Digital Picture Frame Buying Guide

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Digital Picture Frame Buying Guide
Chris Perry, Which Frame? (

Digital Picture Frames: Product Overview
Ever since the beginning of the digital age, photography has been constantly evolving. And with the development of the digital camera offering you new and better ways to take pictures came the innovation of the digital picture frame offering you new and better ways to store, display and share your pictures.
Digital Picture Frame Buying Guide

Before the digital picture frame, the number of pictures you could display was limited by the amount of surface or wall space you had. Most of your photos were either displayed in an album or stored in a box.

Now, the digital picture frame offers you the opportunity to store and display all of your photos. While it was considered a novelty and a high-end camera accessory when it first appeared in the early 2000s, the digital picture frame has become increasingly popular and common in the home as people begin to move away from solely gifting them and more toward purchasing them to replace their traditional static picture frames.

This digital picture frame buying guide will introduce you to digital picture frames and the various standard and optional features and capabilities available, help you determine how to choose a frame that will best meet your preferences and needs, and offer some recommendations.

Standard Features

It is typical for most consumers to base their purchasing decisions on price.

When it comes to digital picture frames, price can be an important factor; however, there are many more standard features to consider before choosing the right frame, such as:

  • Display Size: Digital picture frame screen sizes are measured diagonally in inches. The 7” to 9” digital picture frames are most popular, because they closely match standard film print sizes, such as 4” x 6” and 5” x 7”. There are also 1” frames as small as key chains, and multiple 22” + options that almost rival big-screen televisions.
  • Aspect Ratio: The aspect ratio is the ratio of the horizontal dimension of your picture to the vertical dimension. A standard full-size screen typically offers a 4:3 ratio. Many frames come with a widescreen option that produces a ratio of 16:9.
  • Resolution: Obviously, the greater the number of pixels, the crisper the details in your pictures will be.
  • USB: The Universal Serial Bus (USB) is the almost-universal standard for connecting consumer electronics, computers and computer peripherals (i.e. printers etc.). USB allows you to plug your digital frame into your computer or camera and download files directly. A USB connection is an essential component on your digital frame.
  • Internal Memory: Many digital picture frames come with built-in internal memory. This is nice when you do not want to leave your memory card or USB flash drive in the frame for extended periods of time. It also allows you to store your picture, audio and video files directly in the frame. The internal memory in today’s digital frames range from 0MB to 10GB.
  • External Memory: If you take a lot of pictures, your digital picture frame’s internal memory may not be big enough to hold them all. This is where external memory, or memory cards and USB drives come into play. They can range up to 32GB, depending on model. Current digital picture frames support a variety of memory cards like Memory Stick, CompactFlash, MultiMediaCard, Secure Digital, xD Picture Card and even USB drives. It is a good idea to buy a frame that supports the memory card or device that your camera and/or computer already use. While many frames fortunately have a built-in memory card reader with multiple memory card slots to fit different models, please make sure that your new frame is memory-compatible.
  • Frame Design: Depending on the frames or mattes included, digital picture frames can range from consumer electronic designs to more traditional home décor styles. Sony’s frames, for example, look very sleek and modern, where others go with more standard wood or painted frames. Kodak and a few other companies have recently launched frames that let you interchange the frames and faceplates so you can better customize your frame’s design to match your home.

Optional Features
There are also a number of optional features available on many digital picture frames to consider when choosing the right frame, such as:

  • Audio: Many digital picture frames now have small built-in speakers that allow you to add your own music to your picture slideshows. Your audio and music files have an extension (filename.ext); be certain that your digital picture frame can play your audio file formats. The most common audio file formats have MP3, WMA and WAV extensions. Frames with audio capabilities are often referred to as multimedia frames.
  • Video: Many frames can play video files. Similar to audio, your video and motion files have an extension (filename.ext); be certain that your digital picture frame is compatible with these video file formats. AVI, ASF, DAT, MPEG 1, MPEG 2, MPEG 4 and WMV formats are very common. Frames with video capabilities are also often referred to as multimedia frames.
  • Bluetooth Connectivity: Bluetooth is software that allows different components to communicate with one another. Some digital picture frames offer Bluetooth connectivity, which means that you can take pictures on your camera-phone and send them directly to your digital frame. Beware of Bluetooth-connected frames that require a special connection device (almost never included), and make sure that your camera-phone is not only Bluetooth-compatible, but can also send pictures via Bluetooth. You will avoid hassle and frustration if you check these both prior to purchase.
  • Wireless Connectivity: Some digital frames come with built-in wireless, or WiFi, connectivity. While this feature can add to the cost of the frame, it is a very unique and exciting feature, it allows you to transfer files wirelessly from your PC to your frame. This offers you a new way to update your frame content. Some let you update your frame over this wireless connection with pictures and content your social networking websites, such as Flickr, Facebook, Photobucket and more. Beware of wireless frames that require a special connection device (almost never included) or that offer this connectivity through paid subscription programs, as that only adds to your costs.
  • PictBridge: This software, pre-installed in many digital pictures frames and photo printers, allows you to connect your frame directly to a printer and print digital photos without using a computer.
  • Extra Features: There are a number of additional options that may be included with digital picture frames such as built-in clocks or calendars, auto-shutoff, remote controls and more. Each option and its usefulness is a matter of personal preference.

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  • Patia says:

    Interesting. Thanks for the overview.

  • Photo-John says:

    Thanks for commenting, Paita. And I agree. I know about digital pictures frames and how they basically work. But beyond that, I don’t know much. So it was good to get a quick lesson. Plus, the frame in the photos is one I bought. So I had to play with it a little to get the photos and get the article up. So now I know a smidge more than nothing. I’d like to try some other brands besides the Kodak that I bought. The Kodak seems pretty well-built and the screen is nice. But I have to admit – I am no fan of Kodak’s software. And this wasn’t the first time I’ve tangled with it.

  • Tanmay Biswas says:

    Very nicely explained. Helped me a lot.

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  • Larry Brown says:

    Bogus article and web site. Glorified advertisements for Kodak. This is just generic common sense information. I don’t need an article to tell me that I should consider the modern/traditional frame style of a candidate frame.

    You list various features but don’t tell us which features are important and which ones are trivial. Here’s an article, right off the top of my head, more useful than yours.

    The following frame features are important:
    *Ability to show photos and movies in random order, hopefully from organized folders rather than just one big list.
    *Front panel controls that allow you to pause the slideshow, back it up, or mute/activate the sound.
    *All frames will support jpg format photos…and that’s all you need.
    *Should support movies in at least these formats: .wmw, .avi. If you are a MAC user, you will want it to support movies in .mov format. Other movie formats may be important for you depending on how you work with DVDs.
    *Front panel control that allows you to erase a photo would be handy.
    *Must auto sense the portrait/landscape orientation of the picture and automatically adjust it to display properly. If it can’t do this…forget it.
    *Ability to play directly from an inserted memory card rather than only from the internal memory.

    Here are features that are not so important:
    *Background music. Though this seems like a great feature, the novelty will wear off after about the first 5 minutes and you’ll never use it again.
    *Widescreen – really doesn’t matter. Big size is what matters, regardless of the aspect ratio.

  • Photo-John says:

    Thanks for taking the time to leave your comments and additions. I’m sorry you didn’t like the article. It wasn’t intended to be an advertisement for Kodak. But their digital frames are the most readily available. If you have some suggestions for products we can add to balance out the article, I’ll be happy to make some changes. This guide was also written for people who know little about digital cameras and so it’s very basic. But your list of features is a good one. And that’s part of the reason we have comments here – so people can add to and improve what’s been published.

  • Midwest Mom says:

    No discussion of how to evaluate frame models and sizes based on brigtness value, contrast ratio, viewing angle, or TFT – LCD combination screens.

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