- Review Price: £150.00
If you really want to show off your picture collection this is definitely the way to do it. This rather swish offering from Kodak has a couple of features that really make it stand out, a 54Mbps wireless capability and a first rate screen. In fact it is far more than just a digital picture frame, as it will not only display your favourite jpeg images, but can play movies and music. The EX811 can play .MOV, .AVI, and MPEG 1 & 2 movie formats and MP3 audio using the pair of built in speakers. Files can either be copied straight into its 128mb internal memory, or copied via an assortment of memory cards, or even directly from a camera.
The EX811 certainly looks the part, simple lines and a clean finish, offering an almost conservative look and feel when compared to some of its more flamboyant counterparts. Because of its practical style it would quite happily grace most mantelpieces without looking out of place. Let’s face it, you want heads to turn because of the image displayed not the eye-candy lines of an over-designed frame. If that’s not the case then this item also offers a rather novel design concept via optional interchangeable ‘faceplates’ which unfortunately are not yet available, with no indication on Kodak’s website as to when they will be on sale.
Build quality is generally excellent. The unit feels reasonably durable, but I do have a couple of concerns. A bit more attention should have been put into the flip out stand, which is definitely on the flimsy side, but the major design oversight is the remote control holder, which can’t be used when the unit is hanging on a wall. The holder clips on top of the screw hole for hanging it up. It seems obvious to me, but surely the one time you will need somewhere to put the remote is when the frame is hung on the wall?
While the controls built into the unit are perfectly adequate, they are situated on the rear of the frame which can make operation a little awkward until you familiarise yourself with the layout of them. This is why the heart of the control system for the EX811 is small, flat, and very easy to lose, namely the remote control. The unit is certainly intuitive to control via the icon and text driven menus. To play a slide show from an SD card, simply switch the unit on, insert your card, highlight the appropriate icon, press play and then press slideshow. It’s that simple. Pretty much all of the controls are the same simple routine.
Of course the most important element is the display screen itself, so let’s take a look at it. The 8 inch aSi TFT active matrix screen is certainly up to the job, offering a respectable 800 x 480 resolution with an aspect ratio of 16:9. While this is lovely for watching videos and movies, not many photographers regularly shoot in widescreen format, so for the average user this means the unit will either crop the top and bottom to get the full width of a 4:3 aspect image on the screen (not advisable), or display the full image smaller, losing about a third of the screen area on either side. Nevertheless, the display is crisp and clean, with lovely colour definition. A lot of this is due to the use of Kodak’s Light Management Film which improves viewing angle and enhances colour and definition, while reducing moiré abnormalities. The side-to-side viewing angle is very good, but it has to be said that it loses some quality when viewed from above or below.
The unit has two main modes, in that it can be used as a viewer or as a music player. Pressing the music button will toggle this mode on or off. It offers a choice of sources, either internal memory or and inserted memory card, and you can choose to play a single track or play them all. It displays the current track title, its progress, and the title of the next track. The usual array of controls familiar to anyone with an MP3 player are available on both the remote and the control panel on the unit itself. Even though mp3 is pretty much standard theses days, it would have been nice to see support for other types of audio files, such as WMA.
As you would expect, the picture frame comes complete with a bundle of useful software, namely Kodak’s EasyShare package. This is an all-encompassing application for moving, manipulating and sorting your photo collection. The software also gives access to the Kodak Gallery website, extending its services to online sharing, storing, and printing via PictBridge. To be honest it’s unnecessary, both Windows XP and Vista will quite happily auto detect the unit via USB and add it, and all the card slots as new drives. This allows files to be moved effortlessly between the computer, the EX811’s internal memory and its card slots via drag n drop on your computer.
Connectivity is one area that does stand out in comparison to most. There is high-speed USB 2.0 connection, plus the very welcome addition of wireless capability, which is the unit’s main selling point. The WiFi option uses the 802.11g specification which operates at 2.4GHz, and this can offer a very reasonable 54Mbps transmission speed across your home or office network. Because of the similar transmission protocols, it can also be used with the slower 802.11b 11Mbps wireless specification. This of course means that the EX811 stays in pride of place on the mantelpiece while you update your pictures from the comfort of your armchair.
There is a variety of well situated connectors positioned on the rear sides of the EX811, including a mini USB port, a headphone socket, and a power socket on one side, plus the card slots and power switch on the other. The unit will accept the majority of popular cards. SD, MMC, Memory stick, XD, Compact Flash, and Microdrive are all supported, although it’s worth noting that SDHC is not supported.
The EX811 is a smart, useful, and very user friendly bit of kit. Computer connection is a doddle with simple drag n drop, and menu navigation is a breeze. To its credit, it offers some excellent features, WiFi, PictBridge printing, and a gorgeous screen. But, very nice though it is, to my mind it doesn’t really justify the £150 price tag. There are cheaper frames available with pretty much the same specs.
Score in detail
Image Quality 9