Product Review: Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner

Product Review: Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner

The Flip-Pal's whole shtick is that it's a scanner that you can flip -- it weighs barely more than a pound. Who ever heard of such a thing? And would its scans be worth flip? We tested it to find out.

Looking for a scanner that’s small enough to take with you to the library? The Flip-Pal mobile scanner is a new option from a Colorado company that has received accolades from the Craft and Hobby Association. The Flip-Pal’s whole shtick is that it’s a scanner that you can flip — it weighs barely more than a pound. Who ever heard of such a thing? And would its scans be worth flip? We tested it to find out.

Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner
Price: $149.99
Manufacturer: Rocky Mountain Ventures Co., (888) 420-3484, Flip-Pal.com
Power source: four AA batteries (included)
Storage method: SD or SDHC cards (2GB SD card included)
Operating systems: compatible with any computer with a USB port
Biggest draws: a flatbed you can flip; scanning resolution of 300 or 660 dpi; ability to scan textured objects
Drawbacks: only saves to JPG format; maximum individual scan size is 4×6 inches

Ease of use

After opening the box, I was scanning within minutes. Because the Flip-Pal saves your scans to a memory card, you don’t have to attach it to a computer or install any software before you get going. When you turn it on the first time, it’ll ask you to set the date and time, and then you’re ready to scan. Put what you want to scan under the lid; the clear back panel lets you see if your photo is lined up correctly in the scanner. Or if you want to flip it, just squeeze the corners of the base of the lid, and it pops off so you have uninhibited access to the scanning area. Press the green button to scan, and voila — your image will display on the tiny screen, and it’s saved automatically.

When you’re ready to transfer your images to a computer, just remove the included SD memory card from the Flip-Pal and insert it into your PC’s memory card slot, or plug in the provided USB card reader to your computer. If you worry that you’ll fill up the 2GB card on your next research trip, you can always buy more — SD memory cards generally cost less than $20. A counter on the scanner’s screen tells you how many more photos the card can store. When I started with a fresh 2GB card it was more than 1,000, so you’d have to be a very busy beaver to run out of space.

If the object you want to scan is bigger than 4×6 inches, you can use the included stitching software to create a larger image. Note: That software is only compatible with Windows computers, but Mac users can opt for a third-party image stitching software such as DoubleTake.

Performance

The Flip-Pal scans images and documents quickly — even a 600-dpi scan takes only about 10 seconds. The quality of scans is great, especially considering the Flip-Pal’s size and cost. But one thing to watch out for: the big green scan button. I accidentally hit it as I was lifting the scanner on a number of occasions. I also found that when scanning objects with texture, there was some fuzziness in the recessed areas. But the scanner even works vertically, so if what you need to scan is attached to a building or a person, you can just remove the lid and hold it up to the object. When would you need to do this? I don’t know, but it sure is fun.

If you’re tempted to scan everything and anything with the Flip-Pal (including, say, your own face — not that we tried that), just remember to clean off the screen with a moist cloth or an alcohol-based wipe.

The verdict

The light-as-a-feather Flip-Pal pleasantly surprised us with quality scans and super-quick setup. We’d be overjoyed if they came out with a version that could scan letter-size documents, but for family historians primarily scanning old photos, it doesn’t get much easier than this.

Tip: Ask permission before pulling out your mobile scanner at an archive or other research repository. Some have restrictions on the use of photographic equipment.

More Mobile Scanners

HP Scanjet Professional 1000

  • Price: $249.99
  • Manufacturer: HP, (888) 999-4747
  • Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Power source: USB port
  • Storage method: no built-in memory; must be connected to a computer
  • Operating systems: Windows XP, Vista and 7
  • Features: resolution range of 200 to 600 dpi; sheetfed; maximum document size 8.5×14 inches; ability to scan two sides at once and save to PDF, TIFF, JPEG, DOC and other formats; includes USB cable

IrisPen 6

  • Price: $129-$199
  • Manufacturer: IRIS, (561) 921-0847
  • Weight: 1.8 oz.
  • Power source: powered by USB
  • Storage method: no built-in memory; must be connected to a computer
  • Operating systems: Windows XP, Vista or 7; Mac 10.4 or newer; requires USB port
  • Features: pen-style design; scans text in black and white; exports text to any application you can type in; optical character recognition for 128 languages; translator version works in six languages

IRIScan Anywhere 2

  • Price: $199
  • Manufacturer: IRIS, (561) 921-0847
  • Weight: 1 lb.
  • Power source: battery rechargeable through USB cable
  • Storage method: 512MB flash memory and 1 GB SD card included
  • Operating systems: Windows XP, Vista or 7; Mac 10.4 or newer; requires DVD drive and USB port
  • Features: sheetfed, letter size; resolution range of 300 to 600 dpi; ability to scan to JPG format and scan without being connected to a computer

PlanOn DocuPen X series

  • Price: $299-$399
  • Manufacturer: Planon System Solutions, (888) 507-3926
  • Weight: 2.5 ounces
  • Power source: battery rechargeable through USB cable
  • Storage method: SD memory card
  • Operating systems: Windows 2000, XP, Vista and 7
  • Features: pen-style design; ability to scan to JPG and TIFF formats and freescan; resolution range of 150 to 600 dpi

VuPoint Magic Wand 

  • Price: $99.99
  • Manufacturer: VuPoint Solutions, (626) 839-5175
  • Weight: 7.5 oz.
  • Power source: two AA batteries
  • Storage method: uses a Micro SD card up to 32GB
  • Operating systems: Windows XP and Vista, Mac 10.4 and above
  • Features: pen-style design; ability to scan to JPG format and freescan; resolution range of 300 to 600 dpi; 10 inches long

From the May 2011 issue of Family Tree Magazine

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