At the end of 2008 I bought my first digital picture frame, the Gigantor 15″ from Think Geek, which at the time was one of the largest available without getting into astronomical amounts of money. I paid about $200 for it, which I thought was a pretty good deal considering that many 10″ and under frames were selling in the ~$150 range. Everyone who comes into our house will generally stop dead in their tracks when they see the massive photo display; they want to know who people are, when photos were taken, and where they were taken. It’s as much fun for us as it is for them, and I am glad that I waited to get such an amazing frame, even if it does have a few “quirks” — like how it can accept any size SD card, but it will only work if there are no more than 1,000 pictures on it (seriously). It’s a limitation that makes no sense, but I’ve grown used to it. The Gigantor is no longer one of the biggest digital picture frames available (nor is it still ~$200); a quick search just showed that there are 19″ frames out there for around $499 and even a 32″ frame for ~$1000.
Anyway, my point (and I do have one!) is that digital picture frames are becoming much more common; it seems like everyone has one — and for good reason! They are much more interesting than a static photograph, and they give you the opportunity to show many more pictures than you might otherwise have wall or shelf space to display. Even though there might be a few bells and whistles added to the different digital picture frame models, they all basically do one thing well – show photos. I know that some show movies, many also play MP3s, and some might even have wireless capabilities, but in the end they are basically all one trick ponies … are they not?
So if you have the shelf or wall space, and if you want a larger frame to show off your photos, and if you are in the market for a 15 – 19″ digital frame, then my suggestion would be that you might want to not bother with digital picture frames, and instead take a look at the Lenovo ThinkCentre A70z series. Yes, I just suggested that you consider an all-in-one desktop computer instead of a digital picture frame.
I’ll get into why shortly, but let’s start with what’s in the box …
Amazingly, other than the big cardboard outer box and the two cardboard accessory boxes inside (all recyclable, by the way), packing material is kept to a minimum. According to an early Lenovo A70z press release, “To help reduce overall packaging material, the A70z ships with reusable protective bag. By using one box instead of two, material savings are equal to approximately 250 paper cups and 139 plastic packaging bags.”
Two spongy spacers hold the computer in protective limbo, and the A70z is wrapped inside a reusable cloth shopping bag; Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
A single power cable in the box; there is no typical PC brick. This in and of itself is a huge improvement over every desktop PC I have ever owned or reviewed. A USB wired mouse is included; it’s a pretty cheap optical version, but Lenovo is likely assuming that most people will quickly replace it with their wireless brand of choice.
Also included is a Lenovo branded USB wired keyboard; it might as well be generic, as it is very basic. Perhaps Lenovo is again assuming that most people who don’t like it will replace it with something better.
|Clock Speed:||2.93 GHz|
|Max Supported Qty:||1|
|Processor Main Features:||Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology , Intel Execute Disable Bit , Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology|
|Type:||Core 2 Duo|
|Interface Type:||Serial ATA|
|Form Factor:||5.25″ x 1/6H (Slim Line)|
|Form Factor (metric):||13.3 cm x 1/6H (Slim Line)|
|Form Factor:||3.5″ x 1/3H|
|Form Factor (metric):||8.9 cm x 1/3H|
|Storage Hard Drive|
|Interface Type:||Serial ATA-300|
|Spindle Speed:||7200 rpm|
|Compliant Standards:||High Definition Audio|
|Configuration Features:||1 x 2 GB|
|Data Integrity Check:||Non-ECC|
|Features:||Dual channel memory architecture|
|Form Factor:||DIMM 240-pin|
|Installed Size:||2 GB|
|Max Supported Size:||4 GB|
|Memory Specification Compliance:||PC2-6400|
|Memory Speed:||800 MHz|
|Chassis Built-in Devices:||1.3 megapixel camera , Stereo speakers|
|Dimensions & Weight|
|Diagonal Size:||19 in|
|Diagonal Size (metric):||48.26 cm|
|Image Contrast Ratio:||1000:1|
|Max Resolution:||1440 x 900|
|Technology:||TFT active matrix|
|Projector Image Brightness:||300 cd/m2|
|Humidity Range Operating:||10 – 80%|
|Max Operating Temperature:||95 °F|
|Min Operating Temperature:||50 °F|
|Sound Emission:||23 DBA|
|Manufacturer:||Lenovo Express Models|
|Product Line:||Lenovo ThinkCentre A70z|
|Type:||Keyboard , Mouse|
|Connector Type:||4 pin USB Type A|
|Location (AA):||3 front, 3 rear|
|Connector Type:||9 pin D-Sub (DB-9)|
|Connector Type:||Mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm|
|Chipset Type:||Intel G41 Express|
|Data Bus Speed:||1066 MHz|
|Features:||Administrator password , Boot sequence control , Boot without keyboard or mouse , Power-on password , Security lock slot (cable lock sold separately) , USB port control|
|Manufacturer Selling Program:||TopSeller|
|Compliant Standards:||IEEE 802.11b , IEEE 802.11g , IEEE 802.11n , IEEE 802.3|
|Data Link Protocol:||Ethernet , Fast Ethernet , Gigabit Ethernet , IEEE 802.11b , IEEE 802.11g , IEEE 802.11n|
|Ethernet Controller(s):||Realtek RTL8111DL|
|Features (AA):||ACPI support|
|Remote Management Protocol:||DMI 2.0|
|Edition:||Windows 7 Professional|
