Digital picture frames have become increasingly popular as people make the transition from film media to digital formats. If you own a digital camera, a digital picture frame gives you the flexibility of displaying your photos without making prints. As digital picture frames are still fairly new, you may be unfamiliar with their features, options and technical terms as you shop. Pronto’s Digital Frame Buying Guide will help you master this fun new technology and get the best frame for your needs.
4” x 6” digital picture frames should have a resolution of at least 640 x 480 pixels. Look for TFT or LCD screens for brightly lit areas.
Larger digital picture frames should have higher resolutions for the best image quality. Look for 800 x 600 pixels for 8-inch frames and 1024 x 768 pixels for digital picture frames larger than 10 inches. Shop for screen quality first and finishes second, and note that some manufacturers use the outer dimensions of the frame—not the screen—to indicate size.
Make sure the digital picture frame you choose supports the memory format used by your digital camera. USB, Ethernet or FireWire connections let you transfer images directly from your PC. If you choose a wireless digital picture frame, make sure you have wireless Internet access and check for monthly usage fees.
Digital picture frames need a wall plug or batteries to run. Consider placement before choosing a corded digital picture frame, as you’ll be limited by cord length and may find the cord unsightly. Look for battery-operated digital picture frames that include rechargeable batteries or buy rechargeable batteries separately for the lowest lifetime ownership cost.
If you want to get creative with your image transitions, look for a digital picture frame that allows you to customize transition effects and set the interval between transitions. To add an additional touch of personalization, choose a digital picture frame that allows you to add narration or music to your slideshow. A remote control is handy for digital picture frames mounted in hard-to-reach places.
The ability to read and display data carried on a particular type of digital media storage device, such as Secure Digital (SD) cards or Compact Flash (CF) memory cards.
Liquid Crystal Display, a screen technology that uses silicon chips coated with tiny molecules that bend light to create the image.
A single point of resolution in a screen display. Higher numbers of pixels provide higher quality images.
A measurement of the number of pixels in a digital picture frame’s display, usually presented as the number of horizontal pixels over the number of vertical pixels. A 640 x 480 display has 640 horizontal and 480 vertical pixels.
Thin Film Transistor, a subtype of LCD screens that uses separate transistors to control each pixel. Also known as “Active Matrix” displays, these are the most common LCD screens available today.
Universal Serial Bus, a standard method for connecting devices to a personal computer.
The left, right, top and bottom extremes at which a digital picture frame can be viewed before the image quality starts to degrade. Digital picture frames with a small viewing angle only provide a good view from directly in front of the frame, while wider viewing angles let you enjoy images from more points in a room.
A digital picture frame is an electronic device that lets you view images from your PC or a digital camera. It’s basically a flat screen, similar to those found in everything from cell phones to computer monitors, with an attractive outer frame that makes it look like a traditional picture frame.
Without question, the key consideration when shopping for a digital photo frame is the quality of the display, or the screen that shows the images. Digital picture frames with low-quality displays are not a worthwhile investment, as the photo displayed may be fuzzy, blurry or poorly lit. The displays on digital picture frames are measured in pixels. Traditional 4” x 6” photo displays should have a resolution of at least 640 x 480 pixels in order to properly display your photos.
Look for a digital photo frame with a high-contrast TFT or LCD screen if you intend to use it in a brightly lit area. Most digital picture frames have limited viewing angles, which is the distance you can see the image to the left and right of the frame before it becomes washed out. Since the majority of manufacturers don’t advertise the viewing angles of their digital photo frames, you should check online reviews and user comments before you buy.
Digital picture frames are available in a variety of sizes ranging from 1.5 inches at the small end to more than 20 inches at the large end. If you are shopping for a larger digital photo frame, be sure that the resolution is proportionally higher to ensure a high-quality display. An 8-inch digital picture frame should have a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels, while better 10-inch and larger frames will offer resolution of at least 1024 x 768 pixels.
If a manufacturer doesn’t specify the resolution, look for another digital picture frame. You’ll pay more for a larger screen size, so make sure you need it. Pay careful attention to measurements, as some digital picture frame manufacturers use the size of the frame, not the screen, to determine size.
You can find a digital picture frame to match any kind of home décor. Traditional wood, metal and plastic finishes are available, and some digital picture frames include interchangeable faceplates that let you customize the look of the frame to different rooms. Fancy metal and hardwood finishes can add a lot to the cost of a digital picture frame but they do nothing to improve display quality, so make sure you’ve got the best screen for your money before you start comparing finishes.
Very few digital picture frames provide built-in image storage, and when it exists it’s typically small and not worthwhile. The majority of digital picture frames use removable digital storage devices, such as Secure Digital (SD) cards or Compact Flash (CF) memory sticks. It’s best to have a digital picture frame that supports a broad range of digital storage cards, but at a minimum, make sure the digital picture frame you choose supports the same kind of memory that’s in your digital camera.
Some digital photo frames provide a USB, Ethernet or FireWire connection to retrieve images from your computer. Wireless digital picture frames go a step further and can pull images from your favorite photo sharing Web site, such as Flickr, Picasa or from RSS feeds. You need an active wireless Internet connection to take advantage of this feature. Check to see if there are additional fees associated with this service, as some digital picture frames require a monthly fee for this service.
Digital picture frames are powered either by batteries or a wall plug. If you’re choosing a battery-operated digital picture frame, look for one that includes rechargeable batteries or purchase them separately for a lower lifetime ownership cost.
If you want a digital photo frame that plugs into a wall outlet, remember that the cord length will affect the placement of your frame. If you want to wall-mount your digital frame or display it in the middle of the room, a power cord could be a conspicuous intrusion on your décor.
Whether you purchase a battery-powered or corded digital frame, look for power-saving options, such as timed operation or auto-off features, which are especially useful to preserve battery life. While it seems basic, a power switch is worth looking for, as some digital picture frames lack them. High-end digital picture frames should include a motion-sensor that turns the power on when someone walks in the room.
Most digital picture frames offer a slideshow function that lets you display a sequence of images within the frame. Transition effects let you add some pizzazz to the slideshow by having images slide off the screen or dissolve. Look for slideshows that give you the option to set the interval between each transition.
Some digital picture frames let you to add audio to the slideshow, so that you can narrate your photographs or play music in the background. There are also a small number of digital picture frames that have the option of displaying video as well as still pictures. If you want to display your digital picture frame on a mantle or mount it on the wall, look for one that includes a remote control, which makes it easier to turn the frame off and on or change images.