Digital frames, because of the technology now available, are all very similar. The toughest decision you might have to make is choosing the exterior appearance, such as size and color.
The big differences come in the accessories. Do you want audio with your video? Do you want motion pictures with your still digital photos? Do you want wireless downloads from your camera phone to your digital photo frame? Do you have just a few digital photos or the album of a lifetime to display? Pick and choose among the components or options you want to suit your taste, or that of your recipient, if giving a gift.
The Universal Serial Bus (USB) is the almost-universal standard for connecting consumer electronics, computers and computer peripherals. USB allows you to plug-n-play your digital frame to your computer or camera and download photo files. Be sure your digital frame has a USB jack.
The central processing units are small and slow compared to laptops or desktops, but digital frames don't work very hard, by comparison. These CPUs are similar to those in PDAs or electronic games.
Since one number is easier than two, monitor screen sizes are measured diagonally, in inches. A 7-inch to 9-inch digital picture frame closely matches standard film print sizes, 4 inches x 6 inches or 5 inches x 7 inches. The smallest digital frames fit on a keychain (down around 1 inch), the largest make eye-catching wall hangings (22 inches, with larger sizes probably just around the corner).
Frames come in plastic, metal and wood. Real wood can be oak, walnut or any other species. Plastic and metal can be any color, in theory, though the neutrals -- black, gray and white -- still predominate because they'll match any décor (this makes gift buying so much easier). Some digital frames feature interchangeable faceplates; if you can't decide what you want, you can change it as often as the mood strikes you.
Digital picture frames have two memories: The CPU memory stores the operating system. The flash memory stores pictures, audio and video. Today's digital frames range from 256MB to 10GB flash memory. Even with the biggest photo files, that means a lot of digital pictures!
If you take a lot of pictures, your digital picture frame's internal memory may not be big enough. If so, memory cards are the perfect accessory. They range up to 32GB, depending on model. There are many different memory card brands, ands life is a little easier if your digital camera and digital picture frame use the same type. Fortunately, many frames have a built-in memory card reader with multiple memory card slots to fit different models.
Digital picture frame options
Audio: Many digital frames now have small speakers so that they can play music with sideshows or as background music. All computer files have an extension (filename.ext); be sure your digital frame plays your audio file formats. The most common audio file formats have MP3, WMA and WAV extensions.
Video: It didn"t take long for digital frame makers to add motion to the pictures. Again, the digital frame must have the software to play your video files; AVI, ASF, DAT, MP4 and WMV formats are very common.
Refresh: A term sometimes used to denote how often the image on a digital photo frame changes. This can vary from a few seconds to several minutes; most are adjustable.
Bluetooth: Software that allows different components to communicate with each other. If your digital frame and phone are Bluetooth-compatible, you can download directly from your camera phone to your digital frame.
PictBridge: This software, pre-installed in many digital frames and photo printers, allows you to connect frame to printer and print digital photos without going through a computer.
Photo software: If you have prints, you can transform them to digital photo files. You'll need a computer and scanner. Art and imaging software is also a good idea; once the photo is scanned into a digital file, imaging software allows you to color correct, remove red-eye and generally have a lot of fun adjusting your pictures to look just the way you want them. It will take some time to learn all the software features, but practice still makes perfect.
The relative dimensions of the frame, expresses as width to height. Choose one to match the photos you take.
Standard (4:3) is the ratio for CRT televisions, very old movies and very close to common film prints.
Widescreen (16:9) is the ratio for movies and many television shows; an important consideration if you plan to show videos as well as stills.
Panoramic varies a little by manufacturer, but is generally defined as anything over 3:1; not many frames are designed for this ratio, yet.
The size in pixels ("picture elements") of the screen image. Numbers are more common than alphabet codes, but the codes do show up in product descriptions.
VGA or 640x480 is crisp enough for small desktop screens.
SVGA or 800x600 is a better choice for mid-size screens.
WVGA or 800x480 is SVGA in widescreen.
XGA or 1024x768 is for larger screens that need higher resolution.
WXGA or 1280x800 is XGA in widescreen.