Picture Frames – Xmas Toys

It seems that everyone this year got either a GPS device or a Digital Picture Frame for Xmas.  I personally bought two digital picture frames – one for my sister and brother-in-law and my parents another.  The same sister bought a picture frame for my parents and my parent bought me a picture frame!  Guess we need to co-ordinate a bit better in the future.  One thing I did notice is that we all got each other different frames that have different capabilities.  I do have to say, my present took the Propeller Head Prize.

I, of course, waited to the very last minute to look into presents for my family. This is really tough considering I love to do research and you really can’t do that when you have a time crunch.  I looksite_logoed quite a few frames on line and decided to take a chance on the MF-8104 Premium, 10.4-inch MemoryFrame from Digital Spectrum Solutions, Inc.  After not finding any online resellers that had it in stock – or even heard of it – I took a drive over to the local Sharper Image, whe re they had a number of them still in stock before Xmas.  Yup, FULL retail baby!  and I got two!!  — note: as of this writing, you can no longer find this model on the Sharper Image catalog online, and its currently out of stock at the manufacture’s site.

40101brwnlrg Although these frames are just amazing – I can still see why there were a number of them in stock just before Xmas -  they are expensive.  At $299 per frame, they are very expensive compared to other frames of comparable size.  However, uneducated consumers missed out on a STEAL of a deal if they only compared costs and frame sizes.

What makes this frame so special?  WiFi (802.11 b/g) and RSS capability. That’s right, this puppy is basically a watered-down headless PC.  More on this later.

First of all this frame supports a whopping 10.4 inch screen.  The screen can be seen from ANY angle and it’s sharp!  I’m very impress with the quality considering you can sink a thousand dollars on a laptop that doesn’t have the view angle of this LCD.

The frame has all the standard ports – USB to PC, USB to another device (say camera, MP3 player, thumb drive, etc), SD/MMC and CF card slots, audio and power.  The device is also packaged with a SD/MMC USB card reader to make transferring pictures easier.  If you can scrounge up a USB Bluetooth dongle, this device will also support it.

All the configuration of the device can be done from the concealed buttons located on the top and behind the frame as well as from the remote control.  However, either method is a chore if you have a long complex setup as you have to arrow over and select individual keys on the onscreen keyboard.  Fortunately, the included CD-ROM includes some setup software that will create a configuration file that you copy to an SD card and boot the frame with.  My Dad and I could not make this work to save our lives.  (Then again, we didn’t read the manual either.)  We opted for the thumb killing method of using the remote to configure the frame.

The first thing that we did was attempt to get the WiFi to work.  This was a chore.  My wireless network at home is pretty secure.  To save a lot of time – re-enable SSID broadcasts for your wireless network.  Otherwise the frame will not see your secured network.  Once we figured that out, setting up the WEP password, etc was easy.

The second thing I recommend that you do is pull down the latest update of the firmware.  The latest version offers so many more features than the shipped version – including that wonderful RSS feed capability.  You can force an update by going to the Settings menu and selecting Check for Updates.  This will force you to reboot your frame.  Note:  You cannot power off your frame from the remote.  You must use the physical on/off switch.  The remote basically just turns the screen off.  Once the frame reboots, it will update the necessary system files to give you the new features.

A couple of the features of the new firmware is the aforementioned RSS capability, an Auto Update feature, AOL My MemoryFrame membership enrollment, and some short cut menu options.  So now this little headless PC can:

  • Display pictures from PC, supported memory cards, and internal memory (256MB worth of space)
  • Play music from the same
  • Play music while display pictures
  • Play WMV video
  • Play music/pictures from your Vista machine (eww, ick)
  • Exchange pictures with other Digital Spectrum Premium frames (via the MemoryFrame membership)

Oh yeah – it can be set up as portrait or landscape mode – which could be pretty handy depending on the type of pictures you want to display.

The next thing we did was remove the included pictures from the internal memory.  Some of them are extremely nice, and you may want to review them before you remove them.  We didn’t want any pictures but our own — well initially anyway.

Next came the fun part – the RSS feed configuration.  I’ll have to write more about this in another article.  In short, the physical device is quite good.  I am surprise at the initial quality of the parts and the frame’s overall performance.  I will be getting two more – one for my mother-in-law and one for my family.

-JT

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