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With the advent of smartphones and their ever-improving cameras, most people have the means to take a good photo at their fingertips. Pair this with the fact that digital camera prices are dwindling, and you'll find that almost all photos today are taken digitally.
Gone are the days when consumers must deliver rolls of film to the drugstore for processing.
Sure, you can have digital photos printed out, but the majority of our photos are stored on phones, computers, and in the cloud.
So how do you display your favorite snaps without ordering a single print? You use a digital photo frame!
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If you’re considering a digital photo frame purchase and want some help sifting through the jargon, please continue reading this shopping guide.
When you’re ready to choose a product, please see our matrix, above, for our selection of the five best photo frames on today’s market.
Digital photo frames like the Pix-Star allow you to enjoy your favorite photos while listening to music. Simply plug your SD card or USB stick into the frame. If you choose, you can amplify the audio quality by plugging a portable speaker into the Pix-Star’s jack.
A digital photo frame is a 21st-century take on the standard photo frame. In essence, it's a small screen surrounded by a frame that can store and display digital photographs.
The pictures may be stored in the frame’s internal memory, on an SD card, or on a USB stick. Some WiFi-compatible frames are able to retrieve and display photos from your online albums.
A digital frame allows you to display your photos in a number of ways. There's the option to choose one photo (or, on some models, a collage of photos) and change it manually when you want to display something new. Another option is to program the frame to cycle through your collection of snaps. If you choose the latter option, you can set the interval between photos, which may be as little as two seconds or as much as twelve hours.
Most digital frames can accommodate different memory cards and USB sticks. You can load photos onto the frame via them.
Digital photo frames offer many advantages over traditional photo frames. Here are just a handful:
Some models, like the Pix-Star FotoConnect XD, allow others to email photos to your digital frame. This is a great way to keep up with distant friends and family members.
Our shortlist contains a fantastic selection of digital photo frames, and we’re proud to endorse them. That said, we realize that individuals have different tastes. We can’t tell you which photo frame is best for you, but we can we can help you narrow the field by guiding you through the following considerations.
Digital photo frames range in size, from the compact 7-inch model to the 15-inch behemoth frame.
Based on where in your home or office you’d like to place the frame, you might already have a rough idea what size you want. But if you're not sure, we recommend opting for a mid-sized frame. A frame that’s too small may seem hardly worth it; a frame that’s too big might sacrifice some of its resolution quality for size — unless you pay top dollar, that is.
A photo’s resolution reflects its image quality. In general, the higher the resolution, the better the quality. We recommend a frame with a resolution of at least 800x600 pixels to get a good image.
If you choose a model with a resolution that’s too low, your photos will look grainy and pixelated.
Most digital photo frames come with some internal memory which allows you to store photos in the frame itself.
The more internal memory you have, the more photos you can store. This varies quite a bit from model to model. For instance, the Pix-Star FotoConnect XD comes with a generous 4GB of internal memory, whereas the Micca M703 and NIX Advance have no internal memory at all.
However, all digital photo frames come with an SD and/or MicroSD slot which you can use as part of your photo storage system.
You can store roughly 450 6MP JPEG photos with 1GB of memory. Therefore, a 32GB SD card could hold over 14,000 photos.
A photo’s aspect ratio refers to the proportional relationship between its width and height.
Digital photo frames usually display photos in one aspect ratio only, so you must choose wisely. Check the aspect ratio of the camera that most of your photos will be coming from before you pick your digital photo frame. Why is this important? If the aspect ratio of a photo doesn't match the aspect ratio of the frame, it will automatically crop or stretch the image to fit the frame, causing distortion.
The average smartphone camera takes photos with an aspect ratio of 4:3. Higher-end cameras, including DSLR cameras, normally shoot in an aspect ratio of 16:9.
The ViewSonic digital frame on our shortlist displays photos with an aspect ratio of 16:9. The other four adhere to a 4:3 aspect ratio.
Some digital photo frames have WiFi capability, which means they can connect to the internet through your home wireless network and download or display photos directly from your storage accounts, such as Google Photos, Facebook, Flickr, and Picasa.
The Pix-Star FotoConnect XD even gives you a dedicated email address so that you can receive emails with photos to be displayed on the digital photo frame.
All of these features are pretty cool, but those who aren't particularly inclined toward technology might still prefer the simplicity of a more basic model!
Some digital photo frames allow you to display your photos in landscape orientation or portrait orientation — but not both. This is extremely limiting. We prefer frames that allow you to alternate between landscape and portrait orientation at your leisure. All of the top picks in our matrix offer this feature.
Some digital frames have an accelerometer inside which helps detect its orientation. It automatically “knows” whether to display photos in portrait or landscape.
Since some digital photo frames come with little or no internal storage, they'll need to be compatible with SD or MicroSD cards to use as storage.
Check that the photo frame that you choose is compatible with the kind of SD card you most regularly use.
While you might think touch screen controls are handy, one issue with them is that you're always having to wipe fingerprints off the screen. A touch screen can be tricky to keep clean.
We prefer those that are either controlled with a remote — such as the ViewSonic VFD1027w-11 — or by buttons on the edge or back of the frame.
The physical frame you prefer is an aesthetic choice. Some people love the matted look of the PanDigital and ViewSonic; others like the sleek look of the Pix-Star and NIX Advance.
Although most digital photo frames allow you to select a certain photo and display it until you decide to change it, most people set their frame to rotate photos at regular intervals.
The timing of these intervals varies from model to model, but it usually starts at a quick two- or three-second interval (ideal for slideshows) and goes all the way up to a slow interval of 12 hours or more. This longer interval suits people who want their digital photo frame to act more like a regular photo frame — with a bit variety.
Follow manufacturer instructions, and take extreme care, whenever you clean your digital frame's LCD screen.
The digital photo frames in our product matrix range from about $50 for a small, basic model with a high-quality display to almost $200 for a large, WiFi-compatible model with all the bells and whistles.
You could spend as much or as little as you like within this range, depending on your needs and requirements. However, we wouldn’t recommend paying much less than $50 on even a basic digital photo frame. What you save in price would probably be sacrificed in the quality of the photo display and the durability of the product.
These are a few of the most common questions consumers ask about digital photo frames:
Q. How many photos will my digital photo frame hold?
A. This depends on the amount of internal storage your frame has, the amount of extra storage you buy in the form of an SD card, and the file size of your photos.
Bear in mind that 1GB of memory will hold about 450 6MP JPEG photos. From there, you can calculate approximately how much storage space you have. Caveat: if you have larger or higher-resolution photos, 1GB may hold significantly less.
Q. Do digital photo frames need to be plugged into a wall outlet?
A. Yes, almost all digital photo frames need to be plugged into an electrical socket. The only frame we found powered by rechargeable batteries was the Kodak Easyshare, but the batteries last only a few hours at a time, so you can't really rely on battery power alone.
Q. Can digital photo frames be mounted on the wall?
A. Some models come with a kit that allows them to be mounted. However, as previously mentioned, the frame needs to be plugged into a wall. If you were to mount the frame, you’d still have to deal with an unsightly power cord running down your wall.
Q. Where's the best place to display a digital photo frame?
A. LCD screens don't work well in sunlight, as the glare makes the picture difficult to see. A digital photo frame should be displayed in a relatively shady part of the room, out of direct sunlight.