Cheap digital photo frames might catch your attention. They often claim unparalleled simplicity, or offer features that you’d only find on a more expensive frame – and it’s easy to get drawn in. Unfortunately, their real-world performance often doesn’t match your expectations. It helps to go in with a more realistic idea of the kind of value and functionality you’re going to get with a cheap digital photo frame.
The first and probably most frequently left out feature is Wi-Fi capability. You’ll find most cheap digital photo frames can only receive photos via a USB or SD memory card. This card often needs to be connected to the frame at all times, as cheap digital photo frames usually have very limited internal storage space.
Another area where cutbacks are made is the display. You’ll find that most cheap digital photo frames use displays with less than 800×600 pixels; which is noticeably fuzzy and pales in comparison to what you’re used to seeing on modern smartphones and computers. You’ll often find the screen measurement to be frequently incorrect. There is often screen matting or unused display real estate that’s included in the frame’s measurement.
The lack of Wi-Fi and cloud compatibility means that you’re losing out on a huge host of features that can make a big difference in how families use the frame – and how suitable they are for elderly users.
User interfaces and ways to control cheap digital photo frames are often limited. You’ll often notice that the user interface is outdated and difficult to use – especially for elderly users. This extends through to the onboard controls and handheld remote-control units. They’re usually not very intuitive or responsive, making it tricky to seamlessly and effortlessly use the frame.
Durability is another key concern with cheap digital photo frames. All else ignored, these frames usually aren’t designed to last for years. They often come with a plastic or cheap, lightweight shell and stand. This leaves the frame prone to falling damage, which is especially true if the attachable stand isn’t sturdy.
Considering that the price of Wi-Fi and cloud frames with better build quality are more affordable than ever, you’re probably better off saving up a little longer and getting a premium digital frame. They’re almost always more capable, cater better to large families, and feature a host of Wi-Fi and cloud-enabled functions that aren’t possible on most cheap digital photo frames.
Most cheap digital photo frames don’t come with Wi-Fi or cloud capabilities. This means that you can’t connect the frame to Wi-Fi or mobile networks, and related online features aren’t available.
Cheap digital photo frames that can connect to Wi-Fi networks usually offer a very limited set of features. You might be able to send photos via email or through a direct transfer from a PC to the frame. More often than not, Wi-Fi is used for adding and connecting to other frames or adding them as friends, without many sending/receiving features being enabled as a result.
The vast majority of cheap digital photo frames only let you add photos by loading them onto a USB/SD card and viewing them directly off the USB/SD card on the frame. You can sometimes transfer them over to the frame’s internal storage if there is enough available.
The first thing you should look at in a cheap digital photo frame is the display. Since most of these frames are offline and aren’t Wi-Fi capable, the display is the most important feature. You want at least an 800×600 pixel resolution and a 4:3 aspect ratio with a broad viewing angle (at least 120-degrees). If you can’t find a 4:3 aspect ratio, 3:2 is the next best, followed by 16:9 (better for video playback). The display should have manually adjustable brightness and you should avoid motion sensors – they usually don’t work very well on cheap digital photo frames.
Another key feature to look for is extensive USB/SD card support – which is even more important if the frame doesn’t have an email-in function or Wi-Fi connectivity. You want to be able to use a USB/SD card up to 32GB. The frame should support a wide range of photo formats and not require them to be cropped or resized to meet the frame’s native resolution before they can be viewed.
Internal storage space is also important and will mean you don’t need to leave the USB/SD card connected all the time. Aim for 4GB or higher, especially if the frame can play videos. On that note, multimedia support can be quite handy. Being able to view videos and listen to audio notes can make the frame that much more special, and adds a personal touch to how you stay up-to-date with your loved ones and their lives.
One final tip is to avoid touchscreens, particularly on cheap digital photo frames. They might seem like cool features, but they’re almost always a bad choice. They scratch easily and are unrivaled fingerprint magnets. You’ll find yourself needing to clean them often. Long-term durability is a big issue and the frame is less robust overall.
Digital frames claim to be able to continuously display the same image for 1,000 hours without causing permanent damage to the LDC display. For cheap digital photo frames, this number is almost always going to be lower. As long as you aren’t leaving the same picture to display at max brightness for days at a time, you should be fine. Try to keep photos alternating or moving as part of a slideshow.
Amazon is arguably the best place to buy a cheap digital photo frame. You can view extensive reviews at each of the star ratings (one through five) and see how many people have bought the frame before.
You can also read through potentially hundreds of questions and answers about the frame. All these helpful pointers paint a much more accurate picture of how a cheap digital photo frame will perform in the real world. It’s worth taking the time to go through all the positive and negative reviews to learn more about quality control issues and operating/durability issues you need to be aware of before buying.