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10 Best Digital Photo Frames Reviewed

I have a wall of family photos that I’ve blown up and framed, costing me hundreds if not thousands of dollars over the years. And with every single one, I remember struggling to choose one single image over another. That’s why the idea of a digital photo frame appeals to me. You can display a new image every day, or have a slideshow featuring thousands of photos that rotate throughout the day, or during a set time period.

These photo frames are all pretty simple to set up and use, and most offer plug-and-play operation by simply sticking in a memory card loaded with images, making them great gifts for both the techie and the technically challenged. According to a recent iSuppli study, the digital photo frame market will log 78.3 million frames sold worldwide by 2011, in large part thanks to their popularity around the holidays.

We got our hands on 10 models of various shapes and sizes and evaluated them on performance, features, and build quality. A few general comments: If manufacturers are listening, we would love to see some battery operated units. Not one offered batteries as an option, which makes hanging these things on your wall less than desirable as power cords hang down from the frame. Additionally, for the purposes of this roundup, we did not list the memory cards supported for every frame, but most include a 6-in-1 card reader.

Digital Foci Image MomentsDigital Foci Image Moments 6 5.7-inch Digital Photo Frame – $150

Out of the Box:

This is the smallest unit in our roundup, and it’s also one of the most utilitarian. It’s hardly sleek, with a bulky profile, thick plastic silver frame, and awkward-looking control buttons that peer at you from behind the frame. In short, it looks a bit cheap. We did find tactile buttons rather than “touch” buttons a refreshing change of pace, however. You definitely can feel them working and know the frame is responding to you. Plus, you won’t smudge the screen with your oily mitts. (A remote control that is fairly easy to use and responsive is also included.)

Setup:

Either download your images from a Mac or PC via USB, or insert your memory card. This small unit has an impressive 450MB of internal memory, so you can store plenty of memories. One cool little detail is that the memory card slots have a glow to them, so you can see where to put the card in low light. Plus, unlike some much-more-expensive models, your memory card will actually click into place, rather than you having to simply shove it in there and wonder if you put it in the right way.

Performance:

After we judged this book by its cover and actually began evaluating it, we realized the image quality is surprisingly good. With 640×580 resolution, you are actually getting a lot of pixels for the small 5.7-inch size. Images looked consistently sharp, colorful, and bright across the board. We also liked the fact that you can create customized play lists, so you can tailor your slideshows, music, and videos to your own needs.

We do have some issues with the menu system, however. It’s hard to navigate, especially the home page. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason between using the up/down and left/right directional keys. Additionally, downloading your images to the internal memory is a bit laborious compared to some models; you have to take a few extra steps. We definitely preferred using the USB cable to grab images from your PC to downloading images from a memory card to the internal memory.

Conclusion:

Unfortunately, this frame’s image quality and even the audio from its internal speakers surpass its unimpressive design. If you care more about image quality and music than the form factor, this isn’t a bad frame. For those who want a frame that looks great even when off, you’re better off with one of the other models in this roundup.

Parrot Picture FrameParrot 7-inch Digital Frame by Andrée Putman – $450

Out of the Box:

Oh la la! The first in a series of designer collections for Parrot’s range of wireless A/V products, the Parrot Digital Frame by Andrée Putman is super sexy. Putman is known for her minimalist, avant-garde furnishings as found in places like the boutique Guerlain in Paris, and the Putman skyscraper in Hong Kong. The frame comes in a special plastic box with a checkerboard design that makes for a very presentable gift, and it just gets better as you open it up. This frame is on the smaller side, at only 7 inches, but it’s one of the most beautiful in our roundup. It looks sleek, with a black frame surrounded by a clear bezel for a modern, high-tech appeal. There front panel has no buttons, which gives the frame a nice, clean look. Plus, there are only three controls on the back panel—left, right, and select—which makes navigating the menu system a cinch. There are no included speakers, so music doesn’t factor into the equation.

Setup:

As with many models in our roundup, the Parrot is totally plug-and-play. Just plug it in, pop in a memory card, pick your language, and a slideshow will launch of all the images on your card. The menu system is one of the best and most intuitive, simple, and straightforward we havee used: Copying images to the frame’s internal memory was a piece of cake, as it should be. It did take a little longer than we expected, however. You can also copy images directly from your camera through a USB cable or your Mac/PC. The camera will store about 400 images total.

Performance:

With 720 x 480 pixels, this frame has a great resolution and pixel density for the size, making for a bright, sharp image that is set off by the gorgeous black frame. Our only problem is that the image seems slightly cropped on the top and bottom edges. It’s not noticeable to most, but after looking at the same images on several different digital photo frames, it was to us.

We especially loved the frame’s wireless Bluetooth capability, which is a unique selling point, especially for those of us who take copious snapshots on their phones. After following a few simple steps in the user manual, you can pair your cell and the frame for easy downloading of those images that otherwise might live in perpetuity on your phone.

