SAN FRANCISCO (05/01/2000) - Forget photo printers. Want a really easy way to display all those cool pictures you've shot with your digital camera? Enter Ceiva Logic LLC and Digi-Frame Inc., whose digital picture frames promise to take care of that task--and provide you with a simple way to keep your personal photo gallery up to date automatically.
The $249 Ceiva Picture Frame and Digi-Frame's $599 DF-560 digital picture frame have active matrix LCD panels, and both automatically display a series of color photos. How each of them works and what you'll see on screen varies tremendously, however.
Share the Wealth
Ceiva's product is an incredibly simple, stand-alone device requiring no computer, setup, or maintenance. Just plug it into a nearby phone jack, and it automatically connects to Ceiva's Web site, downloads up to ten images into the frame's memory, and displays these on its 5-by-7-inch screen (approximate size). A unique, embedded serial number in each unit directs the product to your authorized pictures.
Uploading your shots to www.ceiva.com is no more difficult than to other photo sites, and you can display your own pictures, or borrow a few from a friend or relative who also has a Ceiva frame. To use the device, you need a Web account with Ceiva ($3 per month for a local number; $8 for toll-free). Images are updated daily, in the middle of the night, so you can see new pictures each morning. There are two user controls: One lets you adjust brightness and the other enables you to set the amount of time each picture will be displayed on screen.
We got Options
Unlike ceiva, Digi-Frame has slots for digital camera CompactFlash and SmartMedia memory cards, and it automatically reads and displays these cards when they're installed. Users can also connect to a Mac or PC serial port and download JPEG files from the hard drive, from an attached digital camera, or from any photo Web site.
The unit comes with Digi-Frame's own download utility. Downloads are slow, however, and the controls are fairly rudimentary. To top it off, you have to fool with COM port settings to make the whole thing work--no USB yet.
On the plus side, you can program the 3.5-by-4.5-inch display (approximate size) in various ways: different wipes (transitions between pictures), black and white or sepia tone, several special effects, and an automatic color fill to eliminate harsh black lines if the image's aspect ratio (width and height) differs from the frame's. The unit can display up to 500 different images.
You can even program a self-running slide show on your computer and download it to the Digi-Frame memory card. Other options let you page through the pictures, view a series of thumbnails and slate them for display, and delete images from the card. Digi-Frame automatically displays all images in the correct orientation.
For $399, Digi-Frame also offers the DF-390, which has a somewhat smaller screen, a bit less memory, and not quite as many controls, but otherwise matches the DF-560's features.
The ceiva Picture Frame is virtually goof-proof, its display is larger, and its colors are richer than the Digi-Frame DF-560's--but it can't do as much as the Digi-Frame, and its monthly fee does add up. Overall, the Digi-Frame wins the nod from us because of its superior versatility and picture capacity.
Both frames give you an easy forum for displaying your digital photos. Ceiva's image is larger, but Digi-Frame's is brighter.
Ceiva Picture Frame
PRO: Relatively inexpensive, very easy to use.
CON: Few user controls, ten-image limit, monthly fee.
VALUE: Good choice for displaying and sharing Web photo albums.
Street price: $249 (plus fees)
Product Info No. 721
PRO: Multiple picture sources, lots of options, up to 500 images.
CON: Pricey, smaller viewing area than Ceiva, basic upload software.
VALUE: Gives polished results without changing pictures every week.
Street price: $599
Product Info No. 722