The premise behind the Isabella Products Vizit 10.4″ Touch Screen Photo Frame is simple: You use it to “view and share photos with anyone, from anywhere, instantly over the mobile network.” The Vizit has a 10.4″ touchscreen and it can send or receive pictures over its 3G connection.
Photos sent to the frame’s email address are stored in their original resolution at vizitme.com, scaled appropriately and sent to the frame for display. This eliminates the tedious task of swapping out memory cards, as well as makes it easier to keep photos updated via the cellular network.
Since the Vizit experience is as much about the online service as it is about the hardware, we’ll start with the process of ordering …
There are two Vizit models available as of now, one with a silver finish and white accents, the other with a charcoal finish and black accents. To get set up, you must first pick a frame and then choose a plan. If you choose the Basic plan, you’ll get one month free and you’ll be agreeing to recurring charges of $5.99 plus tax per month via your payment method. If you choose the Premium plan, you’ll be charged $79.99 on top of the frame’s price at purchase. I noticed in the Terms that it said you would be charged upon activation, but I could not find a way to purchase a frame without picking a plan.
Once you have received your frame, you’ll register it by entering your email and the frame’s serial number on the Vizit site. You can even add more than one frame to your account if you are managing frames in multiple locations.
Once you are set up, you’ll plug in the frame and turn it on. The first few photos that will show are generic photos from Isabella Products; they are on the frame but not actually in your account and they can be deleted directly from the frame. If photos have been sent to the frame, and if things are working properly, they should start arriving and eventually displaying soon after the frame has been turned on. All of the photos sent to the Vizit frame are stored on the VizitMe.com site, and this is where they can be “accessed, edited, deleted, and organized.” If you make any changes on the site, they will soon be mirrored on the frame, which means people who give the Vizit as a gift to a technologically challenged love one will be able to remotely manage the gifted frame.
You can invite friends and relatives to begin sending photos to the managed Vizit frame, but in order to enable this you’ll need to add their name, email address, and mobile number. If they have their own frame, you can add that address for photo-sharing as well. They’ll be sent an address that they can use to send in photos via either MMS or email; even if the address becomes public, strangers will not be able to post unless they have specifically been added by the manager (you) to the account.
When people email photos they can add a caption as a subject line, or captions can be added to photos from within the VizitMe site.
You also have the option of subscribing to Live Feeds through your Vizit frame; at this time Life.com appears to be the only one available, although the user guide says “new feeds are always becoming available.” A huge caveat here is that any “photos received from live feeds are included within the total number of photos allowed on your photo plan.”
There are other ways to get photos on the Vizit frame than only over the mobile network or through direct upload to the Vizit site via computer; you can also display photos directly from an SD card or USB thumbdrive. The Vizit frame can hold up to 150 pictures at a time (when not using a memory card); if you load or are sent more, the oldest will basically rotate off the frame and into the My Photos tab on the VizitMe site. You won’t lose any of the pictures, it’s just that only 150 will display at any given time. If there are photos that you always want to see, you’ll be able to mark them as favorites from the Vizit’s touchscreen.
Vizit’s unique combination of touch screen technology, proprietary software and cellular connectivity, creates a rich, yet effortless, photo sharing experience. The intuitive user interface requires very little explanation. Share, reply, forward, and delete photos with just a touch. Together these features keep loved ones connected to one another, making Vizit the perfect gift.
Another source of photos for your frame is to transfer them to your VizitMe account from the online service photobucket. Since Vizit mentions that you can “import your photos from other photo sharing sites to your VizitMe.com account,” I really expected to see Flickr and Picasa included at a bare minimum, but the only service I found a way to transfer from was photobucket.
One last feature worth mentioning are the programmable messages that you can use to reply with from the screen when new pictures are delivered to your frame. This two-way method of communication is a nice way to acknowledge when a picture has been received.
That’s the basic web interface, now let’s look at the Vizit hardware.
Included in the box are the Vizit photo frame, an AC adapter, a cleaning cloth, a user guide and quick start booklet, along with the Terms & Conditions agreement
The Vizit frame is composed of matte plastic; I received the charcoal with black accents version, and it would be fair to say that its appearance is a bit plain and industrial. There is a status light on the far left side, and the circular button on the left of the screen’s border is actually a light sensor. The frame measures 10.9″ wide x 7.4″ tall x 0.65″ thick — not counting the folding base, and the frame weighs 1.7 pounds. I found that the Vizit frame flexed and creaked when I lightly torqued its edges.