Conclusion:

While we loved this frame, it isn’t the cheapest model on the block. After all, Sony’s model is just as pretty, it’s bigger, and it’s nearly half the price. What you are paying for here is the Putman’s signature. If you want to give a special gift, however, this is a no-brainer. The smaller size makes it suitable for a bedside table, and it has a hook to hang it on the wall, which is a nice touch.

ViewSonicViewsonic DPG807 8-inch Digital Photo Frame – $129

Out of the Box:

This is a smaller unit, but it is great for a desktop and is absolutely gorgeous, with a sleek piano-black finish. Blue, lighted controls at the bottom turn off after 20 seconds, so you don’t have to look at them when viewing photos. They also prevent you from having to smudge the display screen with your paw prints, and make it so you don’t have to reach around to the frame’s backside to change a photo.

Setup:

The DPG807 is a walk in the park in terms of ease of use and set up. Simply plug it in, insert your memory card, turn it on, and a slideshow will automatically launch. Whereas some digital photo frames only support PCs, we appreciate that this one is both PC- and Mac-compatible. Simply drag and drop your picture, music, and movie files onto the disc that mounts to your desktop and they will be transferred to the DPG807’s 512MB internal memory. You can also upload and view MPEG1, MPEG4, and Motion JPEG video. Additionally, date and calendar functions let you use the frame as an alarm clock.

Performance:

mmediately, you’ll notice that the 800×600 resolution image looks great—contrast is very nice, and colors pop. You can see why Viewsonic went with a black frame; it makes the images really stand out.

Our only gripe is that the controls are so minimal, it is sometimes not as simple as it could be to navigate the menu system. On the Pandigital model that follows, for example, you can delete a photo directly using the touch-screen controls. Here, all you have are a play button (which is also used to make selections), a back button, a menu button, and four directional controls. That means, while the frame is uncluttered, it takes a little more digging to do things like rotate a photo. We also had a little trouble downloading images from the memory card. For whatever reason, we could not open the internal memory sub menu to start copying files. We also found the right arrow key to be a bit sticky.

Conclusion:

The price is right for this beautiful frame. If you can put aside a few minor issues and focus on the frame’s good looks and spectacular images, you should definitely consider the DPG807.

Philips 8FF2FPBPhilips 8FF2FPB 8-inch Digital Photo Frame – $144

Out of the Box:

This is one of the smaller units in our roundup, with a black plastic frame and a 4:3 8-inch 800×600 resolution screen. The unit is devoid of any buttons on the front panel, featuring just a few simple controls and directional keypad on the back panel. A “virtual” panel on the front screen serves as a guide to navigate the keys on the back without having to flip the frame around every time you want to change a photo. Unlike the majority of the models in our roundup, this one does not feature built-in speakers, so music isn’t an option.

Setup:

This is, perhaps, the most bare-bones frame we’ve tested, which means that it’s crazy simple to get started, just plug in the frame, insert a memory card, and a slideshow will launch immediately. You can also use a USB cable (not included) to connect your computer—PC or Mac—and download images to the frame’s so-called internal memory, which is very, very limited. It will only store one to three photos, according to the user manual! You have the option of copying images from your computer to a memory card in the frame, so if you want to supplement your slideshows with pictures stored on your Mac or PC, you can.

Performance:

This frame has a higher pixel density than some of the others in our roundup—meaning there are more pixels relative to the viewable image area, resulting in a sharper image. Take, for example, Kodak’s 10-inch frame reviewed later in this roundup; it has a lower resolution (800×480) than this 8-inch frame. The higher pixel density makes the images look very crisp. However, because this is a 4:3 aspect ratio model, images from my Nikon D60, which has a 3:2 aspect ratio, looked squished. I couldn’t get over the fact that my daughter’s head looked like something out of Indiana Jones in the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Those with smaller digicams, which most likely have a 4:3 aspect ratio, won’t have this problem. If you’ve done any in-camera cropping to your photos, Philips’ RadiantColor technology extends color to fill the frame on smaller images so that you don’t have to look at black bars, which is a nice touch. You can also create a collage if you so desire. For viewing a static image of a vertical pic, simply rotate the frame instead of rotating the image itself. The frame also features an alarm clock so you can wake up to your favorite image, making it a good bedside model.

Conclusion:

For the $150 price, we would have liked to see a little better build quality, internal storage, speakers, or some combination thereof. The frame is also pretty lacking in features. However, image quality is great, and the model is a nice gift for those who don’t want to futz with a computer and don’t care about music, such as your technically challenged mother-in-law.

