Monday, July 26, 2010

Ten rules for choosing a Digital Photo Frame

Digital Photo FrameIn the 21st century, for many homes, the old picture frame, which holds a single matted photograph for display, is “old hat,” as are those photo albums most of our parents kept of family adventures. Today, when travelers return home, they want to show off every place they've been dynamically, to friends, family and neighbors.

They want a “digital photo frame.” Digital photo frames resemble regular photo frames, except you don't slide a print under the glass. In fact the glass is actually an LCD screen which can display slideshows of your photographs.

Digital Photo FrameThe original digital photo frames used a camera's memory card to hold the photos for display. Today there are many other options for putting your latest photos into your digital photo frame; memory cards, usb, WIFI, Bluetooth, ethernet, firewire.

Choosing a digital photo frame with their myriad of options is as hard as choosing a new television or computer.
When choosing a digital photo frame, the most important characteristic you must consider is who is it for, and what is their Digital IQ.
Some digital photo frames have amazing connectivity features, and wonderful display features, but they generally require extensive setup knowledge from the user. Frames like that might be great for you and your adult children, but will they be right for a present for grandma and grandpa? Probably not!

Here are my ten rules rules for purchasing a digital photo frame:
  1. Carefully consider who's going to use the frame — Users have a whole range of Digital IQs, from none to extremely sophisticated. Web enabled features, such as the ability to email photos to the frame or display photos from Picasa, Facebook, and other sources might be great for those with high Digital IQs, while for others, with a lower Digital IQ, a frame with the ability to load photos only from memory cards or directly from a digital camera might be perfect.

  2. Don't purchase your frame solely by considering its brand name — There are frames available for purchase from such names as Hewlett Packard (HP), Kodak or Sony which may not work nearly as well as from other lessor known names in the electronic marketplace.

  3. Don't purchase your frame solely based on price — Prices for digital photo frames range from about $50 to almost $300 based on their size, feature set, and manufacturer. Choose the feature set you want, its size and other characteristics first. Then compare prices and choose. Read reviews of the frames. Amazon and CNet are two good places for reviews.

  4. Digital Photo FrameCarefully consider the screen size you desire — The least expensive digital photo frames have a display area of about 5.6 inches (along their diagonal). They're great for those sitting directly in front them or holding them in your hands, however, most people won't enjoy watching the photos on it, if they're sitting a few feet away.

  5. Know where the frame will be placed to display its photos — Most people place digital photo frames on a table top or similar location, but some want to hang them on the wall. You've got to remember that these frames need power. Most plug directly into an outlet, but some are battery powered and can be hung on a wall.

    Battery powered digital photo frame caveat: While you can hang battery powered frames on the wall, recognize that you'll probably be taking them on and off the wall to recharge or replace the batteries. In my experience, battery powered frames use up their charge in less than 2 hours, and can take as long as 5 hours to recharge.
  6. Don't purchase a frame with a resolution Below 640x480 — I don't care if you think you're getting the bargain of the century (Please remember rule 2.) If the frame's resolution is below 640x480 you won't be pleased with picture the frame displays. The photos will loose detail, and generally look pixelated and boxy.

  7. Choose the aspect ratio of the frame so the photo display is pleasing to you — Most photo frames typically display their photos in either a 4:3 or 15:9 aspect ratio (ratio of the image's width to the height). If you're using a point and shoot digital cameras your pictures are probably 4:3, which means a 15:9 frame will either crop your photos or letter-box them. On the other hand, a 15:9 aspect ratio has widescreen feel. Don't forget, some of your photos are not in landscape, but were taken to be displayed vertically.

  8. Digital Photo FrameConsider how you will get your photos into your frame — You can use memory cards, but you might want to connect via USB, Bluetooth are even WIFI. WIFI gets you on the Internet so you can connect to your galleries at Flickr or Picasa, etc., but for many users, as I read their reviews, they had much trouble setting it up. In fact, many couldn't and returned the frames. Don't forget, to use a frame wirelessly you've got to have a wireless network at home.

  9. Be sure the frame supports your memory cards — Although most digital frames support multiple memory card formats and generally have USB slots, make sure your memory card is supported.

  10. Do you want music and video displayed by your frame? — Many digital picture frames can play MP3 files. Some can play video files, but supported formats vary. In general, at the present time, I've found that most frames don't do a great job with music and video, so beware.


Ian from Houston said...

Ned, we just came back from an Alaska cruise and were going to purchase one of these digital frames to show off our photos. Is your article ever timely for us, and were we ever going to make a mistake in our purchase.

Now we know better and will buy a good one for us.


Jane in Phoenix said...

Thanks for arming me with just the right knowledge to buy some of these for relatives. It's Christmas in July here in Southern California, and now I won't blunder when purchasing digital frames for Christmas early.

Jon in Philly said...

Great article Ned. I've never read such a comprehensive treatment of the subject. I'm book marking your guide.


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