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Over the next few years, digital photo frames will become a universal adornment in most houses and offices. Recently we have seen vast improvement in the picture quality, design, and feature set of digital frames. And just as significantly, digital frames are becoming increasingly more affordable.

Now when you shop for a digital frame, there are more options than ever. Size, design, functions, picture quality--these are all important features that should be considered before buying a digital photo frame. So, with that in mind, we have put together a simple set of guidelines and tips to help you choose.

Aspect Ratio
Features and Functions
Image Transfer and Storage
Remote Management
Power Source
Screen Resolution
Screen Size and Type
User Interface

Aspect Ratio
  • Aspect ratio is the fractional relationship between the width and height of an image. The two most common aspect ratios for digital photo frames are 4:3 (also known as 4x3, 1.33:1, or standard) and 16:9 (16x9, 1.78:1, or widescreen). Some frames have the ability to display images in 4:3 or 16:9.
  • Some frames offer "panoramic" viewing (generally considered to be 3:1 aspect ratio), though this format is somewhat of a rarity for most manufacturers. Most pictures you take are probably 4:3 aspect ratio. If you have a frame that only displays 16:9, your 4:3 pictures will either be cropped or stretched.
  • Do not be confused when you see a frame with an aspect ratio such as 15:9 or 16:10--for all intents and purposes the frame is 16:9 widescreen format.
  • Carefully consider where you intend to display the frame when choosing which style suits your décor. Also keep in mind that most frames need to be plugged in, so be aware that your frame will need to be near a wall socket and will likely have a wire coming out the back.
  • Some frames come with removable faceplates, therefore making them more flexible in terms of where you can place them.
  • Faceplates or frame borders generally run the gamut in terms of composition. Anything from metal to wood. Again, if aesthetic is your main priority, this is something that should be carefully considered
Features and Functions

Bluetooth Capability: Allows you to send photos straight from your mobile/handheld device straight to your frame for immediate viewing.

Cellular Connection: A frame with a SIM card embedded into the device to allow instant delivery of a photo by email, MSS, or web upload. A cellular connection can allow for two-way photo sharing, on and off of the frame.

Editing: Most frames offer some form of rudimentary onboard editing functionality, such as the ability to crop, rotate, or color-correct an image.

Multimedia: Some frames come with the ability to playback other media files, such as music and video. Check to see if the frame you’re interested in can do this and, if so, what files are compatible with the frame’s software.

Slideshows: Nearly all digital frames have a slideshow feature that enables you to view multiple images one after the other. Some frames provide the user with options for controlling the speed and aesthetic of the image transitions.

Printing Pictures: Some frames have the ability to print pictures directly from the frame to a photo printing product, such as Kodak’s PictBridge.

RSS: Some wireless digital frames can be enabled to pick up RSS feeds of your choice. An RSS feed is a great way to send images to friends and family automatically.

Extended Monitor: In some cases a digital photo frame can be used as a secondary or tertiary monitor with your computer.

Wireless: Many new frames now come with wireless functionality, allowing you to share images between your frame and computer or other compatible device. Additionally, some frames offer the ability to sync with online photo sharing sites, enabling you to download images directly from websites such as Flickr.

Image Transfer and Storage

There are numerous ways you can transfer images to your digital photo frame. When reviewing frames, look to see what options they offer for image transferring, such as memory cards, thumb drives, a USB cable-to-computer connection, Ethernet connection, or wireless/Bluetooth capabilities.

File-Type Compatibility: Ensure your frame supports the media format you’re trying to load on to the frame, such as JPEG, MP3, MPEG-4, MPEG-1, AVI, BMP, MPEG-2, WMA, EXIF, TIFF, WMA, WMV, PPT, PNG, MOV, GIF, or DivX.

Onboard Storage Capacity: Most frames come with a set amount of onboard storage. This can range from 8.0 MB to as high as 80 GB. If you’re looking for a frame that requires little upkeep, then consider buying one with ample onboard storage. With thousands of images already in the frame, you won’t have to update it very often.

Memory Cards: Nearly all frames are compatible with memory cards that in turn are used as the frame's memory source. Note the type of memory cards that are compatible with the frame, such as SD, memory stick, compact flash (CF), MMC, xD-picture (xD), and Microdrive (MD) cards.

Additional Storage: Some frames come with web storage in addition to the onboard storage. Depending on the frame’s connectivity, photos from the website can be sent to the frame or stored for later use.

Remote Management

Select frames that are connected to the internet include a content management platform for customers to remotely control a frame from the web (capabilities can include: rotating photos, editing photos, renaming captions, deleting photos, etc.).

Power Source

It's important to be aware of what type of power source is required for your frame. Does your frame need to be plugged into a wall? Can the frame run on a battery? Is the battery rechargeable? Does the frame come with selectable viewing hours?

Screen Resolution
  • For better viewing angles (the ability to view the frame clearly from multiple angles), you will want a screen with a high screen resolution.
  • Resolution is measured by pixels. A typical 7-inch frame will be 720 x 480 pixels, and anything larger than 15 inches should be 1600 x 1200 pixels.
  • Larger frames should have higher resolution for optimal image quality. Look for 800 x 600 pixels for 8-inch frames and 1024 x 768 for frames larger than 10 inches.
Screen Size and Type

Digital Frames Range in Size: from 1.5-inch keychain displays to 32-inch wall-mounted behemoths. Typically, most frames are in the 5- to 15-inch range.

Size and Application: Smaller frames (under 15 inches) are ideal for positioning on a desk or coffee table. Larger frames are optimal for mounting on a wall or used for digital sign display purposes.

Measuring Frame Dimensions: Some manufacturers use the outer dimensions of the frame--not the screen--to indicate screen size. Always check the technical details for exact screen size.

LCD and TFT: Most digital photo frames come with LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) screens. However some have TFT (Thin Film Transistor--a subtype of LCD screens that use separate transistors to control each pixel. Also known as "Active Matrix" displays).

OLED: A small handful of digital frames are now using OLED display technology for their screens. OLEDs (Organic Light Emitting Diode) screens are composed of slender films of organic compounds that create light via the application of electricity. OLEDs can provide brighter, sharper image displays and use less power that the conventional LCD as they don’t require a backlight. In turn, this also means OLEDs can be a lot thinner than an LCD. Because OLED technology is fairly new there are some drawbacks, such as expense and durability.

Viewing Angle: Ensure the frame you wish to purchase has a wide viewing angle, therefore making it easier to see images displayed on the frame from various positions in a room.

User Interface

All digital photo frames come with some form of a user interface that gives you control over how, where, and when the frame displays images. User interfaces continue to evolve when it comes to digital photo frames. Some have backlit buttons, some have touchscreen functionality, and some keep it simple with buttons on the back or side of the frame.

Nearly all frames come with a remote control that allows you to manage the frame's features and functions remotely. In some rare instances a digital frame's functions may only be controlled exclusively via a remote. Make sure you understand how the frame's features and functions are managed before buying.

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