HP df820a3EDITOR’S PICK: HP df820a3 8-inch Digital Photo Frame – $140

Out of the Box:

This is a handsome frame with a nice matte black bezel and two interior mattes – one white, one black – framing the 8-inch LCD and all tucked neatly behind glass. It looks like an actual picture frame, with all the controls hidden on the top behind the bezel. What’s fun is that it comes with six additional interchangeable mattes, varying in color from gold to silver to royal blue to red so you can constantly change the look of your digital photo frame. This is definitely one of the better-looking models we’ve tested.

Setup:

Getting the HP up and running took a matter of seconds. Just plug in your frame, insert a memory card, and a slideshow is up in no time. I used the remote control to navigate the menu system. Compatible with both Mac and PC, you can easily transfer music and images to the frame’s 512MB internal memory. The system uses HP’s familiar menu system, which is known for its ease of use. Simply hit the Menu button on the remote to browse through images, music, video, set the time, or access the setup menu. It really doesn’t get much simpler than this.

Performance:

This is by far one of the best frames we’ve tested. Everything from portraits to scenics look stunning on the 800×600 resolution LCD. The frame also include PictBridge, so it’s easy to connect to a printer and spit out copies of friends and family on the fly during a slideshow.

Conclusion:

Easily one of our top three picks, the HP has the stately good looks to earn a spot on your mantel, the ease of use we’ve come to expect from HP products, and the image quality that competes with the best of the best. The interchangeable mattes just make it that much more fun.

Sony DPF-V900EDITOR’S PICK: Sony 9-inch DPF-V900 S-Frame Digital Photo Frame – $250

Out of the Box:

This is a reasonably priced frame that has a high-end vibe. It has a black panel and 9-inch LCD behind glass, with slightly mirrored edges. The Sony logo is lit up in white below the image area, but rather than being distracting, it makes the frame look like a nice piece of high-tech gear. The frame is heavy in the hands, which makes you somehow feel good about the investment—like there is a lot of technology packed into the frame. There are no internal speakers on this unit.

Setup:

Once you turn on the frame, a slideshow covering the capabilities of the S-frame launches automatically. Insert your own memory card, and a slideshow of your own picturess will instantly begin. You control the frame by simple buttons on its side, but there is a graphic representation on the right of the screen so you can navigate your way without having to look behind the frame itself. A remote control lets you control the frame from afar. You can add photos to the S-frame’s internal memory (about 1,000 according to the packaging) from your memory card, Mac, or PC.

Performance:

This 800×480 resolution frame is simply gorgeous—in both looks and image quality. I particularly loved the multi-image slideshow, which peppers the screen with three photos at a time. If you want to enjoy your images on an even larger screen, like your new Sony flat-panel, connect the frame to the TV via an HDMI cable. Super cool.

Conclusion:

he HDMI cable is a nice touch here, but the real draw is the Sony’s high-end, high-quality looks and sex appeal for a relatively reasonable price. We’d feel comfortable giving this as a gift to just about anyone, it’s that easy to use and looks that fantastic. We also like the fact that this is a 9-inch model: It’s big enough to make an impact, and small enough to sit comfortably on a desktop.

Kodak EasyShare W1020Kodak EasyShare W1020 10-inch Wireless Digital Frame – $270

Out of the Box:

This model sports a nice-looking black frame, but you can tell it is a digital photo frame because the LCD isn’t behind glass, but rather is surrounded by a plastic matte. It also comes with an interchangeable red matte, if you want to spice things up. The unit is substantial, which makes it feel less flimsy than some of its less-expensive competition.

Setup:

Setup is simple enough, but the wireless functionality does require some software to be installed, which is included. A Quick Start guide helps usher you through the process. Simply install the software, plug the frame in, turn it on, select your language, then use the lighted QuickTouch buttons on the frame to save your preferences. They’re very responsive to touch, and disappear after a short period of inactivity.

The wireless frame will then scan your area for your wireless network. Mine came up easily. Next you will see your networked computer come up on the screen, and can start getting images, music, and video from your computer. You can also download files directly from a memory card or camera to the 512MB internal storage. Of course, you can play music and videos, as is de riguer on most DPFs.

Performance:

The resolution is 800 x480, which isn’t the best in our roundup, especially considering the LCD’s 10-inch size. But you wouldn’t know it to look at these images. They are bright, vibrant, and have a sort of three-dimensional appeal we didn’t find on some of the other frames.

Another interesting selling point is the ability to send and receive pictures directly on your frame with Kodak Picture Mail. And because the frame is connected to the Internet, it can also display the latest news, weather, sports, etc.

Conclusion:

Advanced functionality, features, wireless transfer, and a unique look set this frame apart. We also love its big, bright screen, which does all your snapshots justice. It’s not too expensive, either, at $270. While this frame may not be suitable for those who don’t want to deal with installing software and trying to figure out what features do what, it’s great for those who demand a little bit more out of our technology.

