Digital picture frame comes of age with built-in WiFi

Frames like the eStarling can be picked up competitively priced on Ebay
Competitively-priced eStarlings can be found on Ebay or Amazon

If you’re like our household you probably no longer own a conventional film camera. You may even have multiple digital cameras: a compact one for quick snaps, and a larger body digital SLR.

You snap away in the knowledge that digital photography now costs you money if you print something, and digital photos proliferate in directories on your PC and in your inbox from friends.

Going back and finding digital photos to print is tricky; you then have to copy them out of the relevant directory and upload them to a photo ordering service, or stick them on some memory device and physically take them to photo processor, and then go and collect prints later.

In reality most prints sit unlooked-at, in photo albums next to your shoes in your cupboard, and you rapidly run out of the space for photo frames on tabletops and shelves.

Digital photo frame fears

Obviously part of the answer is electronic photo frames, but for a while we held back because of various reservations:

  • How would the frame look – ugly and bulky?
  • Is it all too ‘bleeding edge’?
  • How would the pictures look? 
  • How could we easily get stuff onto it and how many photos does it hold?
  • How does it fit in with the flow of photos going into and out of our email inboxes?

New generation wireless digital picture frames are connected and intelligent

It now looks like the digital photo frame has moved on from being a physical product rebuilt in the digital world (with all its physical world disadvantages) to being re-engineered to really take advantage of things you could never do with old-fashioned wooden picture frames.

We’re talking about digital picture frames that are:

  • connected to the web with a built-in wifi card (although you can plug in all the various memory cards as well if you don’t have a wireless network) so can be placed anywhere in the house
  • the frame has a unique email address so your friends and family can just email pictures to it
  • equally you can receive a picture by email and just hit ‘Forward’ and it’s on your frame
  • because of the frame backlighting, pictures look better than those sitting in old metal picture frames
  • intelligent: pictures are synched and managed from a website where you can even tell the frame who you’ll accept photos from, when to turn on & off, and how long to display each photo in your slideshow
  • social media linked: if you’re into pictures via Flickr, Picasa, Facebook, Myspace, Photobucket etc it will accept feeds directly (our frame is streaming a photo feed from Flickr)

Desktop versus wall-mounted photo frames

To really take advantage of these frames you need a wireless network. The next question is whether you are looking for something for a desk (i.e. you’ll be sitting there working with the frame on the corner of your desk) or whether you are after big-impact wall-mounted frames.

We went for the desk-size 8 inch digital picture frame because it is less obtrusive (amazingly some manufacturers are selling frames with sound and movie capability and think it’s a plus point … it’s difficult to imagine anything more annoying) and it gave us the opportunity to try the concept out at a reasonable price.

PhotoVu Digital Picture Frame on Amazon

For these sort of 8″ frames you will pay the equivalent of around US$199 or £150 or A$250. If you want a large wall-mounted frame the 19″ PhotoVu frame starts at about US$800 at the time of writing and also has a wireless connection – but not the email to frame function.

Our review of the best desktop digital photo frames out there

Kodak digital picture frame with wifi

The two main desktop-size frames that we looked at were the Kodak EX1011 and the eStarling (model WPF-388B which is the new version 3 of the eStarling frame). Despite the slightly larger screen (10 inches) the Kodak model ended up showing more of a cut-off letter box cropped picture and again did not have a simple email address that your family can send pictures to like the smaller 8 inch eStarling frame.

We’ve had the eStarling now for a couple of months with no glitches. It will hold about 600 photos and as well as the web interface has controls set into the top of the frame itself if you want to rewind, delete the photo of your Aunt Maude as you see it, etc. It was very easy to set up.

You can pick up eStarlings from Ebay shops at competitive prices – here’s an Ebay search for current eStarling items.

If you want a longer review of the eStarling itself, rather than the concept generally, you can find a recent one from Maclife here, or Crunchgear here.

There are also other models like the Phillips digital frame, Westinghouse digital frame, Digital Spectrum model etc etc.

This article filed under the following 'Interest' categories (click category for more) Kewl

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Article posted by @Drivelry on October 21, 2008

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