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 Mac Mini Accessories

Review: Belkin Flip for Mac mini
Tuesday January 17, 2006 12:00 AM EST

The Belkin Flip for Mac mini is an attractive KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) switch with audio support and built-in cabling designed especially for the Mac mini. The Flip comes packaged in a light blue and white box. In the box you will find the Flip for Mac mini, 5V DC/2.6A Power Adapter, CD with optional switching software, User Manual, and Quick Installation Guide. The 21-page User Manual is written well and provides ample information for the setup and usage of this product.

Flip was designed to stack directly below or on top of the Mac mini. It's made out of white plastic and measures 6.5-inch wide x 6.5-inch deep x 1.0-inch tall. There are five touch-sensitive buttons on its front panel that allow you to switch between computers, control volume, mute sound, and eject disks from your Mac mini. The eject button will only work with Mac computers.

The touch-sensitive buttons are really responsive and do a good job. They also give the front a clean look without being intrusive. Flip also features two white LEDs on the front panel to let you know what computer is currently being accessed. The white LEDs are bright and complement the looks of the Mac mini's front LED.

On the back of Flip, you will find the power jack, VGA monitor port, built-in cables, USB mouse port, USB keyboard port, and speaker jack. Everything felt solid and worked well except for the speaker jack. Our speaker jack was loose fitting and didn't secure the 1/8" stereo plug into the jack very well. As a result, our audio was filled with static when the cable was moved around. We don't know if this is an isolated case with our Flip or something that is going to be an issue with other units.

Flip includes nice quality white and gray built-in cables. Cable number one is for the Mac mini. It measures 2-feet long, and includes 6-inch USB and audio cables. Cable number two is for connecting your second computer to the Flip. It measures 6-feet long, and includes 12-inch USB and audio cables. We appreciated the longer second cable for giving us extra room to work with.

There are three methods you can use to switch between the connected computers. You can use the touch-sensitive buttons, a desktop icon, or key switching. You will need to install the optional switching software to use the desktop icon and key switching. We liked that you can select different key combinations from the Flip control panel for key switching. The switching software also allows you to switch your audio from one computer to the next without switching computers, so you can listen to iTunes on your Mac mini while you work on your other computer. We came away impressed with how well the software worked.

Flip fully supports all USB Apple keyboards or PC keyboards, including all function keys. Our Apple keyboard and Mighty Mouse worked great. We didn't have any trouble with them while switching back and forth between computers. If you have a keyboard with built-in USB port, you may connect your mouse to the keyboard and just connect the keyboard to the Flip.

Flip is able to support resolutions up to 2048x1536 at 65Hz and works with any LCD or CRT monitor with a VGA (HDDB15) connection. You can use a DVI monitor with a DVI to VGA adapter. Flip does not support direct DVI connections from monitors. The lack of direct DVI connections was a big disappointment. It also would have been nice for Belkin to include a DVI to VGA adapter in the box.

We tested Flip with a few different monitors, and the results were mixed. The video on a 19" Dell LCD running at 1280x1024 was blurry and showed signs of ghosting. Our 20" Apple Cinema display running at 1680x1050 also showed signs of ghosting. The video on a 19" Viewsonic CRT and 17" KDS CRT running at 1024x768 looked pretty good. All in all, we were somewhat disappointed with the lackluster video quality. There are definitely better KVMs out there, but none of them will look as good sitting underneath your Mac mini.

Overall, we can recommend this product to our readers and give it a score of 3 out of 4 stars. The Belkin Flip for Mac mini is available now and has a suggested retail price of $84.99.

Pros:

  Stylish design compliments Mac mini.
  Touch-sensitive buttons work great
  Built-in audio support and switching
  Switching software works great
  Nice quality cables
  Saves desk space
  Supports all Mac keyboards and function keys
  Three-year warranty

Cons:

  Does not support direct DVI connections
  Lackluster video quality
  Loose fitting speaker jack

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