Sanyo's Xacti line of personal camcorders looks to capture the eye with lots of style and a supposedly ergonomic design meant to fit comfortably in the palm of the hand. The Sanyo Xacti VPC-CG9 certainly is pretty. But when it comes down to performance, the VPC-CG9 is indicative of a flawed concept. This small, flash-based camcorder wants to have it both ways, as a high-quality camcorder than can stand against larger MiniDV tape-based models, and smaller web-ready video recorders like the Flip Video Ultra. Ultimately, the CG9 succeeds in mastering neither of these trades, and the end result is disappointment.
Design: Hard to Handle
The Sanyo VPC-CG9 has an interesting pistol-grip design, meant to fit snugly in the hand and allow for maximum control. Though the design has promise, in reality, it's quite hard to grasp and operate. The VPC-CG9 is very small, and for users with large (or even average) sized hands, it can be difficult to firmly grip the camcorder. Even if a grip can be secured, it's not easy to then manipulate the buttons which are arranged so as to be operated exclusively by the thumb. In theory, all this sounds great. In practice, it's a disaster. The buttons are small and grouped so close together that it's easy to hit the wrong one, or mash them all together.
Performance: Not Up to Snuff
The VPC-CG9 has two video modes, a "high-quality" mode suitable for watching on a standard TV with 4:3 aspect ratio, and a "web" or "blog" mode meant to produce small-sized clips that are easy to upload. The CG9 also boasts a 9.1 megapixel camera, making it something of a hybrid. If all these claims as to what this camcorder can do seem exaggerated or too good to be true, it's because they are.
Let's start with the digital camera. The pictures it takes are fine, but actually using the photo mode is a pain. The button for focusing and taking a shot is pressure sensitive; press halfway to focus, and all the way to shoot. Unfortunately it's not exactly easy to use. If you press too hard, it'll jump right to taking the picture, which will be out of focus, and if you don't pull away from the button fast enough it'll launch back into taking a second photo.
The video modes don't live up to expectations either. They provide adequate video, but nothing exceptional, especially considering the price of the CG9. In particular, the much touted image stabilization seems to be a non-factor, as most clips taken with the camcorder were shaky and blurred.
Upside: The Menu System
If there's an upside to the VPC-CG9, it's definitely the menu system. The CG9 has both "simple" and "normal" menus, which are among the most user-friendly camcorder menus I've seen. It's a shame that they couldn't have backed them up with a decent camcorder, however.
Overall, the Sanyo Xacti VPC-CG9 did not impress, and considering its purported abilities, it's quite the disappointment. Consumers would be better off looking for a camcorder dedicated to either short web clips or longer, higher-quality videos.