Buying a digital photo frame shouldn’t be much more difficult than buying a traditional photo frame. But as with all tech-y gadgets, marketers enjoy pushing specs, jargon and geeky buzzwords in an attempt to woo or confuse un-savvy shoppers. Some of the tech specs touted on the sides of digital photo frame boxes are important, while others are more hype than help. This straightforward guide will tell you everything you need to know about buying a quality digital photo frame.
Get a 4:3 digital photo frame. 4:3 is the standard aspect ratio that most cameras shoot in. While you may have heard that 16:9 widescreen is the aspect ratio to look for when it comes to monitors and TVs, the same isn’t true for digital photo frames. Unless you are sure that you have a digital camera that saves photos in 16:9, get a 4:3 digital photo frame.
Screen resolution is different from the physical measurements of a digital photo frame and in most cases, is a more meaningful measure of how the photos will look. Resolution refers to the pixels per square inch on the screen. Higher resolution means a sharper photo. So, in the vast majority of cases, it’s better to get an 8-inch digital photo frame with a 640 x 480 resolution than it would be to get an 8.5-inch screen with a 480x234 resolution. This is a common trick among cheaper digital photo frame manufacturers—don’t be fooled by more inches. Go with the pixels!
The higher the contrast ratio, the better. Higher contrast ratio means more vibrant photos and higher definition between colors.
Storage capacity refers to the internal memory of a digital photo frame. Frankly, this isn’t usually much of a feature, since most users will be inserting external memory into the photo frame, rather than uploading pictures to the frame. What you should do is buy a spare memory card for your camera, so you can take pictures with one and then put the other in your digital photo frame to view them. The only thing to watch for: if you have a very high end camera that uses SDXC or UHS-I memory cards, you’ll want to get a digital photo frame that also supports these formats. If you don’t know what this means, then you don’t likely have to worry about it.
Sound and Video Playback
Some digital photo frames will playback music. The speakers on digital photo frames aren’t usually anything to write home about. But if the digital photo frame also supports video, it can be a nice sci-fi touch for your photo frame to playback audio and video that you shoot on your digital camera. Whether or not this feature is worth it is up to you.
This feature is a little redundant. An HDMI output on your digital photo frame simply means that you can connect your digital photo frame to an HDTV to view it on the big screen. But most cameras will have their own video outputs built-in already.
A touchscreen on your digital photo frame can make flipping through photos much easier (as opposed to fiddling with buttons along the side or back). But touchscreen digital photo frames cost a lot more. If you intend to leave it on a wall or counter with an automated slideshow, don’t bother with a touchscreen control panel.
For a basic digital photo frame, don’t pay any more than $50 for an 8-inch frame. You will find digital photo frames that cost upwards of $100 or even $200, thanks to a set of extra features. You might find digital photo frames with larger screens, built-in remotes or WiFi compatibility. These features can be very convenient, but are by no means necessary. If you are shopping on a budget, all you need is a photo frame that accepts external memory cards and has a decent screen resolution.