Cellular – GSM/GPRS quad-band connectivity with internal antenna & LED indicator light.
10.4 inch LED backlit LCD with touchscreen
Simple full-screen graphical user interface
Automatic photo scaling
USB 2.0 & SD Card slot
This is the left side of the frame, showing the long status light and the light sensor.
There are no other buttons on the Vizit’s edges …
The base of the frame has the speaker, SIM card slot (complete with included AT&T SIM card), and the frame’s serial number .
… on the base’s side there are a USB port and an SD port.
The hinge on the base allows you to adjust the frame and hold it at almost any angle between 0 – 90º, which should make for good viewing from almost anywhere in a room. Speaking of viewing …
The ~10.4″ 800×600/SVGA resolution touchscreen (measured diagonally, of course) is bright and easy on the eyes, and it’s convenient because it doesn’t require a separate remote control like most digital picture frames that are non-touchscreen. My big issue with the screen is that it’s not nearly as responsive as I expected it to be. In order to get the menu to pop up and to make any selections, you have to mash the screen a bit harder than seems safe; this can be a bit unnerving because you’ll see Newton Rings in the middle of the screen as it distorts and goes “oily” for a moment. I captured a quick video to demonstrate:
Other than the amount of pressure needed to change screens and the resulting Newton Rings, the menu is intuitive enough, although a tad slow to respond at times.
Photos that go through the website before being sent to the Vizit frame are automatically scaled and optimized.
Because the frame I was sent said “Engineering prototype, not for sale”, I asked Vizit if there were any significant differences between my review device and a shipping model. The response I got was that the unit I have “is just slightly different than the final production units for purchase. Production units do feature a slightly more refined touch screen and also have a working USB port. All other features on the device remain the same.”
I tried both a 4GB and an 8GB SD card with the frame, but neither was recognized. I had a 2GB thumbdrive, so I tried that next … and it worked. But that’s when I found how photos shown through plug-in media do not scale or optimize correctly for the frame at all; as they appear, they are basically unviewable, and there is no option to render them correctly. In fact the only options available when viewing photos on SD or USB are to Eject or return to Vizit Media. For that reason, I don’t really see the ability to use either media as a “feature”, but perhaps in the future there will eventually be an over-the-air firmware upgrade which will fix this.
Simply put, the best experience is when using this frame as intended, and that is with the wireless plan in effect. But when you do use it, you are spending $280 for the frame plus an additional $80/year minimum for the wireless. This is rather pricey, to the point where it almost seems outrageous. While I understand that the intended target consumer for this type of product is someone who has little to no tech-savvy, but who lives in an area with adequate wireless coverage, I can’t help but consider some of the other options which seem less expensive in the long run, even if the options and features offered are slightly different.
The only way I can see justifying the purchase of this device would be if I had a relative or friend who was completely incapable of sliding a memory card into their own digital picture frame; someone who lived so far away from me that I couldn’t help them with a more fully featured model; someone who wanted to be kept in touch, but who didn’t want extra features like the daily weather, stocks, a clock, an alarm, a calendar, video clips, music, or any of the other options offered by similarly sized and priced touchscreen digital frame models that do not include 3G wireless.
The Isabella Products Vizit 10.4″ Touch Screen Photo Frame on the Mobile Network is available in either a silver finish with white accents or a charcoal finish with black accents. It is available directly from the manufacturer.
MSRP: $279.99 for the frame. The Basic plan (offering up to 100 photos a month) is $5.99/month; the Premium plan (offering up to 1450 photos a year) is $79.99/year. To check cellular coverage in your area click here. You can read the FAQ here.
What I Like: Easy to set up; ability to share and receive photos from family and friends’ mobile phones or email; can be remotely managed though VizitMe website; good for the completely tech-challenged if someone else is managing the photos
What Needs Improvement: The frame costs more than any other I could find of this size, and that is before adding the wireless plan; the touchscreen is slow to respond and must be mashed to select; USB & SD card photos will not render correctly; you must purchase a wireless subscription plan in order to properly use the frame; no real selection of special services or features available in addition to photos (i.e. – clock, alarm, movies, music, weather, etc.)