Burney’s Gadgets for Legal Pros: Belkin Flip and A Review of the Panasonic Toughbook

Brett Burney is the Legal Technology Support Coordinator at Thompson Hine in Cleveland, Ohio. He regularly reviews products for Law.com’s Automated Lawyer and Law Office Computing Magazine. Feel free to e-mail Brett with your legal technology questions.

The majority of us work on two computers at some point in the day. Whether you have two computers at the office, or one at home, the Belkin Flip can help ensure you can hop back and forth smoothly.

Two Computers But Only One Keyboard

KVM switches (keyboard/video/mouse) are usually paperback-book-sized black boxes that sit on your desk. They allow you to control two computers with one keyboard, one monitor, and one mouse.

The Belkin Flip is technically a KVM switch, but it’s one of the most stylish ones I’ve seen. And with the release of their wireless version, this is an amazing product that will be extremely helpful for anyone that needs to control two computers with one set of peripherals.

The main base of the Flip is mostly white with pastel green and orange highlights. While the colors are pretty, they actually serve a purpose I’ll address in a bit.

Protruding out of that main base are two cables which have three connectors on their other ends – VGA, USB, and audio out. These connectors get plugged into the two computers that you want to control. The VGA cable goes into the monitor port, the USB plug goes into an empty USB slot, and the audio out plug goes into its respective slot.

Back on the main base, you plug in a single monitor along with a keyboard, mouse, and earphones or a speaker system. The last port on the base is for the remote “clicker.”

Click Between Computers

The base sits in the back of your desk – out of sight if possible. The remote has a long enough wire that it can sit just about anywhere that’s convenient and accessible for you. (The wireless Flip does away with the wire between the base and the remote.)

The remote clicker is about the size of a silver dollar and has a small ring of rubber on the bottom to keep it from sliding around. You can also use the included Velcro patch if you’d like. It’s white on top, but the sides have the same orange and green found on the main base.

Last but not least, the top of the remote clicker has a small LED that shines orange or green depending on which computer you’ve activated. When you click the remote, the LED changes color, and the computer you are controlling changes as well.

The Belkin Flip is dead-easy to set up. There is no required software, although Belkin does offer some additional utilities from their website.

Because there is no software to configure, the Belkin Flip can be used with either PCs or Macs, as long as you have the necessary VGA and USB ports (some Macs only have DVI now).

I used the Flip on two desktop PCs and was thrilled with how easy it was to setup. When I needed to switch to my other PC, I simply hit the remote and clicked over to the other color – without having to grab another keyboard or mouse. The convenience is simply wonderful.

The Belkin Flip supports monitor resolutions up to 2048×1536 which should cover most displays on the market today. Belkin also offers a 3-year warranty.

If you’re looking for an handy way to manage working on two computers, whether it’s two desktops or a laptop and desktop combination, the Belkin Flip is your answer. Just make sure you get the right model from their site.

Panasonic Toughbook eLite W4 Executive Notebook Computer

If you look back at my archive of columns here on LLRX.com, you’ll find that I like to review ultraportable laptops. I appreciate ultraportables because that’s all I need these days! For e-mail I regularly have my Treo with me, and when I need a document, I only need an Internet connection to Citrix in to work.

I got a chance to try out yet another ultraportable and I must say that it’s a top winner for me. The only knock against it is the price, but the fact of the matter is that you get what you pay for, and the Panasonic Toughbook eLite W4 Executive Notebook Computer is worth it.

A Tough Little Laptop

If you’ve heard the word “toughbook” before that’s probably because Panasonic is well-known for it’s rugged Toughbook line of computers used by the military, law enforcement, and other professions that demand a laptop that can stand up to dirt, sand, and water.

And while it would be nice to have a true rugged toughbook, they’re not practical for the legal profession. On the other hand, the “semi-rugged” line of Toughbooks fit wonderfully in a briefcase and can take the daily bumps and bruises better than any other laptop computer I’ve ever seen.

The case of the eLite W4 notebook is made from a magnesium alloy which is a little stronger than the usual plastic casings. Inside, the hard drive is shock-mounted so that the internal pieces of the drive are well protected if the laptop is dropped.

Amazingly, even with all that extra padding, the eLite W4 still only weighs a miniscule 2.8lbs.! It’s so light, in fact, that someone picked it up and commented that it felt like a toy.

The eLite W4 measures only 10.6″ x 8.3″ x 1.0-1.8″ which is incredibly small, but still very useful. While most laptops are perfect three-dimensional rectangles, the eLite W4 slopes slightly toward the front so that the back is a little thicker than the front. At first, I thought this was going to be a little odd, but it didn’t bother me in the least bit.

Tough Love

The 12.1″ XGA screen was bright and pleasing to the eye. The processor is not blazing, but it’s perfect for business applications and even the occasional DVD.

The keyboard is obviously smaller than many laptops, but I honestly never had a problem typing on it. The battery is pretty amazing. Panasonic claims the eLite W4 will last 6+ hours on a full battery charge. And while I never used the W4 for that long of a period, I never had to worry about the battery running out.

Two items really make the Panasonic eLite W4 stand out. First, the touchpad is round instead of the usual, boring square. I thought this was going to be bothersome, but it worked wonderfully.

Second, and most innovative, is the location of the CD/DVD optical drive. Instead of the usual tray that pops out of the side of the unit, the drive is directly under where your right palm would be resting when typing. To open the drive, you click a little switch in the front of the laptop. I also like the fact that you can turn off the drive which allows you to save battery power.

At $2,199, the Panasonic eLIte W4 is expensive, although I am hard pressed to recommend a better ultraportable these days. The eLite W4 also impressed me with its lack of noise since the processor it uses negates the need for noisy fans.

Posted in: Burney's Legal Tech Reviews, Gadgets, Mobile Technology, WiFi