Edge Edge 10.2-Inch Digital Photo Frame – $180

Out of the Box:

Like Kodak’s and Viewsonic’s offerings, this frame is operable largely through the touch controls on the bottom of the frame, which light up blue when you touch them and disappear when not in use. In fact, they disappear a little too quickly to the point where you can’t keep them on the frame long enough to make a selection. We’re not sure if this is a glitch, or something that can be changed (but if it can be, we couldn’t figure out how). The remote offers the same controls, though, so it’s not a major issue. I wasn’t a huge fan of the frame’s design, however. It’s made of glossy black plastic, and separated into four sections with visible grooves, making it look a little inexpensive.

Setup:

Once you figure out how to navigate through the menu systems using the remote control, you can start your slideshow from your memory card. The frame doesn’t automatically do it for you. You can connect to your PC through the USB cable (Macs not supported) to transfer files to the memory card inserted into the frame. Like the Philips model, this unit doesn’t contain internal storage.

Performance:

Images look good, but lack a little of that extra crispness of some of the other models we’ve tested. Generally, the frame performs fine, but it doesn’t have that special something that we’ve seen in some of the other frames in our roundup—whether its features, image quality, or build quality.

Conclusion:

The price isn’t bad for this 10.2-inch model, but you sacrifice build quality and some of the refinements, such as a super-intuitive menu system, found in other frames.

Pandigital PanTouchPandigital PanTouch 10.4-inch Digital Photo Frame – $250

Out of the Box:

The unit has some of the best build quality out of the frames we’ve tested. It looks like an actual photo frame, with a white matte behind glass and a pretty silver frame (it also comes with an interchangeable black frame, in case you want to mix it up). The big, 10.4-inch LCD looks beautiful, and will shine in even the brightest room. I put my review unit under a lamp on the table next to my couch and it had no trouble competing with the light bulb.

Setup:

As I was trying to power this frame on, I realized the supplied power cord didn’t work, and had to swap it with the power cord from my clock radio to power it up. Despite this glitch, this was one of the easiest units to set up and get rolling, making it a great gift for someone who isn’t super-tech-savvy or doesn’t want to install software on their computer. All you do is plug it in, stick in a memory card from your digital camera, and the frame will automatically start playing your slideshow—no PC required. You can also hook up your PC or Mac to the DPF, or even transfer photos directly from your camera.

With 512MB of memory, you’re looking at up to 2,000 stored photos. You can also go to the main menu, which lets you select photos, video, and music, or look at all the files on the memory card. The Network Photo area lets you play movies from your Picassa Web album. You can also customize your slideshow by picking out certain special photos. Want a little music to go with your slideshow? This frame has you covered with decent sounding speakers.

Performance:

Let me get a few negatives out of the way: The Pandigital frame has an occasional problem in which the screen will display an image improperly. The top half of the image will appear fine and the bottom half will be jumbled. The remote is also very directional. If you don’t point it at the right angle, it’s hard to get the frame to do what you want, like pause a picture. Luckily, the PanTouch touch screen lets you control the frame from its front panel. There is a sensor area in the top right of the frame.

Image quality on the model, however, is stunning. With its 800×600 resolution, pictures look smooth, and you can’t see the pixel structure up close, unlike on some models. Vivid colors and natural skintones add to the frame’s appeal.

Conclusion:

Despite its drawbacks, we really liked this frame. Excellent build quality and its appearance as a true photo frame and not a cheap plastic gadget are its biggest draw, and the image quality on the large, bright LCD display aren’t bad, either.

Westinghouse DPF-1411EDITOR’S PICK: Westinghouse DPF-1411 14.1-inch Digital Photo Frame – $300

Out of the Box:

This is the biggest frame in our roundup, so we found it to be very impressive out of the box. It’s large and flat, with an attractive white matte and a black frame that doesn’t look cheap. In fact, it looks more like a high-quality picture frame than tech toy. This isn’t a touch screen, so the controls are on the side. They are sparse and not very responsive, but functional nonetheless.

Setup:

Just plug in the power, add your memory card or download your own photos to the internal memory (a paltry 120MB) via a USB cable. You can also use the DPF-1411 to watch home movies. It’s a good candidate for wall-mounting, and features built-in speakers to playback music during your slideshows.

Performance:

With a resolution of 1280 x 800 and a 16:9 aspect ratio, pictures are crystal clear. We loved the amount of detail we could see on the 14-inch screen, even from afar. But what we liked best is the big 14-inch images that really make a statement when you walk in the room. The MosaicView technology lets you split the screen up into different images, which gives you creative freedom to tell a story.

Conclusion:

This is a lot of bang for your buck. Sure, it’s not the most feature-rich frame on the market, but it is large, offers an eye-catching image, and is inexpensive at only 300 bones.

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