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I set out to pick a digital frame for my parents. Looking at reviews on Amazon, I've never seen such a uniform collection of horror stories. Some years back consumer reports did a review, but of course all those models have been discontinued. It's not just the usual 'OK, there's always one person who hated it,' but rather multiple stories of infant mortality and awful customer service for every manufacturer. Wanting to be on-topic here, I won't ask 'can someone recommend 'the best'" ... but, rather, are there these items really as reliably unreliably as the reviews seem to indicate?

To meet the requirements of the tag, I'd like to spend < $200 for an ~8" unit, no need for WiFi, which a reasonable lay-person can stuff with pictures from their Mac, with a USB stick in the middle as a perfectly reasonable plan.

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Alternatives: If overall size of hardware and power consumption is not a problem then an LCD monitor that suits your need plus an older "PC" with a suitable video card and eg Irfanview will produce results far superior to most FPs at modest cost. Monitor will be main cost. If volume and power consumption REALLY are not an issue then for a superb result at about no cost Use an old about free CRT 21" display and about free PC. | Many entry level netbooks will drive a full HD monitor or old CRT screen even when their LCD resolution is far lower. –  Russell McMahon Jun 17 '13 at 1:21
    
Not a useful answer at all, and entirely subjective, but personally I find digital photo frames the ultimate form of decadency and resource waste. It's a device consuming power with a utilization of .0001%, the time one actually looks at it. I know, we can find dozens of examples of resource waste, I just find this to be an extreme outing of it. –  Ferdy Jun 18 '13 at 19:47
    
@Ferdy some turn off when they don't sense motion. –  bmargulies Jun 18 '13 at 21:17
    
Part of what comes with the territory of open review sites like amazon is that many popular products bought by many people, such as digital picture frames, always have more than just a few horror story reviews. This especially seems to be the case in categories of products that have a lot of different players competing for a shrinking number of sales. Digital frames were all the rage a few years back and every consumer electronics company under the sun jumped into the market. I'm not saying all of the reviews are false flags placed there by the various competitors, but I'm sure many are. –  Michael Clark Jun 19 '13 at 21:48

2 Answers 2

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Digital picture frames typically suffer from:

  1. Odd aspect ratios for photos. While some cameras shoot 16:9 or 4:3 aspect ratios, a 3:2 is universal for photography. What the means is that you either crop to it or have black bars on screen.

  2. Most are low resolution. 1024x768? That's pretty small and they'll put that on a 15" or larger frame. Similar to aspect ratio, consider that unless you personally scale the image using decent software, the frame will. I find these look pretty blocky, to say the least.

  3. Many have much less color depth than typical computer displays and you can't calibrate them the same way. That can lead to bad color appearance of your images in the display.

I'm sure that there are some more expensive options that are better, but to my mind, modern tablets with high density and high resolution displays would be substantially better. I'd rather pay a little more for a used 3rd generation 8GB iPad or something similar to get much, much better image quality (I wouldn't get an iPad2 or earlier for this, similar issues to photo frames).

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Manufacturers, take note! –  Regmi Jun 16 '13 at 21:48
    
+1 for suggesting an iPad with a retina display. They are literally the best digital photo frames I have ever seen. Just load photos into it using iTunes, lock the screen, then click the "flower" icon on the lock-screen. This will start a slideshow of all your photos. You can probably even get a stand for it, and just teach your parents how to enable the slideshow so they can still use it as an iPad. –  daviewales Jun 17 '13 at 0:45
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Since iPad retina display was mentioned, it's worth to note that it's not the only tablet device with very high-res display. Google/Samsung Nexus 10 Android tablet also has a very nice "retina" quality display. –  Ilari Kajaste Jun 17 '13 at 5:15
    
Also Blackberry Playbook. –  DJClayworth Jun 19 '13 at 16:24

I know all about digital frames and there are some really good ones out there. I have a 10" Toshiba that has been running 24 hours a day for 5 years now. I have a couple of Ceivas to send pictures either by wi-fi or over the phone and even a Kodak Pulse (Kodak doesn't support them but the Kodak Pulse website is still going strong to send pictures through wi-fi. Having the ability to send photos over wi-fi is really enjoyable. I would recommend the Pix-Star frames. The company has a web interface that is free for their frames. Ceiva does cost a few dollars a month. There are programs (free) that can size your photos to the resolution of your frame. I have a website all about digital frames if anyone is interested. Of course tablets and computers can act as digital frames but having one or more digital frames dedicated to continuous slideshows is really handy. They make great gifts because you can pre-load them.

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Can you address some of the issues of reliability raised in the question? –  mattdm Jun 18 '13 at 16:53
    
If you stick to the brand names such as Sony, Toshiba (if you can find one), Kodak (Pulse will still send wirelessly), Pix-Star, Ceiva, etc. and stay 8" and above with preferably a 4:3 ratio, you should be fine. I am using a Digital Spectrum 8" frame every day at our business since 2008 and have had not one single problem with it's function. My site is www.digital-frames-connect-people.com. You don't have to buy anything there unless you want to but I think there is enough information on it to help you to choose. –  Harriet Jun 18 '13 at 17:06
    
Harriet, evidence suggests that these vendors are leaving the category and/or downgrading their products. For Sony, discontinued products outnumber non-discontinued by a factor. –  bmargulies Jun 18 '13 at 21:17
    
@bmargulies The same could be said about lenses sold by any optics company that has been around more than 10 years: They have many more discontinued than current lens models. Let's not get started about former to current models of digital cameras! Also true of automobile manufacturers, flash memory card makers, and just about any other product. –  Michael Clark Jun 19 '13 at 21:39
    
@MichaelClark Of course. However, in this case, it seemed as if (a) some mfgs had disappeared entirely, and (b) the lines had shrunk. This might be biased perception. –  bmargulies Jul 13 '13 at 15:31

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