December 17, 2008
| by Jeff Winston
So the holidays are coming, and you’re looking forward to discussing your new iPhone, LCD TV, and such with your geekier relatives. But what about your aunt Edna, uncle Phil, and less technologically-savvy cousins? How do you draw them into the 21th century with a techy, but non-threatening gift? The answer is simple: Buy them a digital photo frame.
These attractive gadgets look like regular photo frames, but have an LCD display that provides continuous rotation of different photos. Many also play music and videos. Starting at $50, a pre-loaded digital photo frame can be a great gift for remote relatives who don’t know how to get to Shutterfly. Of course, not all frames are created equally, so it pays to be a smart shopper.
First, check the resolution of the LCD display in the frame. Even though the frames start at a 7-inch diagonal size, the resolution can be as low as 480x240. If no resolution is specified, you can bet it’s in the 480x240 range. For comparison, the typical YouTube video is 320x240, so for pictures you probably want something better. Look for at least 640x480 and you should be happy with the result. You can even find 800x400 and 800x600 frames for about the same price as the lower resolution ones. At the high end, there are 10-inch and 12-inch frames with resolution up to 1024x600.
Virtually all frames have a memory card (SD/SDHC/MMC/MS/MS Pro) reader, and if you don’t mind using these cards to transfer your photos, that’s all you need. However, many frames also have a USB connection and internal memory. The USB connection allows you to load the frame directly from your PC. Internal memory starts at 128MB and can go to 1GB. Obviously, more memory means more photos. More expensive models even provide a WiFi connection for wireless connectivity.
Pay attention to the aspect ratio. Most point-and-shoot cameras use a 4:3 ratio, so a 16:9 frame may trim the picture. Also, most frames also come with a handy remote that provides complete control from across the room.
Video and music (MP3) playback are interesting add-ons, but whether you need them depends on how you plan to use the frame. Videos demand viewer attention, while a photo presentation can rotate endlessly with little notice. Audio will be of limited quality.
Finally, many frames come with a variety of slideshow-development features. These allow you to sync certain pictures to certain audio, rotate or edit pictures after they’re downloaded to the frame, create fancy transition effects, and adjust picture viewing times. Oddly, a shuffle feature is very hard to find. Even for some frames that were advertised to have it, I was unable to verify the existence of the function in the manual.
There are a ton of digital photo frames on the market. We selected 6 with varying features and price-points. Bottom line, these frames make photo display so simple that even grandma will like it. A great gift idea for sure.
Click here to view some digital photo frames.
Jeff Winston has been writing about home electronics since 1998. An electrical engineer, Jeff has contributed to the development of products in the computer, consumer electronics, and wireless industries. He spends his spare time with his wife, kids, and many PCs, sometimes in that order.