|Type:||Microsoft Windows 7 Professional|
|Frequency Required:||50 – 60 Hz|
|Nominal Voltage:||AC 120/230 V|
|Power Provided:||130 Watt|
|Type:||PCI Express Mini Card|
|Form Factor:||DIMM 240-pin|
|Form Factor:||LGA775 Socket|
|Microsoft Office Ready:||Includes a preinstalled image of select 2007 Microsoft Office suites. Purchase a Medialess License Kit (MLK) to activate the software.|
|Type:||Adobe Flash Player , Adobe Reader , Lenovo Online Data Backup , Microsoft Office 2007 (60 days trial) , Norton Internet Security 2009 (30 days subscription) , Roxio Creator Business Edition , Roxio My DVD , Skype , ThinkVantage Power Manager , ThinkVantage Product Recovery , ThinkVantage System Update , ThinkVantage Toolbox|
|Controller Interface Type:||Serial ATA-300|
|Storage Controller (2nd)|
|Storage Floppy Drive|
|Storage Hard Drive (2nd)|
|Hard Drive(-s) Total Capacity:||320 GB|
|Graphics Processor Vendor:||Intel GMA X4500|
|Manufacturer Form Factor:||All-in-one|
|Installed Size:||3 MB|
|Per Processor Size:||3 MB|
|ENERGY STAR Qualified:||Yes|
|Keyboard Name:||Preferred Pro USB|
|Storage Hard Drive (3rd)|
|Memory Allocation Technology:||Dynamic Video Memory Technology 5.0|
So the one thing that’s immediately missing is Bluetooth support, but luckily 2.0 adapter dongles are plentiful and inexpensive. 4GB RAM would be nice, but it’s an easy <$100 upgrade. All things considered, as a desktop computer the Z70z is nicely appointed.
The frame around the 19″ (diagonal) screen is a slightly textured matte black with a beveled bottom edge, not dissimilar to many digital picture frames; at approximately 18″ wide x 14″ tall x 3″ deep, it’s thinner than the typical LCD TV, and it wouldn’t be obnoxious sitting on a shelf or mounted on a wall.
It’s not a bad looking unit, but it will look even better once all the stickers on the bottom right are peeled off.
A stainless steel swing-arm on the back allows the A70z to lean back a bit for easier viewing from a standing position, or it can stand more erect when a user is sitting directly in front of it.
The CD / DVD bay is located on the left side, which makes for easy movie loading when you’re in the mood.
There is a built-in 1.3 megapixel webcam, which makes the A70z the only digital picture frame that I’m aware of which will allow you to video conference.
Screen brightness is adjusted on the right side …
… and there are three USB ports along with jacks for an external microphone and headset.
The A70z’s backside is surprisingly clean …
… an integrated handle is built into the top of the stand …
… and at the base there is a plug for the power cable, an Ethernet port, three USB ports, and a … serial port? I’m trying to remember the last time I used one of those, and it’s hard.
Setup is supremely easy: Plug the laptop in, enter basic info, get on your network, accept or reject the few share-ware or other software items offered, and then … begin your personal setup. The first thing I did was install an HP wireless mouse that I had handy, just so I could eliminate the first cable. Then I initiated the Windows 7 on-screen keyboard and ditched the second cable.
Next I downloaded the Kylo browser (free) which I had discovered when reviewing the Hillcrest Loop (normally $99) It’s worth mentioning that the Loop is the perfect way to take advantage of the media setup I’ve subjected my A70z to — especially for being controlled from across the room, and they are currently on sale for half price.
Windows Media Player manages displaying the photos stored on the A70z brilliantly, and what I particularly like is that I can either display them as full-size, taking up nearly the entire screen …
… or I can display them in a smaller size if I want to still see other items on the “desktop”.
I’ve also downloaded the Pandora desktop widget (I have the premium subscription, which runs $36/year), a few Windows 7 desktop widgets, and now I have got a fantastic family hub which displays the weather, time, scrolling RSS, and a few other goodies when photos aren’t displaying and something else is needed. I’ve got iTunes installed and plenty of memory available for movies and stored music, and I can download any program or special feature which will work on a PC desktop and run it on this “digital frame”. If I ever need to pull the A70z into emergency service because my laptop is in the shop, it could step in and function as my main computer.
The A70z fits right on top of the buffet, which is the Gigantor used to sit, but it is a little bit bigger and a whole lot smarter. The best part is that the A70z model starts at $499 … the exact same price that I found for 19″ digital picture frames. So tell me … which would you rather have if you were in the market for a large digital frame?
The Lenovo ThinkCentre A70z line is available from PC Connection.or
MSRP: $729.00 as tested; also available in other configurations starting at $499.00.
I was sent the A70z on long-term loan, and I will update this review periodically if issues arise or if other events worth mentioning happen.
What I Like: All-in-one unit takes up very little space; screen is brilliant and large enough for easily viewing photos from across a large room; functions extremely well as a dedicated multimedia machine and as a desktop computer; in my setup it serves as an info hub for the entire family;
What Needs Improvement: If used as a desktop computer, 4GB would have been better, but you can upgrade for <$100; included keyboard and mouse are very basic