Ceiva's been making digital photo frames for some time now and continues evolving its frames into high-powered, Internet-connected devices that deliver weather and sports scores as readily as photos from friends and family. Its Ceivalife frame provides impressive overall performance and its features are first rate. Plus, Ceiva goes out of its way to make its customer service available. However, the frame's full feature set comes at a cost after the first year and while setup is fairly simple, it's likely that only tech-savvy users will benefit from all that the frame can do. In other words, if all you want to do is view digital pictures and you want the fewest possible steps to do so, keep moving--the Ceivalife is too much frame for you.
The Ceivalife ships furnished with a simple, matte black frame surrounding its 8-inch display, but it's easily swappable with the included faux wood-grain-finish faceplate. Skins can also be purchased to further customize the look. Unlike competing models, the Ceiva doesn't have an adjustable stand for propping it up. Rather, the base of the frame simply acts as a stand, which means it sits in landscape view only. While it's nice to have the capability to make a frame stand vertically (in portrait mode), the lack of the feature isn't a big deal.
There's a set of buttons running along the bottom of the frame for menu navigation. They detract from the frame's aesthetics, so the overall look isn't as clean as other frames that have their buttons tucked away behind the display. It makes the Ceivalife look more like a piece of electronics than a photo frame. Around back you'll find slots for Compact Flash, SD, MMC, and Memory Stick memory cards (others types are supported but require adapters). The slots, however, are strictly for viewing photos from external memory, not for transferring photos to the frame's internal memory. Connectivity options also include both a standard USB port and a Mini-USB port, so you can also view photos from a thumbdrive.
Pictures look sharp on the 640x480-resolution screen, but because of a lack of pixel density--and resolution--you do get some blotchiness in backgrounds and noticeable color banding. From a picture-quality standpoint, the frame may not be at the top of the class, but it's certainly a solid B.
The biggest draw of Ceiva's frames are their Internet connectivity and Ceiva's online PicturePlan service. The Ceivalife frame can connect to the Web through a standard phone line via a jack on the back of the frame, wirelessly by using the included USB Wi-Fi adapter, or via Ethernet with a $19.95 USB dongle. The internal memory is reserved for storing photos pushed to the frame via the service; the Ceivalife comes with a year of the PicturePlan service. Again, you can't transfer images from a card or thumbdrive to the frame's storage.
Aside from its main feature of getting photos from your computer to the frame, the PicturePlan service provides an e-mail address for sending photos from a cell phone or other mobile device straight to the frame. You can also add guest accounts, letting others send photos to it. Uploads can be done on the company's Web site (a simple drag-and-drop affair), on Windows computers using Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition 3.0 or CEIVAsender (both free downloads), or on Mac systems with an iPhoto plug-in or an iPhone app.