Current Digital Photo Frame Deals:
I still own one of the world’s first digital picture frames – the Kodak Smart Picture Frame. It’s still displaying pictures on the stand near my office door. Problem is: it’s not terribly convenient to update (as it once relied on a dial-up connection to the Internet and a monthly digital photo service). It still works, as the last firmware update allowed you to show JPGs (640×480) through the CompactFlash media slot. For years, I’ve been hoping to upgrade to a newer frame… but all of those digital photo frames have fallen short, in my opinion. Until now.
I received this notice the other day:
Digital Spectrum Solutions Inc. announced today that its new wireless MemoryFrame 8104 Premium is now available. This next-generation digital-picture frame is capable of sharing content over the Internet and integrates easily with home media servers. It integrates the new multimedia features of Microsoft Windows Vista and fully supports capabilities such as Windows Media Connect and Windows Connect Now. It also fully supports the features and capabilities of Windows XP used in conjunction with Windows Media Player 11.
Blah, blah, blah… I’ve seen this kind of thing before, and there’s always a caveat. Still, I was hoping for the best, and was pleasantly surprised with the extensive list of features:
- Built-in multi format card reader
- Embedded 802.11b/g wireless connectivity
- Web enabled for photo sharing
- Plays MP3, WMA audio files
- Plays WMV video files
- Built-in stereo speakers
- USB to thumb drive, camera, etc.
- Remote control for convenient use
- Landscape or portrait orientation
- 10.4″ screen
The best part? No subscription required!!! That was the clincher for me. It’s what held me back from buying or recommending anything from Ceiva. Why lock yourself and your family into endlessly (needlessly) expensive subscription services for digital photo frames!? With Digital Spectrum Solutions, when you get the MF-8104 (“Vista Frame”) – everything’s yours forever. No hidden fees. No hidden costs. Wicked!
I couldn’t wait to get my geeky hands on it, knowing full well that if it worked, I’d likely pick one up for my parents and family – so that we could share photos back and forth through our respective Flickr accounts.
It arrived yesterday, and I did a live unboxing with my audience watching and asking tons of questions about the digital frame. What could have taken a few minutes took a bit longer, as I was exploring every aspect of the frame. This unit (literally) has just about everything you could ever want in a digital picture frame – and I’m hoping they’ll deliver software updates with frequency, keeping its feature set fresh.
If I had to assign a letter grade to it, I’d say B+ (and you must understand that every other digital photo frame on the market today is lucky to score a C- with me). I have no qualms in recommending the frame, but with extreme caveats with its current software revision:
- Couldn’t connect to my 802.11g router (even though the digital photo frame supports the wireless protocol with TKIP encryption). I tried before installing updates on the frame, so… that may be different now.
- There’s no way of toggling the dots in a password entry screen to show the characters – which is a challenge when you’re trying to enter long strings of text. Not a bug, but a bit inconvenient as there was no way to tell whether I was making key typos.
- Diagnostic information is non-existent. If something wrong happened, I wasn’t told enough about the error or mistake. It couldn’t connect to my “G” router, but why? It couldn’t tell me if I did something wrong, or if something else was awry.
- Software updates can’t be configured to happen automatically, it seems – which is fine, but they should recognize that most people won’t touch the frame again once it’s set up (especially with Internet connectivity enabled). Moreover, it prompted me to power down after an update instead of just rebooting on its own (and telling me that it would beforehand). Then, it installed the updates – but didn’t bother to tell me what updates were installed, what bugs had been fixed, or what was new? I was completely in the dark, which is “user friendly” – but it’s also very troubleshooting unfriendly.
- It took me a while to figure out how Flickr integration worked. If you don’t enter your user ID in the settings panel before trying to play a Flickr slide show, it will give you an error (without prompting you for the requested information).
- You can only browse one person’s Flickr (or Webshots, etc.) photo ID at a time – which is a tremendous shortcoming, and is what is largely keeping me from giving this product an A. They assume that only one person would use this frame, or that only one account would be needed. However, they’re missing the entire point of having an Internet-enabled frame. Let me control what I want to see, and from where. As it stands, there’s no way for you to subscribe to a global tag or search term. Hopefully, they’ll fix that part soon.
- The frame can render JPGs and MP3s, yet… I can’t actually subscribe to a podcast feed. This baffles me, as it’s the entire reason to have an Internet-enabled device. They’re vendor-locking into photo verticals, but what about my Zooomr feed? Photos non grata on the frame for now. That it doesn’t support RSS (text, enclosures, etc.) is another minor disappointment. Hopefully, it will soon.
- I can only view photos from one ID at a time – not my Flickr friends, not two Flickr accounts interspersed, etc. That was frustrating to me – as I expected that feature to be there. They have full control over software updates, so it must be a matter of time before they figure out that the killer feature isn’t just seeing your own photos – but everyone else’s (which is the beauty of global tags).
- There’s no telling how often the frame pulls updates from my Flickr account.
- They increased the size of the font in the last software update, which looked better (for the most part), but some screens weren’t designed properly for a larger font – as it spilled over in places where it wouldn’t have were the typeface a bit smaller. This isn’t really an issue, but I’m guessing it’ll be fixed with the next update (although, I really don’t wanna manually check my frame for updates every day – it should have a setting in there to do it for me, especially when it’s already online).
If they could nail down these oversights, I’d be thrilled.
It still receives my full recommendation, as there’s nothing out there that’s even close (in terms of quality and featuers). It’s a Best in Class, and I hope it only gets better with further revisions. Until they fix the Flickr “bug,” I’ve had to set up another Flickr account where my friends can email photos to – then they’ll be able to see photos on the frame sitting on my desk within minutes. I’ll share that information in the live chat room (Twitter, Jaiku, etc.) for those who care.
The price is quite reasonable (and competitive) at $349 – again, with NO subscription fees. You could likely build your own digital photo frame, but it wouldn’t look half as nice it would likely cost you just as much in parts and labor. I paid that much for my Kodak digital photo frame over five years ago… I’m glad to finally have something better sitting on my desk. When the “hack” Flickr account is approved, I’ll set it out for you to see.