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Page last updated at 15:29 GMT, Friday, 28 September 2007 16:29 UK

Focussing on digital photo frames

By Richard Taylor
Editor, BBC Click

Digital photo frames are dropping in price and increasing in popularity at equal speed. It is now possible to pick them up for as little as $60 in the US or £45 in the UK - with the higher spec wireless frames and larger ones going up to around $300/£200 respectively.

But not all frames offer the same functions or quality, and as always with technology, it is best to know some of the details of what you are buying before you part with your cash.

THE LOOK

The look is important as the frame may well be turned off most of the time. Some frames offer changeable fascias or use natural materials like leather or wood. Also give some thought as to whether you really want a brand name stuck on the front.

Digital frame
Some frames have touch sensitive controls on their front

The controls too should be accessible but without spoiling the look. Because of this most are on the back but some have touch sensitive controls built into the front.

Common sizes range from 5 to 10 inches or 25cm, like a TV - that measurement should be from one corner of the screen to another. But some manufacturers quote the size for the entire frame so check if you are unsure.

If you are thinking of getting a frame to put on the wall you may have to think again. Some do not have batteries they just plug in, so you may find it tricky to hide that power cord.

Those that do have internal batteries typically last for just a couple of hours before needing a recharge.

SCREEN QUALITY

The quality of the display comes down to three things. The number of pixels will determine how fine or blocky the picture looks. The more the better.

A seven-inch should offer at around 750 by 500. As with any display, check its contrast ratios to see how well it deals with darker colours. You will see a figure and then a colon and then the number 1 when this is quoted - like 300:1 or 500:1. Basically the larger the first number the better the contrast quality.

Also check its brightness rating. Some frames struggle to match the brightness of a flat panel monitor.

When you get it home, if more than a couple of pixels are dead or constantly too bright - you are within your rights to ask for a replacement.

DISPLAY OPTIONS

With some picture frames, whichever way you turn them, the picture will rotate accordingly. Not all frames do this but it's a nice option to have.

Digital frames
Viewing photographs in a slideshow is possible on digital frames

Also try to find out what the frame will do with a picture that has been cropped or is not the same proportions as the display.

Take a panoramic photo for example. Most frames will try to resize the photo to fit with varying degrees of success: it may be squashed or cropped, so try to find a specific review of the frame you are about to buy or take an SD card - with some shots on - to a photo store and ask if you can see them on display.

Just about all frames offer slideshow options. You can vary the time a photo stays up and choose a favourite transition to go from one to the next.

Some frames have an internal clock so you can set which times of day they turn on or off.

Consider what format your pictures were taken in. By far the most common and widely supported is called jpeg. You may struggle to find a frame that supports other formats.

And if you are a movie maker then you might like a frame that sports video playback too which has its own built-in speakers - again check video playback formats matching those that you are shooting in.

STORAGE

Some frames have an internal memory allowing you to store your snaps. Other frames offer memory card slots, typically for SD cards with others swallowing MMC, XD, CompactFlash and Memory Sticks too.

So with a 2GB card your frame can now deal with 1,000 of those high resolution images.

Some frames offer both internal memory and the ability to hold pictures on an internal memory too.

WIRELESS OPTIONS

Finally some of these frames will let you send pictures to them wirelessly. Some come with a USB bluetooth dongle that acts as a transmitter from your laptop or PC to the frame.

Plug it into your PC or laptop and you can send the frame whatever photos you like. Or you can send the snaps from your camera phone if it has Bluetooth.

A handful of frames also support wi-fi.

Once set up, it is possible to send a photo to the frame from anywhere in the world over the internet. It makes use of Windows XP and Vista 'slideshow' technology which means you can stream a lot of content to the screen - like RSS feeds (eg. news stories/share prices) from the web - as well as photos.

It can also stream galleries from online photo sharing sites like Flickr.

If you want further information on specific frames we suggest you go to the manufacturers website and download the manual for that frame.



SEE ALSO
Video projectors embrace HD
13 Apr 07 |  Click
Camcorders go under the spotlight
05 Apr 07 |  Click
The low-down on high-definition
09 Jun 06 |  Click
How to choose a digital camera
28 Apr 06 |  Click

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