When I was at DigitalLife 2007 in NYC this summer, I looked around hoping to find a digital photo frame which supported WIFI. My goal was to find a frame with Internet connectivity that would auto-update itself by using photos contained in my Flickr account.
Unfortunately I didn’t find any WIFI equipped frames at DigitalLife. However the other day while browsing Amazon.com, I found the WPF-288 digital photo frame from eStarling on Amazon.com that met my requirements
My wish list for a WIFI equipped digital frame is as follows:
- No subscription fees
- Great screen display
- Low or no maintenance – I want this to be a gift I could give to my Mom and not become the “support department”
- Can load pictures from all common memory cards
- Will connect to Internet and download my pictures from Flickr
- If possible (and I didn’t think it would be), allow me to send photos directly to the frame via email.
The eStarling is a great little frame that I found did all of the above and more.
First the specifications.
The model that I evaluated was the WPF-288 which features a higher resolution (800×600) than the WPF-187 (480×234).
Internally the frame has 128 mb of flash memory. This is used to hold data, though most of your pictures are retrieved from your data source — typically either a memory card which you provide or a wireless feed that you establish. The WPF-187 mode eStarling LCD screen has a resolution of 480 x 234, and the WPF-288 mode eStarling LCD screen has a resolution of 800 x 600.
When you start using the frame, there is a setup program that allows you to configure various Internet based feeds.
There is NO additional fee to connect your frame to the Internet.
Photos load directly to the eStarling in one of two ways:
- Integrated Memory Card Reader: MMC/SD/CF/MS card slot; USB 2.0 host and client port
- Wireless : Internal 802.11b/g (WEP64, WEP128, WPA1, WPA2)
Below is a picture of the available slots that accomodate your memory card.
In order to establish WIFI connections to you need to attach an included cable and select from the list of wireless sources:
Finding a WIFI signal automatically was the only issue I had with the eStarling. Both at my office and home (Linksys routers) the eStarling setup software failed provide me with a list of WIFI access points.
On the surface this may not appear to be much of a problem because the eStarling setup will allow you to manually configure the wireless connection. This means however that you must know the SSID and manually connect the frame. One point deduction for requiring some additional techie knowledge to hook up the frame. Worth noting that even though I had to connect manually – both my office and home network (Linksys) were a snap to manually setup.
The process to manually establish a WIFI connection is fairly simple (though I would prefer to select from the available WIFI connections), which I did by supplying my SSID and WPA password (Note: There was one review on Amazon claiming that WPA was not supported – and I did NOT find this to be the case – my review unit connected right up with no problem). After powering on and off, the frame automatically connected to my WIFI signal.
The first time you setup the frame, you’re presented with an authorization number that ties the frame to your online account. The online account is accessed via the web and is the place where you can setup your picture feeds as well as manually upload pictures (a PERFECT feature for those who may be gifting this to a parent or grandparent in order to share current photos).
You’ll be able to tell when your frame is working because when you log into your account on the eStarling web site there is an “online” indicator to let you know that a live link to your frame has been established. Unfortunately there is NO indicator on the frame itself – so you have to either assume that the WIFI connection is being used – or you’d need to watch the frame to make sure current photos are being populated.
One cool feature is the ability to send photos to the frame via email. Your frame has it’s own personal email address. If you wanted to send a picture via camera phone, all you do is email it to your email@example.com. For security purposes, you are able to provide the site with a list of email addresses authorized to send photos to the frame.
One thing I found annoying about the eStarling is there’s not an easy way (short of unplugging the power) to turn the display off. If you look at the button configuration below, there’s one for nearly every function except on/off. There is no clear labeling on the frame as to what the buttons do — something I wish eStarling would add in a future version.
While testing I used the frame in my bedroom and before going to sleep I pressed the pause button which seemed to turn off the screen. About 5 minutes later I was awakened by a searchlight the frame turning back on. Fortunately there is a way to program the frame with a turn off time.
Update 12-3-2007: At first glance I though all that the “Screen Turn-Off” option did was turn the screen off. I’ve looked closer after receiving a question and can see that the option actually sets a start/stop time when the frame should be on and then turn off. So this works as both an on and on off switch. eStarling should better label the option because without someone pointing it out to me I mistakenly assumed that the feature only turned the device off. I’ll test this over the next few days and update my review if I have any problems with the accuracy of auto on and off.
One of the great things about the eStarling is the ability to use several different data sources for pictures.
Source # 1: Email – The frame will accept images emailed to the seeframe.com address assigned the device (remember that you can specify the email addresses allowed to send images – so spam never gets through).
Source # 2: Upload – Images may be uploaded via the seeframe.com web site
Source # 3: RSS Feeds – I established an RSS feed to my Flickr account and every time I add a photo via Flickr, it’s updated instantly (UPDATE 12-3-2007 – actually – the update sequence is (a) instantly for new feeds, (b) every 6 hours for existing feeds or (c) whenever you go onto the web and click “refresh” under your rss feed page) to the eStarling frame. The site readily accepts feeds from Flickr, Photobucket, Picasa, Smugmug, iPhoto and any other photo site that supports RSS feeds. There are even several handy pre-selected RSS feeds that automatically grab popular photo collections.
Source # 4: Group Frames – If you have several eStarling frames you can set them all up to share one common email address. This would update all the frames with the same set of new pictures. Handy for families sharing pictures!
Below is a screen capture of the seeframe page that allows you to configure your picture source(s):
Bottom Line: I liked nearly everything about this frame.
Once connected to WIFI, the pictures flowed automatically (RSS feeds update every 6 hours or whenever I logged into the web and clicked “refresh). I received this frame at my office and couldn’t wait to try it out. Within about 5 minutes I had a picture frame connected to my office WIFI and fully loaded with photos from my online Flickr account (remember that you can use many other online photo sources as well).
The bigger question I had is whether this is a good gift to give a relative who may not be as computer literate.
Could you give this to your Mom or Grandmother? Someone who may not be as technically sophisticated and would need assistance setting up the connection.
My feeling is that yes I would definitely give this as a gift to an unsophisticated relative. I think eStarling has made the interface as user friendly as possible. Once setup you should not experience any problems.
I absolutely love that most of the photos can be updated via RSS feeds or via direct upload over the web or via email from my camera phone (which I use A LOT). There is so much flexibility with this frame that I had to check the price a few times to make sure it was right. I’ve seen other frames at warehouse clubs which cost nearly as much but have far fewer features.
This is a digital frame that would make a great holiday gift for just about anyone.
Site URL: http://www.estarling.com/
eStarling Support Site: http://www.estarling.com/support/
MSRP: 7 ” Frame – $ 199 / 8? Frame – $ 249 (this is the model reviewed here – WPF-288)
What I Liked:
- Very clear and bright screen – equal or better than other digital frames that I’ve seen
- Easily upload photos via memory cards, the web, email or RSS feeds
- The eStarling web site is very easy to navigate and well designed
- NO monthly user fees for this service
- Very reasonably priced
- One of the few frames I have seen which integrates WIFI
What Could Be Improved:
- Control buttons (pause, rotate, delete, etc.) are not clearly labeled
- No apparent way to shut off frame without either pulling the plug or setting an auto-off time via the web site
- Setup software did not present me with a list of WIFI SSIDs to automatically connect to