full video.
Google’s algorithm works pretty well too, at least most of the time. It misses some good moments, but overall I found it caught shots of unexpected events I likely would’ve missed. It is great for shooting candid videos of unpredictable beings like kids and animals.
The Google Clips is $249. It is hard to justify that price for what is essentially a glorified GIF generator.Edgar Cervantes
I wish Google had done better in some areas (frame-rate, battery life, no mic), but the Google Clips camera is amazingly fun — if you can get it for the right price. That’s the problem, though. This thing is way too expensive for what it does.
You can grab a Google Clips camera for $249, but it’s hard to justify that price for what is essentially a glorified GIF generator. Plenty of great portable action cameras out there for less money could do the same job, and then some, with a bit of extra effort.