Ceiva Logic, one of the pioneers in the digital photo frame arena, has been selling digital photo displays for several years with a unique business model: to get pictures onto your frame, you were required to buy a special Web-based subscription service. For folks dealing with tech-challenged family members--such as a parent or grandparent--the service was a godsend because it allowed you to push photos remotely to the frame via a standard telephone line. The only problem with earlier Ceiva photo frames was that their resolution was middling, so the pictures you sent just didn't look all that good. And in the last 18 months or so, as competitors such as Philips have brought out slicker frames with built-in slots that allowed you to easily transfer and view photos directly from memory cards, the need for a "push" service has diminished. In short, Ceiva frames were getting a little long in the tooth, and it was high time for the company to come up with something fresh.
Ceiva's completely redesigned lineup currently consists of 7- and 8-inch models, with a few options available for each model. The model reviewed here is the 8-inch model ($199 with 3 months of service), which offers interchangeable faceplates while the 7-inch frame does not. The frame measures 8.5x10.0x3.0 inches (HWD), though the screen itself is only 6.5x5.0 inches. The frame's default color is a simple, flat black, but you can also swap in an included faceplate that has a faux wood-grain finish. Unlike competing models, the Ceiva doesn't have an adjustable leg on the back of the frame for propping it up. Rather, the base of the frame simply acts as a stand, which means that the frame is designed to sit only in landscape mode. While it's nice to have the ability make a frame stand vertically (in portrait mode), the lack of the feature isn't a big deal. We actually found the stand on the Ceiva preferable to the adjustable leg (the frame sat more securely), and we didn't encounter any glare issues that made us want to adjust the angle of the frame.
Aesthetically, the one point of contention is the set of buttons than run along the bottom of the frame. While having them front and center makes navigating the menus on the frame easier, the overall look isn't as clean as that of some the frames that have their buttons tucked away behind the frame somewhere. This reviewer didn't mind the visible buttons, but it does make the frame look more like a TV or a monitor than, well, a photo frame. In case you're wondering, it's powered by an AC adapter and has no built-in rechargeable battery.
The screen resolution (640x480) is a bump up from the resolution of earlier Ceiva frames; pictures appear sharp, but because of a lack of pixel density--and resolution--you do get some blotchiness in backgrounds. From a picture-quality standpoint, while the Ceiva frame may not be at the top of the class, it's certainly a solid B.
The 640x480 display has enough memory to store as many as 50 photos internally. Additionally, around back you'll find slots for Compact Flash, SD, MMC, and Memory Stick memory cards (xD requires an adapter), which give you the ability to create a slideshow of as many as 500 hundreds photos at a time (why the cap, we're not sure, but that's what Ceiva reps told us). Connectivity options also include both a standard USB port and a mini USB port, so you can you can also view images from a thumbdrive.
It's worth noting that the internal memory is reserved for storing photos pushed to the frame via Ceiva's online PicturePlan service. However, while you can't transfer images from a card to the frame's internal memory, you can upload images from a card to your online Ceiva account if your frame has a broadband connection. Technically, you can also upload images through the phone-line connection, but we found that this option was extremely slow with images that haven't been sized down in a computer. We also appreciated that you can set the frame to turn on and off at certain times.
The frame comes in a base model with the aforementioned second faceplate. However, Ceiva does offer accessories that allow you to connect your frame to the Web-based PicturePlan service via a corded Ethernet connection (Ceiva Broadband adapter--$25) or a wireless network (Ceiva Wireless adapter--$35). Those without an Internet connection can still use a phone line to connect to PicturePlan, but you'll get your photos delivered faster to the frame with a broadband connection--whether it's wired or wireless. Additionally, Ceiva sells the frame in special bundles with a year's worth of the PicturePlan service for a discounted price. A year of the service costs $99, or you can get three years for $249.