Friday, October 22, 2010

Review: Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner - Part 2

It's easy to say that the Flip-Pal mobile scanner is going to meet my expectations for a versatile portable scanning device. Part 1 of this review demonstrated the scanning, color correction and stitching features.

You absolutely cannot beat this device based on its size and weight, which make it extremely portable. To get an idea of its size, below is my netbook computer and on the right is the Flip-Pal scanner.

Both devices could easily fit in the carrying case for my netbook, however, there may be times when I only need to use the scanner. So I stopped by Staples today and found a carrying case that is perfect for the scanner and has plenty of room for extra batteries. And from what I read in the user's manual, this scanner will definitely use plenty of batteries.

One of the selling points of the Flip-Pal scanner is that it can be used without a computer! No cords, no wires. Just grab and go. This makes the Flip-Pal a great device for genealogists. Take it to family reunions when people bring their family photos and albums. Take it on research trips to scan those photos that relatives don't want to turn loose. Use it in research facilities to scan documents or pages from a book (with proper copyright usage, of course!). If there's a wonderful document or photograph that is in the custody of one family member, having a digital scan is the best way to share it with other members of the family. And size no longer matters. Theoretically, you could scan and digitally stitch together a wall mural with this device if you wanted to.

All of the scanning is done right on the Flip-Pal. The scans are saved to a SD memory card. You will have to take the memory card to your computer to do any photo editing and stitching. The scanner comes with a SD to USB adaptor, so if your computer doesn't accept SD cards, it doesn't matter.

The software runs off the SD card and the product manual is also on the SD card. The manual is 18 pages in an Adobe pdf file. I seldom read a product manual - I just start clicking buttons. I did, however, check the manual to see how to remove the cover since I didn't want to break it and wanted to try the Flip part of the scanner. I did read about the batteries and like other digital devices, this is a battery hog. The unit requires four AA batteries (stock up on those today, too). The manual indicates that the scanner will yield about 150 scans on alkaline batteries, about 450 on photo lithium, and about 120 on rechargeable NiMH.

Scanning options are either 300 dpi or 600 dpi. The SD card that comes with the unit has about 1.5 GB available for storing images, which the manual indicates is about 750 scans at 300 dpi or 375 scans at 600 dpi. You can also use any standard SD or SDHC memory card, so if the 2 GB that comes with the unit is not enough, use your 4 GB or 8 GB cards. The toolbox software can be copied onto your own SD card.

If you purchase the Flip-Pal, plan on another $10 - $20 for a netbook sleeve or carrying case. The unit could probably be easily scratched or damaged if you just carry it around without any kind of protective cover.

Plan on stocking up on batteries or get that recharger out. If you're doing a lot of scanning, you'll be going through a lot.

Overall, the positive features of the Flip-Pal far outweigh any drawbacks. It's portable, it's lightweight and versatile. You can scan anywhere - on the kitchen table, at a family picnic, even sitting in bed while watching TV.

The Flip-Pal web site

Disclaimer: I purchased this product directly from the Flip-Pal web site. No compensation of any kind was received for this review.


  1. I see what you mean about batteries. It would be a real asset to have this in a genealogy library, I would go nuts. Thanks for all your useful information about this product.

  2. Wow, this by far the best portable scanner I've seen. Wish I could spring for it before my research trip next month but it's going to have to wait. Maybe Santa will bring it to me.

  3. Brilliant review. Thank you. One question, however. Would you feel as positively about the product without the photo stitching software (does not run on Mac)? I was completely sold until I realized the software was Windows only.

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  5. BUT does it scan in .tif or only .jpg? A quality scanner must have the capacity to scan in .tif files. Jpegs deteriorate, which totally undoes the purpose of scanning: preservation.

  6. Mirian - Here's what the Flip-Pal site says regarding file type:

    The Flip-Pal™ mobile scanner uses a low loss (maximum quality) JPEG format. JPEG is the most common file format and is used by most digital cameras.

    Some photo archivers choose to work with the TIFF format because it is a ‘lossless’ file format versus JPG which is a ‘lossy’ file format. This means that each time you edit and resave a JPEG file it will degrade slightly in image quality; this does not happen with TIFF. Perceptual studies have shown people cannot see a difference between a non-edited low-loss JPEG file and a TIFF file until zoomed/enlarged by 6x. You can use image editors to save the scanned JPG file to a .TIF file. However, if you are not doing repetitive saves, then there is little advantage to converting to TIFF.

  7. Just wanted people to know that the company has released a Mac version of the software! Go Mac!

  8. Thanks for this review. It helped me make the decision to purchase one before my trip to Salt Lake City next month.