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Samsung's 55-inch Flip display is a digital replacement for the traditional whiteboard or flip-chart, and a competitor for products like Google's Jamboard (£5,198 with stand) and Microsoft's Surface Hub (£9,500 for the 55-inch model). At £2,499 plus around £780 for a stand, the Flip is considerably more affordable than its current competition and looks to be a natural fit for business meeting rooms -- but how does its design and functionality shape up?
The two boxes containing the Flip screen itself and its wheeled stand were the largest and heaviest review items to arrive at ZDNet's UK office for a while, amounting to 34.9kg. Extracting them from the packaging and setting the 28.9kg screen/stand combo up is definitely a two-person job. There's nothing complex about the process though, and the provided instruction sheet is admirably clear.
Once it's assembled, you have a digital whiteboard the size of a traditional analogue unit on a movable stand that has two immediately noticeable features: it 'flips' smoothly from landscape to portrait orientation; and it can operate in whiteboard or blackboard mode, with the Tizen 3.0-based user interface automatically reorienting itself:
The whole unit is a neutral light grey colour, and a wall-mount kit is available if the Flip is to be a permanent fixture in your meeting room.
Up to four participants can draw on the touch-screen simultaneously, using the passive stylus (two are provided) or a fingertip. When not in use, the pen can be stowed in a pod beneath or on the left side of the screen (depending on orientation); when you remove the stylus from the holder, the screen turns on, ready for use. The pod also houses a motion sensor, an NFC pad (for smartphone connection, see below), a USB 3.0 port and a power button.
There are more connectors at the back: USB 3.0, Ethernet (RJ-45), serial (RS-232), HDMI-in and 'Touch Out' (a USB connection for controlling a PC via touch from the Flip). The Flip also has a pair of integrated stereo speakers at the back.
Overall, the Samsung Flip's industrial design is unfussy and well thought-out -- down to details like the height-adjustable stand with an integrated shelf and lockable wheels.
The Flip is a 55-inch touch-screen with 4K (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) resolution, 178-degree viewing angles (vertical and horizontal) and 8ms pixel response time. The LCD panel's native 300-nit brightness reduces to 220 nits with the FlatFrog InGlass opto-mechanical touch-screen system added.
The stylus is a simple pencil-like affair (it's made of wood) with a thin tip for writing and a thick end for highlighting. You can change the pen or highlighter colour with a long press of the relevant part of the stylus on the screen, but you'll have to visit the settings dialogue to adjust the pen's thickness. Erasing is simple: just wipe the screen with your hand, as you would on an old-school white/blackboard. There's no support for pressure-sensitive inking, so this may not be the ideal solution for more creative use cases. No battery is required for the stylus.
Input goes into documents called Rolls, which can be up to 20 pages long and can be PIN-protected if necessary. The UI is straightforward, with Import and Export buttons at the top of the workspace and buttons for managing rolls, moving or editing rolls and undo/redo -- the latter are at the bottom or on the right-hand side, depending on screen orientation.
As well as writing on-screen, you can connect to various external sources and devices to access content for your meeting or presentation. Press the Import button at the top of the screen, and options appear for Mobile, Laptop, USB and Network Drive.
To bring up a Samsung smartphone on the Flip screen, you can use Smart View, which lets you control the handset from the Flip screen -- in full-screen mode if you want, which is fun. You can screen-mirror other manufacturers' phones via Miracast, but you don't get the Flip-based touch control in this case. If your phone is an Android 8.0 (Oreo) device with NFC support, you can simply tap it on the Flip's NFC point to initiate the connection. Once your phone is on-screen, you can easily take screenshots and annotate them.
Laptops and PCs can connect to the Flip via HDMI, with touch functionality via the Flip's Touch Out port. Wireless laptop/PC connection is also available using the WiFi Display function on Windows 8.1 and 10 devices. Alternatively you can import content from a USB stick or hard drive, or from a network drive. Access to USB and network drives can be locked out in the Tizen OS's settings, if required.
The default export format for 'rolls' of Flip content is PDF, and these can go via email, to a printer or to a USB stick/drive or network drive. If meeting room users are prone to leaving material unprotected on the device, there's a setting to automatically delete all content -- at the end of the working day, for example -- which should help to concentrate minds.
Samsung's overriding goal for the Flip was to make a straightforward and accessible collaboration screen without too much complexity in either the functionality or the user experience. Given this, and the competitive pricing, its main target market is probably small/medium-sized businesses and enterprise departments, with typical use cases in product development, marketing and IT teams. More expensive collaboration products offer more fully-featured operating systems, integrated cameras, pressure-sensitive inking and more, but Samsung could well find a niche, for the moment, with the Flip.
But this a fast-developing market, and we look forward to examining forthcoming products like Microsoft's Collaboration Displays and Surface Hub 2.
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