PRODUCT REVIEW

Free Your Pix From Your Hard Drive

A bane of shutterbugs everywhere is the question of what to do with their photos after shooting them.

In the days when film was king, it wasn’t unusual to find closets with shoeboxes stuffed with prints or boxes of slides.

Today, computer hard drives have become the photo shoeboxes of yesterday. Digital pics sit there yearning to be eyeballed.

So why not fulfill their yearning — and yours — with a digital picture frame?

Pandigital Eight

Digital frames can vary from standalone models, like those made by Pandigital, to wireless devices, like the Kodak Easyshare EX811.

Pandigital’s eight-inch digital photo frame (US$149 to $180) manages to retain the aesthetic qualities of a traditional picture mount with a rich black wood setting and a pseudo matte frame bordering its 800-by-600-pixel LCD.

In a clever design move, Pandigital has made the unit’s wood frame interchangeable with an acrylic one. That allows the frame to fit in with a range of decors from traditional to modern.

Barfly’s Aversion

Initially, the Pandigital frame seemed to have a barfly’s aversion to standing. It kept falling down without provocation. Then I figured out that if you tug on the unit’s stand, it extends from the frame making it more stable.

The unit has 128 MB of internal memory, a 6-in-1 card reader and a standard and a mini USB port.

Photos can be copied to the frame’s internal memory from storage cards, USB thumb drives or directly from a computer — although direct connection of the frame to my desktop produced an error that I wasn’t able to resolve.

When I tried transferring photos from my computer to an SD storage card and popping the card into the frame, nothing appeared on the hardware. However, when I transferred a media card directly from my digital camera to the frame, everything worked fine. Very puzzling.

In addition to displaying photos, the frame will play video and music files, although it apparently won’t play music while displaying photos. That seems strange, since I can’t imagine anyone wanting to listen to music through the frame’s tinny-sounding speakers for any length of time.

Kodak EasyShare

As easy as Pandigital makes it to get your digital images some additional eyeball exposure, Kodak makes it even easier with its wireless EasyShare EX811 frame ($182 to $230).

Unlike Pandigital, which doesn’t require any software installation, the Kodak frame demands that you install the company’s EasyShare media management software and the latest version of Microsoft’s Windows Media player, release 11.

Once that’s done, however, setting up the frame is a smooth operation.

Wireless Connection

After configuring Windows Media player to share files, you can turn on the frame and in two steps, it’ll connect to your home wireless network.

I’ve tangled with trying to connect photographic gadgets to my wireless network in the past. All those efforts ended in failure. That’s why I was totally amazed when the Kodak frame made such short work of establishing a successful connection.

Like the Pandigital frame, Kodak’s uses a remote control to navigate through the device’s menus. However, the Kodak unit also has a set of buttons on the back of the frame that duplicate the remote’s functions — which is very handy considering how often a remote is misplaced over time.

The Kodak’s LCD has a lower resolution — 800-by-480 pixels — than Pandigital’s, but it’s still bright and its colors vivid.

Slideshow With Music

As with the Pandigital product, Kodak’s frame has 128 MB of internal memory and accepts SD, MS, xD, MMC and Compact Flash media. It also has a mini-USB port.

What’s so convenient about the Kodak frame, though, is you don’t have to worry about moving around cards or connecting cables to feed photos to the frame.

Your photos need not sit forlornly on your hard drive waiting for you to transfer them to a frame. The frame will automatically suck them down and show them in a perpetual slide show — a slide show that can be supplemented with music from your hard drive.

For shutterbugs who want to free their photos from the obscurity of their hard drive, a digital picture frame is great way to do it.


John Mello is a freelance business and technology writer who can be reached at [email protected].


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