- Review Price: £86.12
Although almost anyone with a digital camera has hundreds, if not thousands, of digital photographs, most of those pictures will never be seen by anyone other than the person who took them. Although most people with a computer also have a photo-quality printer, very few people ever print more than a tiny proportion of their photos, and there’s something a bit too geeky about inviting your friends to gather round your PC monitor to view your latest holiday snaps. The vast majority of digital photos will stay lurking in the forgotten corners of hard drives and CD-ROMs, never being printed, shared or displayed.
One solution to this problem is a digital picture frame. Essentially a small LCD monitor in an attractive frame, with some internal memory, reader slots for a variety of memory cards and a simple menu-driven operating system, digital picture frames provide a convenient modern solution for the problem of how to display digital photographs. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and styles, and prices have been falling recently. A good example is this 10.4-inch black acrylic frame from Jessops, priced at £86.12.
It’s an attractive device that would look good in any modern home or sitting on an office desk. The front is a smooth sheet of glossy acrylic plastic that is easy to keep clean and free of finger marks, with a black border approximately five centimetres wide surrounding a sharp, bright LCD monitor measuring approximately 15.8 x 21.0cm, with a resolution of 600 x 800 pixels. On the back is a sturdy detachable, adjustable stand, as well as slots for wall mounting, although the screws and fittings for mounting it in this way are not supplied. The unit is 5cm thick and weighs approximately 550g, and the overall build quality is very good. It comes with a mains adaptor and a small infrared remote control.
On the side of the frame are slots for CompactFlash, SD/SDHC/MMC, Memory Stick and xD-Picture memory cards, although Memory Stick Pro and Pro Duo cards will require an adaptor, which is not supplied. There are also USB and USB Mini connectors, and the device can read from USB Flash Drives and other USB mass storage devices. On the back of the frame is a simple control panel consisting of six buttons, but operating the simple menu-driven interface is much easier using the remote control. The remote is also used to adjust music playback volume, or to scroll through stored pictures manually.
The menu is fairly straightforward, offering a variety of options for displaying your photos. Images can be rotated to the correct orientation, and viewed either as single pictures or as a slide show, with a range of different transitions such as fade, cross-comb or curtain, as well as a random setting. There is also the option to play music from MP3 files as a background, either playing a single track on repeat or playing all music files in sequence. The device can also play some video files, although it is limited to Motion JPEG type formats, of the sort usually captured by digital cameras.
Photos and music can be played directly from an inserted memory card, or copied into the frame’s internal memory; however it only has a rather miserly 256MB of storage, so it’s a good idea to re-size your pictures to fit before loading them into the device. This also helps it to run more smoothly. It will display large image files correctly, but loading can be very slow, and transitions jerky, when dealing with larger file sizes.
Sound quality from the frame’s internal speakers isn’t exactly hi-fi quality, and it does sound a bit tinny, on a par with a typical transistor radio, but as long as the volume is kept low it’s quite acceptable as a background sound.
The image quality displayed by the monitor is very good. Its 800 x 600 resolution may not sound like much, but at the kind of viewing distance at which it will typically be used it is certainly sharp enough, and both colour and contrast are as good as most computer monitors. Slide transitions are smooth as long as the file size isn’t too enormous, and look tasteful and discreet, in other words there are no tacky star wipes or wavy lines.
The frame comes with a concise 20-page manual, but in fact setting it up and using it are so simple and intuitive that it’s hardly needed. It is a simple device designed to do a simple job, so there’s no point in making it over-complicated.
My only criticism with this particular frame is in fact that it may be a little too simple. Some other frames incorporate clock and calendar functions, and can play a wider variety of media, especially video file types that this model does not support. Some also have Bluetooth or WiFi connectivity, so that files can be uploaded directly from a home network, but then those frames are also a lot more expensive and some don’t have such nice screens. For simplicity, display quality and value for money this one has a lot going for it.
If you’re looking for an ideal seasonal gift for the photographer in your life, or if you want a way to share and display your photos without the hassle of printing and framing them yourself, this easy-to-use digital picture frame is just the thing. It’s stylish, well made, versatile, has an excellent monitor screen and would look good almost anywhere.
Score in detail
Build Quality 7