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We’ve been a big fan of the Ceiva digital picture frames since they were first introduced several years back. In fact, all of my daughters’ grandmothers have one and love them. The beauty of the devices is that you can upload photos to the Ceiva web site and update one or many devices whenever you choose. The drawbacks are the monthly subscription fee per device (which now costs as much per frame as dial-up Internet service) and low resolution displays (640×480) which are adequate but nothing special to look at. The devices hold a maximum of 20 pictures or a customized weather or stock report. If you want to display the pictures perfectly on the Ceiva, then the images need to be converted to 640×480 before you upload them. When grandma is hundreds of miles away, however, there is no better gift on the planet if there are young grandchildren that change almost every day. And you can provide special passwords to numerous people to allow them to share photos with grandma as well.
Today’s column, however, isn’t just about what’s good for grandma. It’s about a brand new digital picture frame for your significant other. The frame can handle a CompactFlash, SD, MMC, or MemoryStick card but has no Internet connectivity. In short, you’ll need physical access to this device to load it with pictures. The tradeoff is its resolution which is nothing short of incredible. In addition to being powered by an AC adapter, the unit also can operate on its internal battery for about an hour at a time, just long enough to pass it around on Valentine’s Day with a customized slide show of about 50 pictures. The actual LCD image is 4″ x 6″ and can be oriented either vertically or horizontally. Unlike similar, high quality frames of years past which sold for several thousand dollars, this one, the Philips Digital Photo Display, is downright reasonable with a suggested retail price of $299 which is exactly what it costs at The Sharper Image, the only retailer with the product in stock this past Christmas. There’s a link on Philips’ web site to check for other retailers, and there may be some that actually have the unit by now.
The way the system works is that you load several dozen of your favorite photos on your preferred memory card. Then plug the card into the frame. You’ll get a listing of all the pictures that are "suitable" for use with the frame. Some low-res photos and super high-res photos get rejected. Otherwise, you click a button on the back of the frame to choose the pictures you want to upload to the frame’s internal memory. Then you click the OK button and let the frame do its thing. It will convert every photo to fit perfectly on the frame regardless of its original dimensions. Once all the pictures are loaded, you simply remove the memory card and set the display to play back your pictures either randomly or sequentially in a slide show. Image switching and image orientation both are based on a variety of settings from which you can choose. You also can set an ON and OFF time for the frame each day. A USB cable also is included for connecting the unit to your PC or Mac.
Bottom Line: If you have a digital camera, you need one of these … maybe more. We rate this frame a must-have for those that are serious about photography and want a high quality, easy to use device for displaying several dozen photos in your home or office. It’s also the perfect Valentine’s gift, and you’ve still got almost a week to find one so get busy! If you spend a little time loading it up with pictures before the Big Day, this may be the first "gift with a plug" that doesn’t get you a black eye from your spouse. YMMV.