Are you frustrated with playing video on your iPod's 2.5-inch screen? If so, take a gander at Memorex's iFlip portable video player for iPod, which essentially boosts your iPod's display to 8.4-inches. Simply dock your iPod into the portable DVD player-like device, and you can view video and photos without having to squint. While the $199 iFlip certainly makes viewing iPod-based video more convenient, we're not entirely impressed with actual screen quality.
Measuring 8.7 by 6.7 by 1.7 and weighing in at 2.5 pounds, the iFlip isn't as lithe as most portable DVD players. Still, it's smaller (though considerably thicker) than most ultraportable laptops, and its big 8.4-inch widescreen and internal rechargeable battery make it worth its weight for iPodders interested in road trips or air travel. Though it's a portable device, and you could always view your iTunes video on a computer, the iFlip isn't a bad way to view iPod video while in bed, and it's great for kids.
Constructed of a durable black plastic with grey "rubbery" sides, the unit's design is straightforward with its latchless, flip-up display and integrated stereo speakers. Without an iPod docked in, it's pretty plain looking. The most intriguing physical feature is the iPod docking bay, located between the speakers. Pressing the silver button releases the docking bay; the modular iPod holder actually flips up for easy access. The iFlip ships with two iPod holders, one for the 30GB iPod and another for the 60GB or 80GB iPod. These fit into place easily, but you'll need to push down on the back of the holder to actually snap it in. Once an iPod is inserted (or assimilated), it becomes one with the iFlip (reminding us of the Altec-Lansing iM7 speakers).
On the right side of the iFlip are the main controller buttons. These include the volume buttons that double as menu navigation controls, a menu button, and the power button. Adjacent to these are power, charge, and battery indicator LEDs, as well as the DC input. On the "flip" side, you'll find an S-video out (using the bundled mini-to-S-video cable), audio-line out, and two convenient headphone jacks. The layout is simple, though we would have preferred buttons like volume and menu to be closer to the front of the unit, or even on the front panel where the speakers and iPod are located. Of course, you use the nested iPod interface to select and control your content.
Flip the switch
After powering up the iFlip, you'll need to adjust your iPod's video settings to TV out: On (or set your iPod to Ask). Then simply select a movie, TV show, or any other video, and it will appear on the big screen. Conveniently, the iPod displays a thumbnail of the video, the time elapsed, and any chapter demarcations. Volume control is really the only function that's been disabled.
Once video is rolling, you can adjust the iFlip's internal settings by pressing the menu button. Options such as brightness, contrast, sharpness, and hue can be adjusted using the volume buttons. You can also set screen mode for 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratios.
At default settings, the 480-by-234-pixel (native resolution) screen is nice and bright, and the speakers are loud and clear (though they lack bass and don't rank high as audio-only speakers (you can use the iFlip as music speakers with no onscreen graphics). Though still very viewable, video quality has definitely been undermined with a generally a darker hue all around and bluish whites and greys. Basically, you're losing some warmth. Screen pixels (and screen-door effect) are noticeable from about two feet away, and you'll usually notice some screen noise. However, the viewing angle is decent-- you're just not getting the best screen available. For the record, we used a couple of iTunes movies (outputting at 640 by 480), a TV show, and a home movie for testing against a PowerBook G4.
Photos can be viewed only in slideshow mode--no a la carte viewing here. Again, photo quality is darker and lacking richness, but it's not a bad way to show off photos on a trip.
As for the battery: It takes about 6.5 hours to fully charge the unit, and it has a video playback rating of five hours. We've tested the unit a bit and had an average of a little more than 5 hours per charge. While this isn't an ideal battery life, you will definitely be able to watch several videos without recharging. The iPod cannot power the iFlip, nor can it be charged by the iFlip unless it's plugged in. The iFlip ships with a special S-video cable, a mini-to-stereo RCA audio cable, a power adapter (unfortunately with two cables), plus two iPod holders. A remote control would have been a nice touch.
Overall, the iFlip is a good answer to those who want to extend the video capabilities of their iPods. Video quality is probably the determining factor for prospective buyers. We've seen similar players, such as the SonicImpact V55, though we can't vouch for their quality compared with the iFlip. Again, the yet-to-be "true video iPod" may be more portable, and an iTunes-enabled laptop can do the same (plus more) than the iFlip, but for a dedicated and seamless big-screen experience, the iFlip delivers.