Monday, February 18, 2008

How to Select digital photo frame

How to Select digital photo frame

Selection of Digital photo frame

This section describes how do select a digital photo frame. A DPF consists of three main parts: LCD-panel, PCB and frame. All of these components have to be checked. In addition, also accessories and especially usability is important. Therefore, it is recommended to test the models, either by visiting the factory or by buying samples. Besides that it may be important to ask the minimum order quantity and whether OEM is possible. The necessary certificates (FCC in USA, CE and RoHS in Europe) should be a k.o.-criterion for buyers.

1. LCD-panel (Liquid Crystal Display Panel)

For sizes of 7" or below, mostly analogue TFT LCD panels are used. Bigger models usually use digital panels. Their quality is much better. However, the price also goes up. In general 4:3 is better than 16:9, as digital cameras use 4:3. Some models, however, include a button that allows to switch that ratio. The resolution for a 7" frame is usually 480 * 234 pixel (= 480 * 3 * 234 or 1440 * 234). The higher the resolution, the better the picture quality. The important point with panels is to ask whether the panels are new or recycled. For 8" or below, most of the panels are new. For bigger models, some companies use recycled panels. An indirect way to find out whether the panels are recycled is, that for recycled panels no RoHS certificate can be provided. Popular panel brands are Innolux, AU or LG, but also Sharp.

2. PCB (Printed Circuit Board)

The PCB is the heart of a digital photo frame. For the board it is important, which solution is being used on the board. Solution is the used software. Popular solutions are Zoran for the simple function models. For the simple "multimedia" digital photo frame Sunplus, Cheertek (both are originally solutions for DVD players), MTK and Macronix (the original solution for digital photo cameras) are widely used. For the improved "multimedia" digital photo frames Amlogic is usually used. The solution is just the technical background. For the user the outcome is important. The solution decides which file types and which cards can be supported. It also decides whether a built-in-memory is possible.

2.1. Supported cards

For digital photo cameras different kinds of memory cards exists. Different brands use different cards.

It is hard to find information about the market share of memory cards. However, I find one statistics which shows the market share of memory cards in Western Europe in 2004. I assume that the market share for the cards is not significantly different in the USA. In 2004, 25 million digital photo cameras have been sold in Western Europe.

Top 5 producers 2004

CompanyMarket ShareMemory Card
1.Canon16.8 %SD
2.Sony14.0 %MS
3.Olympus12.5 %xD
4.Nikon10.4 %SD
5.Fuji10.0 %xD
6.Others 36.3 %mainly SD

Some older cameras also use CF or SM cards. In addition, a USB host can be important, as many people use USB memory sticks. A USB host should be standard for multimedia photo frames. A USB host can be an alternative if the photo frame does not support all memory card. With a USB host, a card-reader can be bought additionally. Therefore it indirectly can support all memory cards. High-end products also have a USB slave.

2.2. Supported file formats

Digital cameras uses JPEG file format to store the pictures. However, a lot of more file formats exists. This point will give you a short overview:

Picture formats

For digital photo frame, JPEG pictures are standard. All products can display JPEG as this format is the file format used by digital cameras to store pictures. Some photo frames can also display BMP, GIF, PNG or TIFF. However, these file formats are not commonly used for pictures and therefore not very important.

Audio formats

For multimedia photo frames MP3 is standard. Notable here is that for an export to Europe the Sisvel license is necessary. Some products can also play WMA (also widely used in the Internet) or WAV-files. WAV files are usually very big and therefore not widely used, especially for sharing in the internet.

Video formats

Standard video format which are supported are AVI and MPEG I, II and IV, but also MP4. Even if the manufacturer assures that AVI or MP4 is supported, the photo frame may not display all AVI or MP4 files. This is because AVI and MP4 are file containers and no file format and may contain many files in different codecs, which the photo frame may not be able to read.

Other formats

Some products, especially Amlogic solutions, can display text files in the txt-format. For some newer models, even lyrics for MP3 are supported.

2.3. Built-in memory

Built-in memory can be very useful. Only this way, data can be stored in the machine directly. Currently the maximum capacity is 2 GB. Cheertek solution can maximum support 32 MB plus 3 screen protection pictures, which can not be changed. Sunplus does not have any internal memory, but it can store 3 pictures which can be changed. Some solutions do not support internal memory at all.

2.4. File management

Better photo frames can also manage the files. Therefore it is possible to delete, rename and copy files between the cards and internal memory.

2.5. Extras

Some models offer some extras such as calendar, clock, alarm, auto on/off or a voice recorder. The solution also decides whether the photo frame has AV in/out. With AV out, the pictures on the photo frame can be watched on a TV. With AV in a DVD player can be connected with the photo frame and it is possible to watch movies on the DPF.

3. Frame

The digital photo frame is as much furniture as it is an electronic product. Therefore the outside appearance is important. Many customers will base their buying decision on the outside appearance. Usually frames are made of plastic (often with a transparent, outside acrylic frame). These frames can be made in every colors. Additionally, also wooden and metal/aluminum frames are common. Many companies charge more for wooden frames.

Some companies offer specialties such as light in the frame. Some companies also offer changeable frames and deliver more frames for one DPF.

4. Accessories

Accessories, such as additional frame plates, cables etc. should be considered.

5. Usability

A very important aspect is the usability. Therefore testing is recommended, either by factory visit or by buying samples.

Simple function models usually do not have a remote control. They are operated by buttons on the machine. The buttons should be easy to operate.

More complicated models use a remote control with OSD (open screen display) menu. This interface has to be user friendly and easy to operate with and without remote control. As for the remote control, it should not include too many buttons.

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