In many ways, the HP DreamScreen 100 is the digital photo frame you’ve always wanted—mostly because it doesn’t just show photos. Instead of staring at your friends and family all day, this mini computer makes your life seem a lot more exciting, with the ability to stream music and pictures, as well as tap into Facebook and Pandora features. However, it does have a few telling flaws worth knowing about as well. Read on to get to know more about it.
Features and Performance
Before diving into the review, it’s worth nothing here that we got our hands on the DreamScreen 100, which is the 10.2-inch model. (Also offered is a DreamScreen 130 model that stretches display size to 13.3 inches.) Both feature 2GB of internal storage and can stream photos and music, as well as play video and connect to Web services.
Inside the faux-velvet-lined box, the DreamScreen is hefty, weighing in at about 3lbs. The screen stand resembles a doorstop, and screws into the back of the unit. Other items in the box include the power adapter, a remote, a mini USB cable, PC software and setup guides, as well as a soft cleaning cloth.
The unit can operate in wired or wireless mode when it comes to the Web. We chose to go the latter route, and within seconds, we were connected to our wireless network. To setup the unit, as well as control it, HP has included a very small, very limited remote. The controller is easy to use, although a bit slow for our itchy trigger finger. (Just pay attention to what you’re doing or you’ll be backtracking a lot.) Also, it’s missing a “home” button, which would make the main menu more accessible.
Moving along though, as you may have heard, Facebook access is all the rage these days. Like many other devices, the DreamScreen allows you to keep up with your friends’ comings and goings via status updates, but annoying not comment back. It also allows for photo streaming. Some pictures we pulled down from Facebook looked great, some were blurry, and some didn’t fit so well on the screen. Still, when images looked good, they looked very good, featuring bold, beautiful colors and sharp detail.
We received similar results with Snapfish. Simply click on the associated icon, type in your user name and password and you can stream any of the albums in your existing Snapfish account. These photos looked much better than the ones from Facebook, with no sizing or blur issues.
The DreamScreen also has a lot of musical options, courtesy of HP SmartRadio and Pandora’s online service. HP SmartRadio allows users to find station by location or genre. It’s a bit of a tedious process, but once you find stations, you can add them to a favorites list. To access Pandora streaming radio, you will need an online account, which is free. While you are setting up that account, don’t forget to setup a few stations as well.
The DreamScreen taps into what you already have setup, as well as a Quick Mix, displays nice album art (for Pandora) and sounds better than most of the other frames that we’ve attempted to rock out to. However, it’s still doesn’t approach a stereo or boombox or even a clock radio in general audio quality, and doesn’t have the sound capabilities that would make this your choice musical device. Sound emitted from the DreamScreen 100 is slightly better than what would come out of your computer, making it great for talk radio at best. As an interesting aside, when listening to music, we achieved the best results with the volume level around 15. Still, don’t expect to get much more out of the system, since maximum noise levels only go up to 20.
Despite what the DreamScreen 100 can do, HP seems to have left a few things out of the device. For example: It seems to cry for RSS/news functions. Streaming video from YouTube or Hulu would have been a nice touch as well. Also, the unit itself tends to attract smudgy fingerprints, although thankfully for germaphobes’ sake, it has no touchscreen functions.
Digital picture frames are quickly becoming a go-to gift, and at $249, the HP DreamScreen 100 certainly takes your gift-giving to the next level. Realize, though: The device doesn’t sport great sound quality and seems to be missing a few key features that would make it a killer, must-have device. Still, what the digital frame does, it does well – whether that’s worth the hefty asking fee though is entirely your call.
• Slick chassis makes for nice showpiece
• Sharp, detailed pictures
• Access to online services, including Facebook
• Many musical choices
• Weather & calendar features
• Sound isn’t great
• Doesn’t stream video
• The remote is a little slow
• No home button on remote
• No touchscreen features