Like many other tech toys, digital photo frames are evolving at a rapid pace. Once upon a time — and not too long ago — these screens were ideal for simply viewing still photos in a slide show. Today, however, many of them support audio and video files. They're also more fashionable, hold thousands of images and feature better-quality touch screens. And, now that Wi-Fi technology is reaching everywhere, they can communicate wirelessly with computers.
Internet connectivity makes it possible to e-mail digital photos to these stationary devices from any cell phone or computer in the world, even while the senders are still on vacation, for instance.
Here's a look at two such models that offer this advanced feature.
Feel the pulse
At first glance, the 7-inch Kodak Pulse ($129.95; Kodak.com) resembles many other digital photo frames, but the product lets you sign up for a free e-mail address — email@example.com — so you can e-mail photos to it from wherever your journey takes you.
As long as the Kodak Pulse is logged on to a wireless network (such as your home Wi-Fi network), e-mailed photos show up on the frame within a minute or two. But you can control the show. Depending on your settings, you can select whether or not you're asked to add these memories to the frame before you import them to your slide show.
The frame plays well with social networks too. It allows you to link it with your Facebook account and select which photos from your online albums you wish to appear in the frame along with your other emailed images.
The Pulse can store about 4,000 photos on its internal memory, plus there are ports for SD (secure digital) memory cards and USB flash drives, too, if you want to curate your slide shows from separate devices.
The touch screen can be used to select the duration of the slide show (such as every few seconds, minutes or hours) or whether you want a random montage of photos.
Any shortcomings? While it's a gorgeous screen with LED backlighting technology — for greater depth and richer colors than a conventional LCD display — a 7-inch frame is on the small side. That said, a 10-inch model is in the works for the winter. Another downside is that the Pulse does not support videos, such as ones shot with your digital point-and-shoot camera or camcorder.
Pricey but nicey
For those who'd prefer to invest in a fashionable yet functional accoutrement, the Parrot Grande Specchio ($649.99; parrot.com) is easy on the eyes but hard on the wallet.
Designed by French designer Martin Szekely, this digital photo frame, when powered off, is a 10.4-inch mirror with a gold finish.
And similar to the Kodak Pulse, this product is Wi-Fi enabled, so it can join your wireless network to pull media from your nearby computer, or you can send photos via e-mail from any cell phone or computer. The Grande can also be set up to show pictures from online photo gallery sites, including Yahoo!'s Flickr and Google's Picasa.
Speaking of Google, because the Grande is an Android OS-powered digital frame — that is, it uses the same operating system from Google that runs many smart phones — you can also surf the Internet, run downloadable applications ("apps") from the Android Market and access information from RSS (really simple syndication) sites that provide news, weather, stock quotes and other "pushed" info to the frame.
The interfaceof the Grande is designed with a small black trackball on top of the frame, surrounded by four touch-sensitive buttons. The screen itself doesn't offer touch support as the Kodak Pulse does, but that would likely leave smudges on the mirror.
And as with Kodak's product, this frame does not handle video.