HP DreamScreen: More than just a photo frame

In addition to displaying all your photos, HP's Wi-Fi-enabled DreamScreen can stream Pandora and Internet radio from the Internet, show you the weather forecast, and pull content from online Facebook and Snapfish accounts.

HP DreamScreen
John P. Falcone/CNET

HP has one big request for when you're talking about its new DreamScreen product line: don't call it just a digital photo frame.

Fair enough. The DreamScreen can display your photos effortlessly, but that just scratches the surface of what it can do. Available in 10.2-inch and 13.3-inch versions (both 800x480 resolution), the DreamScreen offers 2GB of onboard memory, plus slots for all standard flash media card types as well as USB storage. If loading your digital media via flash memory is too old-fashioned for you, the DreamScreen can also connect to your home network via Wi-Fi or Ethernet, and--according to HP--the included software lets you drag and drop the files you want to move to it via the network.

Beyond photos, the DreamScreen can also play videos (MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, H.264) and music (MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV) through its built-in speakers (or you can use the headphone jack to connect to an outboard stereo); it can also play music in the background while displaying a slideshow. But if you don't have a single audio file, you can instead opt for one of thousands of Internet radio stations or Pandora's streaming audio service instead.

But wait, there's more! The DreamScreen can also pull photos from HP's online Snapfish photo galleries and--the big one--access a variety of Facebook content (specifically, HP says it can "view status updates of friends, view and play a slideshow of friends photos uploaded to Facebook, and view upcoming events organized in Facebook"). Rounding things out are a handful of nice extras: a world clock with alarm; a simple calendar (no service tie-in--just an electronic version of a wall calendar); and a superuseful weather display with a 5-day forecast.

We had a chance to do a brief hands-on test of the DreamScreen at an industry event in New York City earlier this evening. It's controlled either via the included wireless remote (which rests in a caddy in the back of the frame) or the touch-sensitive navigation buttons built into the bottom right corner of the frame. (Alas, everyone who walked up to it attempted to use it as a touchscreen at first.) The interface was clean, with a simple home screen to get into the basic tasks. However, response time did seem a little poky when we moved between functions. But we'll await a final judgment until we get to spend time with a review sample later this month.

The DreamScreen 100 (10.2-inch) will be available online imminently, and retails for $250; it should appear in more retail locations by October 11. The larger 13-inch DreamScreen 130 will cost $300 when it becomes available later this fall. That's hardly cheap, but we could definitely see folks opting for this more versatile unit instead of, say, a standalone Wi-Fi radio plus a photo frame. I just wonder if the product's versatility may make it tougher to market. It sort of reminds me of a supersized Chumby--another interesting jack-of-all-trades gadget that never really seemed to take off.

What do you guys think: hot or not?

 

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