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Review: Belkin Flip for Mac mini
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2006 12:00 am    Post subject: Review: Belkin Flip for Mac mini Reply with quote

Review: Belkin Flip for Mac mini
Tuesday January 17, 2006

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 1680 x1050 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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OGN
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2006 5:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Belkin should have made this DVI. Sad
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2006 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OGN wrote:
Belkin should have made this DVI. Sad


It doesn't make much sense to go with VGA when the Mac mini's primary connector is DVI. I not crazy about using adpaters with KVMs.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2006 4:40 pm    Post subject: Height? Reply with quote

How high/thick is this unit? Is it the same as the thin white Belkin USB/FireWire hub?
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2006 5:15 pm    Post subject: Re: Height? Reply with quote

Yvan256 wrote:
How high/thick is this unit? Is it the same as the thin white Belkin USB/FireWire hub?


Belkin USB/FireWire Hub
6.5" wide x 6.5" deep x 3/4" tall

Belkin Flip
6.5" wide x 6.5" deep x 1" tall

The white plastic is about the same thickness on both units. The top of the Belkin Flip has more give if you press on it. I think the hub feels a little more solid.

Hope that helps!
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2006 6:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OGN wrote:
Belkin should have made this DVI. Sad
Looking at the cost of digital as opposed to analog KVMs, it seems likely making this DVI would have doubled the price. Not to mention that none of Belkin's small office / home office KVMs are DVI...

Or are you suggesting they should have simply put an analog DVI connector on the short cable, without actually supporting digital? That would be a little more elegant, but they'd have just been asking for bad reviews and returns from people thinking it's a low-priced digital KVM because it's got a DVI adapter.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2006 6:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If it was DVI, I would buy it, in an instant, but I will pass on a lowly VGA unit. No Thanks! Belkin.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2006 6:47 pm    Post subject: Re: Review: Belkin Flip for Mac mini Reply with quote

Could I possibly ask - what is the input voltage for the power adaptor? (Slightly odd question but I live in the UK. It hasn't yet been released here and am considering ordering it from the States).
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2006 8:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i thinks its vga b/c its made to be able to easily keep it along side your mac.

i really like it, b/c i have a pc that i switch back and forth between.

though i've been having some problems with it switching back and forth on its own...
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2006 8:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

resuna wrote:
Or are you suggesting they should have simply put an analog DVI connector on the short cable, without actually supporting digital? That would be a little more elegant, but they'd have just been asking for bad reviews and returns from people thinking it's a low-priced digital KVM because it's got a DVI adapter.


I was suggesting they go straight DVI. Although, I sort of like your idea of them putting an analog DVI connector on the shorter cable. At the least, it would have eliminated one adapter. It just doesn't make sense for Belkin to produce a VGA product for the Mac mini when its default connection is DVI.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 10:31 am    Post subject: Re: Height? Reply with quote

Brian wrote:
Belkin USB/FireWire Hub
6.5" wide x 6.5" deep x 3/4" tall

Belkin Flip
6.5" wide x 6.5" deep x 1" tall

Hope that helps!


Thanks!
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 3:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OGN wrote:
It just doesn't make sense for Belkin to produce a VGA product for the Mac mini when its default connection is DVI.
Well, it's not just that, but someone might end up wanting to use it for something other than a Mac mini, that doesn't have a DVI connector. I'd personally be a bit reluctant to buy a KVM that I wouldn't be able to use for anything that didn't have an analog DVI interface, even if I was buying it for the mini in the first place, because... you never know.

I've got a box full of gadgets like that, now. Anyone want a charge/sync cradle for a Visor Prism? Smile
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 10:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I actually picked up a Belkin Flip from Compusa last week. So far, I have two problems with it, one discussed in the original review.

1. I am using a 19" Dell LCD as my display. It has been my only display with my PC for a year or so. Always looked great with DVI or VGA hooked up. Added the flp and the VGA output looks like crap. It is somewhat grainy with icons and doesn't look bright at all. This was apparently a problem with the review piece as well. At the same time though, it looks great through the Mac Mini using the DVI to VGA adapter.

2. The volume randomly goes up and down while using the Mac Mini. I will be surfing the net or typing on the min, and all of the sudden the box comes up on the screen and the volume goes haywire. Really irritating.

As far as sound goes, my flip has a tight headphone jack so it may have been an isolated piece in the review. I am really thinking about taking it back and getting the IOGEAR Mini KVM.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 11:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

resuna wrote:
I've got a box full of gadgets like that, now. Anyone want a charge/sync cradle for a Visor Prism? Smile


I already have one, got anything else? Wink I miss Handspring!

Quote:
1. I am using a 19" Dell LCD as my display. It has been my only display with my PC for a year or so. Always looked great with DVI or VGA hooked up. Added the flp and the VGA output looks like crap. It is somewhat grainy with icons and doesn't look bright at all. This was apparently a problem with the review piece as well. At the same time though, it looks great through the Mac Mini using the DVI to VGA adapter.


VGA has always been touch and go with the mini.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 11:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah I understand that, but I am not having a display problem with the mini. I have had it hooked up to my 26" LCD via VGA and it looked great, and it looks great on my Dell monitor as I type this. What doesn't look good is my PC output through the Flip.
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