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Stock quotes, weather, Facebook on a photo frame?
Pictures aren't only worth a thousand words. Pictures give us the capability to capture a thousand words. Pictures capture our memories; those memorable moments, people, and places that we can look back upon and make comments on. Today with the fall in digital camera prices, more and more pictures are being taken and shared. Back in the analog days, that sharing used to take place by printing pictures and sending them through the mail or putting them in frames around the living spaces of the house. Now with digital pictures, that sharing takes place on the Internet through photo hosting sites such as Picasa or Photobucket, and through emails to friends and personal websites.
But why not put those pictures in frames in and around your house? Why would I put my pictures in frames when I can just send them along the information super highway? Good questions to ask, but ask yourself this, what do my friends look at when they're over at my house? When friends and family are over and sitting around the house they stare around rooms looking for something interesting that catch their eye. Think about the people you have over a lot, they see the same pictures over and over again in the same place. So change it up a bit with a digital photo frame. The D-link DSM-210 Wireless Photo Frame (MSRP $244.99) is a 10 inch widescreen digital picture frame that enables you to put those digital pictures you have sitting on your computer, into the frame, and grab, via FrameChannel, virtually any RSS feeds from the Internet and display them on the frame as well.
You could spend more money and go for frames with real wood or metal finishes, or save with this one, which comes in a glossy plastic frame with piano black and irovy white interchangeable faceplates. But because the faceplates aren't wide enough to cover all of the black finish that surrounds the screen, the finish adds a bit of flair bezel when used with the white faceplate The removable stand on the back can be adjusted giving you the option of displaying the frames in landscape (horizontal) or portrait (vertical) orientations. There are also keyhole slots for mounting the frame on a wall with screws.
Loaded with features, this frame makes up for most of something I'll mention later. A couple of first mentions are the 1GB of internal memory and built-in Wi-Fi. That 1GB of internal storage allows you to transfer images to the frame from memory sticks and USB devices. But you can always choose to show your most recently taken photos as long as they're on SD, MemoryStick and MMC cards. Unfortunately that cancels out several other types of media cards. There's also a USB connector for plugging in thumbdrives. This makes the frame available for standalone use where a computer is not required. The frame also has an 800x480 resolution spread over a 10" TFT LCD screen in the 16:9 format.
Main input control is made through a separate IR remote with back, menu, rotate and 4-way directional selector with a center ok/select key. But there is also a touch interface on the lower border bezel with various touch points that control some of the photo viewing operations. The touch buttons aren't visible through most actions but when they are active they're very easy to use and very responsive. I just wish that there were a few more buttons that allowed more operation of the frame without the use of the remote. There is also a motion sensor built into the bezel of the frame that controls the energy saving properties of the frame. Turning off the LCD saves power, and when there's nobody around why have the LCD on? The sensor automatically turns off the display when no motion has been detected, and automatically back on when it senses motion.
Wired or wireless the Internet Photo Frame doesn't only use memory cards or USB thumbdrives to view and upload new photos. The frame supports WPA, WPA2, WEP, and Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) encryption styles. Setting up the Wi-Fi settings on the frame are easy because the frame automatically lists the available wireless networks where you can then proceed to entering the correct wireless key and that's it, you're connected. If you have to set the settings manually that's also available in the setup menu. The wireless connectivity of the frame plays a huge role in getting some of the media to the frame from both network attached storage (NAS), networked computers, or a linked FrameChannel account. Network attached storage image viewing requires a NAS with built in UPnP AV support such as the D-Link DNS-323. Media viewing from networked computers requires the installation of the included software, and UPnP AV Media Sharing Software such as Windows Media Player 11. With the included software, users can set up the content on the frame remotely. Although Mac users can't view their photos directly on the frame from a networked Mac they can take advantage of the FrameChannel Internet media account. And viewing from FrameChannel just requires the signing up and pairing of the frame with your online account.
FrameChannel is a product of the FrameMedia company that allows you to link online RSS feeds to your photo frame through the Internet. When you first apply for a FrameChannel account you link the D-Link photo frame to the account with a pairing code that is provided to you when you enter the Internet menu on the frame. With FrameChannel you can link your Picasa, Photobucket, Myspace, Facebook, .mac (now mobileMe), and many more accounts to your photo frame all through the Internet. FrameChannel also allows you to subscribe to your choice of RSS feeds either from the selection or through custom made user panels. All of the channels updated online in your FrameChannel account are automatically updated to the frame along with updates in RSS feeds and changes made to channels.
In using the DSM-210 photo frame, the screen looked beautiful, bringing out the zing in a lot of my digital photos, but especially my photos that were taken in the 16:9 format. At 800x480 images may not be razor sharp as you will see some stair-stepping on curved edges and diagonal lines. Color reproduction was great, displaying deep blacks and saturated dark colors, but the frame did have a bit of a haze to some of the pictures with bright scenes. The range in midtones was enough to show a good detail in shadows. The viewing angle of the screen is also very wide and the matte finish helps reduce a lot of glare from ambient light sources. The performance of this frame is another strong point; the menus are responsive, load quickly, and photos load quickly in slideshows if left alone (see below). There was only one menu that lagged and that was the menu that's linked to a FrameChannel account.
While in the slideshow mode pressing menu on the remote brings up a menu where you can change the slide viewing time, transition, and image scaling. Image timing ranges from 3, 5, 10, 30 seconds, 1 minute, and all the way up to 1 hour. Most photo frames include two or three transitions like cross dissolve, and wipes. This frame includes eight transitions and two settings where no transition is used or a transition is selected at random. Image scaling changes the size of an image fitting it to the screen in the scaling option of your choice.
Unfortunately the frame doesn't support video playback, quite a setback from many other digital photo frames, and it only supports the JPEG photo format. Image thumbnails loaded quickly as well as large images. But in slideshows, scrolling through photos is slowed down a bit when no transition effects are used, but when transitions are used the lag with image scrolling is quite noticeable.
I really liked this photo frame, not only for its great design, but also for its feature set. The FrameChannel feature is one of its stronger suits. Besides the drawback in viewable formats the frame is a great addition to almost any room around the house. But if you have the option of building in the frame to your wall it's a great self-contained unit and would look great flush against a wall. Although with the sizeable price tag of $244.99 may seem high for a digital photo frame think about the features that the D-link DSM-210 has to offer and that price tag may seem a bit more reasonable.
Joshua Virata is a 2008 graduate of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, CA. He has been using computers since the age of 2 and is proficient in the areas of home wired and wireless networking, music creation, secure computing, cell phone communication and GPS navigation. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org