The dark wood of the frame is handsome indeed. But the software, the manual and the Web site seem hacked together; unfortunately, that seems to be a consistent failing among the small-time digital-frame operators.
Parrot DF7220 (7 inches, $170, Parrot.com). Good news: this Bluetooth frame is so thin, it hangs flat on the wall. Bad news: the resolution is so coarse (410 x 234 pixels), it’s not such a big improvement over your cell phone's screen.
Kodak EasyShare EX1011 (10 inches, $250, Kodak.com). Now here’s a thought: add Wi-Fi to a frame.
Once it’s on your wireless network, Kodak’s beautiful two-toned black frame can display pictures that sit on a Windows computer elsewhere in the house, provided it’s running Windows Media Player 11. Unfortunately, Macs need not apply.
But here’s the best part: Once you’ve signed up for a free account at Kodakgallery.com and set up some photo albums there, the frame "sees" them immediately and begins a slide show of the albums you select.
This is huge. It means that you can give the frame to a technophobic relative and send photos to the frame from thousands of miles away. The lucky recipients wake up each morning and enjoy the updated photos from your life. (If they’re a bit more ambitious, they can copy their favorites to the frame’s memory, or even connect a printer to the frame.)
All of this is free. That fact will certainly cause teeth-gnashing among those of us who bought Ceiva frames, which offer the same feature for $100 a year.
The one mystifying Kodak quirk is its widescreen display, meaning it’s wider than the squarish shape of most digital photos. At your option, the frame either crops such pictures or adds black letterbox bands; neither is ideal.
EStarling Digital Wireless (8 inches, $250, Seeframe.com). This black acrylic frame not only has Wi-Fi, but also its own e-mail address. As a result, you or your friends can send it pictures from cellphones or computers, any time, anywhere, no charge — a mind-blowing, game-changing feature.
From a dedicated Web site, you can send messages directly to the eStarling’s screen from the road — a good way to catch the eye of a spouse who’s not checking e-mail back home. You can specify when you want it to turn on and off each day to save power.
In addition, you can sign up for "photo feeds"— themed slide shows like New Yorker cartoons, city skyscapes, nature shots and so on — from popular photo sites like Flickr, Picasa, AOL and Photobucket. This frame is not so much a family-photo knickknack as a portal to an external web of visual delights.
Unfortunately, even though this frame is much better than its disastrous first model last year, it’s still flakier than a croissant. Sometimes pictures and messages take forever to show up; sometimes the Web site is unavailable.
My favorite, though, is a message it produced when I tried to send it photos by e-mail: "Snowman.jpg is not a image file, so it had been ingored." Four errors in one sentence: one spelling, two grammar, one factual. That’s quite a feat.